Sasha Serkov is a Ukrainian exchange student, living in Paris and going to Paris High School, though he’s leaving soon. He’s been here since the beginning of the school year, and he’s been busy.
“I’ve done tennis, I ran cross-country, I was a part ‘Newsies,’” Serkov said. “I went to the BUBW conference with other international students about world issues, leadership skills and problem solving.”
BUBW is the Better Understanding for a Better World organization that promotes student exchange programs.
Through Key Club and in his own time, he’s also been involved in volunteer work. He said volunteering is seen as a waste of time in the Ukraine.
“I’ve been doing it a lot,” he said. “Volunteering is helping someone, and it’s helping me.”
His experience volunteering and the BUBW has even shaped some of his plans for going back home.
“I want to hold a conference about a lot of the stuff people from my town are intolerant of, like gay people or people of color,” said Serkov. “I want to try to develop my town, our whole society.”
His host family has been an exciting experience as well.
“My host family has seven kids, back home I’m the only child. So it’s interesting seeing how they run things,” he said.
He talked particularly about his host mother saying, “I’m proud of Jessica Blair, while she was running May Fete I was exhausted for her.”
May Fete had a real impact on him giving him an opportunity to serve on the light crew and in the boy’s dance.
“The senior girls, it was really heartwarming to see their last high school moments at May Fete,” he said.
Serkov made clear his year in Paris is not the end for his time in the United States. He has to return to the Ukraine and finish high school, but he wants to return to the U.S. for college.
Though Paris and the United States have been, and he hopes will continue to be, wonderful experiences, there are some things he’s excited to go back to.
“There’s nothing like Ukrainian food here... Here it’s much more spicy and salty,” said Serkov. He misses the people even more.
“I have really good relationships with some of my teachers, and I miss my friends and my family,” he said.
His time in the U.S. has been a learning experience, and he will miss the connections he has built in Paris.
“In Ukraine, sometimes they’re really closed, people don’t tend to be as open-minded [about] sharing their feelings,” he said. “Teachers here, you treat them like friends. And you can talk with strangers, that would have never happened in Ukraine.”
As he walks through the school, he seems to have some kind of a relationship with everyone he passes, students and staff alike. They all have something to talk about with him. There don’t seem to be any strangers left.
When he goes in front of the Paris High School sign to get his picture taken, the tennis team is there waiting for the bus. It takes very little time, and even less prompting, before his teammates lift him up and pose alongside him.