Iryna Vynnyk is the rare foreign exchange student.
Unlike most students, Vynnyk is staying a second year as part of the Council for International Educational Exchange program.
Vynnyk, who arrived in September 2021 as a junior, has chosen to stay and graduate from Lawrence North High School in 2023 rather than return to her parents amid the war with Russia.
“We’re in the western part of Ukraine, so it’s relatively safe there,” Vynnyk said. “I’m still worried about them, though. Staying here was unexpected for me. I had a choice. I could go back, but I decided it would be better for me to stay here where it’s safe and where I’m welcome with my host family. I do miss home. But I’m safe and opening more opportunities for myself.”
Vynnyk joined other exchange students Aug. 21 at a welcome party for host families and their exchange students at Amy Pictor’s barn in Westfield. Pictor is one of the CIEE local coordinators.
Vynnyk, 17, said she texts with her mother on a regular basis. Her host family is Katie and Andy Kirby.
“It’s very different from school in Ukraine,” she said. “It’s more fun. There is a bigger choice of subjects we can study. In Ukraine, we have to study everything. We have all the science classes at once. It’s really hard. We can’t choose how the level of hard we want the class to be. In America, we get to choose what we want to study. We can focus on classes that will be useful for us in the future.”
She enjoyed traveling with her host family to Chicago, New Mexico and Michigan. An upcoming trip is planned to Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Los Angeles.
Vynnyk played tennis at Lawrence North last spring, but isn’t sure if she will play again. She plans to participate in Model United Nations Club.
“I’m into politics,” she said.
Pictor has hosted three students in the past, but is concentrating now on placing exchange students.
“We love to get some Westfield host families,” Pictor said of CIEE, which was founded in 1947.
For more, visit ciee.org.