It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different: Exciting intercultural experience of a Highlands High School student


1. Sasha with her host family 2. Sasha With AFS students 3. Sasha with her AFS volunteers 4. Sasha With her Biological Family

Sasha Tsymbal is a new exchange student from Russia and she will live in Fort Thomas, Kentucky for a year. It’s a new experience for her and Highlands High School as well. 

AFS is an intercultural program that helps students from different countries to know a new culture, customs, and traditions of a new world for them. More than 100 countries participate in this program. It has offices all over the world. The USA has been taking part in this for a long period. More than 424,000 people have gone abroad with AFS and over 100,000 former AFS students live in the U.S. Every year families accept foreign students into their lives and help them in their new experiences.  

The way from Russia to the USA was difficult for Sasha. She is the only host student from Russia in America, so because of it, she traveled here all alone. It was a very big adventure, as she went from Saint-Petersburg (her home city) to Helsinki by bus. Later she went from Helsinki to Dallas, TX and the flight took 10 hours.

While on the subject of the Dallas airport, It’s really big! There are six terminals and Sasha needed to change her flight in them. It was really difficult to find a place to check in her luggage again. She flew from Dallas, TX to Cincinnati, OH in 2 hours. Just after landing, she met her temporary host family (Cate Sherron and Randy Bailey, they are AFS volunteers and they met her, as the constant family couldn’t do it).

Finally, Sasha was here, in Fort Thomas. The time difference is 7 hours. It was hard traveling for Sasha, but she did it and now she is here!    

To participate in AFS intercultural program students need to pass the interview and then fill out a special application. It consists of different parts where they should tell about themselves, their life, parents, grades, and the goals that they want to achieve after the program. After this long period, they need to wait for their host parents. 

Sasha has a wonderful host mom, Tina, and the coolest host dad Jamie. Then the sweetest little host sister Sasha (She is three) and a very funny dog Javi. As the AFS is a voluntary program, every AFS family has its reasons for accepting a host student to their home. 

Tina Rau, Sasha’s host mom said, “In Sasha`s case, I speak Russian fluently and I want Miss Sasha (my biological daughter) to begin to speak it too. So we thought that accepting a student into our home would be so cool for our daughter. Yea, it was one of the reasons. We’re really happy that Sasha is here now.” 

Being a host student is very difficult. Every day students don’t know what to expect. They meet new people and talk with them in completely different (from their own) languages and it is really difficult. However, it is very exciting too, they gain new emotions every time. For example, Sasha just can’t believe that she is here, for Highlands High School is a school from movies, not from real life. 

So, because of it, the AFS slogan is “It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different’’

AFS is an opportunity for students to become independent, and organized and understand how to solve different problems. It provides intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop their knowledge and skills as well.