U.S. in Ukraine?

Our agenda today brought our TGC group to three main activities in Kyiv:

Morning: Learning about the Education System in Ukraine

Iryna led “class” and we learned all about schools in Ukraine. In many ways, schools here are similar to in the States — they too have standardized testing, extra curricular activities, and classes like Math, Science, and Social Studies. What was most surprising to me?  More than 99% of schools in Ukraine are public, but they aren’t really free. They’re supposed to be free, but many students need to pay. There’s a lot of corruption here, so schools will force families to “donate” money in order to pass a class, take a final exam, etc. Also, many families need to pay to get into the better schools, or even sometimes they have to pay to get a top grade. This isn’t always true, but it sounds like a big problem in many places. I am interested to see whether or not this is true at my host school.

Afternoon: Visiting the U.S. Embassy

Going to a U.S. Embassy building is like walking onto American soil in another country.  It’s where the United States of America has their headquarters in Ukraine, and we had to go through all sorts of security to get in.  No cameras or cell phones allowed! It’s kind of strange to hear that hundreds of Americans work in Ukraine, but our country wants to make sure that we have a good relationship with other countries, and that Americans who live here are safe.  In fact, this is the 20th anniversary of U.S. Ukrainian diplomatic relations, which means we’ve had a base here since just after Ukraine became independent from the Soviet Union. It was very special that we got to go to the embassy, which was because the TGC program is funded by the State Department. So, we got a tour and met with officials from the political and economic departments. Did you know that many American and international companies have branches in Ukraine? Some examples are Coca Cola, Kraft Foods and H.P. So, when Ukraine had really bad problems with their economy in 2009 (worse than most other countries, with a 15% drop in GDP), it affected many Americans too.

Evening: Seeing the Ballet at the Opera House

Tonight, we went to the ballet!  There’s a huge old opera house with what seemed like a dozen balconies and we saw two pieces tonight.  The first one was a famous ballet called Carmen, and the second was a colorful Turkish piece!  Even though it was in Ukraine, the stories of a ballet are told through music and dance, so there’s no language barrier. It felt just like going to the theatre in the United States!  In fact, one of our Ukrainian hosts studied ballet since age five, and hearing her experience made me feel like life here really isn’t so different. They have access to the arts just like us.

I have to admit that some of the real best moments of the day were the “in between” moments: trying to order dinner from a guy who barely speaks English, seeing an interesting red squirrel in a park, yummy raspberry pie in a coffee shop, and finding our way back to the hotel in the pouring rain. I have to pack to go to my host school tomorrow, so I’ll have to post about some of those things another time. In fact, I may not post tomorrow, because I’ll be on an overnight train to Zaporizhia, but I’ll try to work the video of the hopping crow into my next post… somehow.

To close out, here are some photos that some of you might appreciate, proving that the U.S. really does have some influence here:

MacBook Air Ad on a Billboard in front of the Opera House


McDonalds in Kyiv (of course)

Categories: Ukraine, USA

Tagged as: , ,

10 replies »

  1. wow! that’s interesting! i didn’t think that Ukraine was THAT much like America! I thought it would be quite different.
    by the way, what does “the hopping crow” mean? is it a phrase? like “pop goes the weasel”?
    to be honest, it’s kind of cool that Ukraine is like America, slightly. you see so many familiar things! like how we discussed in class when we did the eating-in-foreign-land activity on Crazy Hair Day!
    it’s really unfair that students need to pay schools, especially when it’s a poor family that needs to pay!
    well, i hope you have a safe trip to Zaporizhia!!!

  2. i agree with anna. it is unfair that students have to pay the schools, especially when their families are suffering poverty. they should provide scholarships that the families can pay back when they have enough money. it’s a start on a better school environment.
    Besides spending money on education, people need to buy the everyday neccesaties, like food, water/liquids, clothes (every so often), shelter. education is a priveledge, but when you are paying too much for that pribeledge, it just ruins the entire purpose.
    I hope you have a fun, educational, and safe trip!

  3. i find it interesting that people in Ukraine CARE about things in the USA, like President Obama. It’s cool to see that ukrainians read the Hunger Games Triology, it’s probably translated.

    • Hi Sarah — Yes, I am sure that these books were translated. They also listen to lots of American music. There are lots of differences too — probably more differences than similarities! I’m learning a ton. We visited a school today, and I posted a bit about it, but more coming soon 🙂

  4. well, it seems like you just can not get enough fun over there! First of all, I agree with sarah. it comes to me as a shocker that they want to know more about our country. But also, I am Wondering more and more about the landscape. It looks and seems to be dry, but I could never tell. So here comes my main question.

    What is the landscaping like in Ukraine!?!?!

    -Nate L

    • Good question. So far, I’ve spent most of my time in the city, but tomorrow, I’ll be traveling, so I should see a bit more of the landscape. I will also be in some interesting landscape in Turkey. Keep watching the blog and you will see more on this topic!

  5. I’ve also noticed that there are some countries that are very similar to America. For example, they might have Burger King, McDonald’s, or shows like America’s Got Talent, or American Idol.
    Ukraine has lots of music that are like America’s, and also, China (just saying) has A TON of things like the U.S.A. (food, shows, learning language, etc.)
    Also, how come so many countries are learning ENGLISH? It’s not that English is bad (actually, English is GREAT!), but I want to know, how come so many countries learn English, when there are MILLIONS of other languages that they can learn? Why English? What is it about English that makes so many people want to learn it? Is it because America is a Free Country? Is it because America did the American Revolutionary War, and inspired other people? Why??? How???
    I wonder why some countries have to be so similar to America, I mean, aren’t they unique enough in their own way?
    It’s just a thought, nothing big, but just a thought.
    Have fun on your adventure(s)!!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s