Valentyna Kyzym, a UVU student studying digital marketing, works as an assistant for digital marketing and graphic design on campus. While many of her peers are from the United States, she is from Ukraine.
“I decided 6 months before I arrived here, that I would come here to UVU,” Kyzym said. “We called a friend, she helped me enroll and I came to UVU in August of 2015 and started.”
The first difference Kyzym noticed was how friendly everyone was and how much people would smile. “In Ukraine, it’s a more serious face. If you were to smile in Ukraine they would think you were crazy,” she said.
She said that Ukrianians are very open people, and one would just need to talk to them for a connection to develop. While she appreciates the commitment of kindness from her American peers, she doesn’t want that to restrain them from being honest.
“Sometimes they are so afraid to offend me that they won’t tell me the truth. I would make all Americans tell me the truth. Being nice doesn’t always help when you are trying to improve.”
The other thing that Kyzym said she was not expecting before coming to the United States was the tendency for people to pick frozen food over organic options. She grew up eating healthy foods like borsch and salads with potatoes.
“It is weird to have frozen food. It is even more expensive. When I came here, it was shocking how often people eat frozen food.”
She said that when she is hungry, she cannot do anything, and if one wants to succeed, they need to have a good meal.
Growing up, she spent her childhood in Ukraine working on art projects and eating delicious meals prepared by her mom. She remembers spending the Ukrianian summer days outside with her friends from other apartment complexes. She lived on the seventh floor and all of her friends lived in different apartments throughout the neighborhood.
“My mom would feed me [from] eight to nine a.m., I’d be out for the whole day, and I would come back and my feet were so dirty because I spent the entire day outside.”
She describes education in Ukraine as strict. Students are required to wear a uniform, do their homework and the teachers often made her cry if she didn’t finish her work. They also had a tendency to pick favorites with their students
Referring to school in the United States, she said, “Teachers find different approaches. In Ukraine, it is not great, it is strict and the teachers are not open.”
One of Kyzym’s favorite parts of UVU was enrolling in the English Language Learning (ESL) program.
“I had people in my class who were 40, 50, 60-years-old, and my classmates were from Asia and Europe. We were all learning English together in the same experience. The instructors here were like our parents for my first year and a half. It is one of my greatest [memories].”
Kyzym works for the International Student Council (ITC) and enjoys taking art classes at UVU for fun. She spends a lot of her time enjoying student life resources in order to meet people.
“I love that here you can make connections so easily. I’m already connected with professors. I really love that the university really tries to not just teach you, but get you a job. [The] university doesn’t just give you a degree, they help you connect. I feel super confident because of my career preparation.”
During her time in the digital marketing department, she has had the chance to travel and take part in competitions and network with professionals from all over.
“UVU always has free food, student life, special events, speaker [and] Wolverine Wednesday. UVU is the perfect place for me and the right environment for me as an international student.”