Westford Academy welcomes new student from Ukraine

Photo taken by Yanishevskas aunt at Harvard University.

Photo Provided by Veronika Yanishevska

Photo taken by Yanishevska’s aunt at Harvard University.

Sophia Mulgrew, Staff Writer

Moving schools halfway through the school year is difficult, not to mention moving to a different country. This is how it was for senior Veronika Yanishevska who just became a student at WA and is coming to Westford with an international perspective. Yanishevska moved to Westford a month ago due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, and also to experience the U.S. while staying here.

“Currently, there is a war in my country and the 24th of February marked a year of a full scale invasion of Russia to Ukraine. I’m originally from Western Ukraine and during the war it is actually the safest part of the country,” Yanishevska said. “Every day my family lives under the sound of air alerts followed by rockets and explosions in hot spots in the east of the country. Fortunately, electricity is now stable, but from November to February, Ukraine lived with a schedule of blackouts that varied by four, eight, 12, 24, and even 48 hours.”

While the U.S. and Ukraine differ in many ways, Yanishevska finds the education system to be the greatest difference. While the U.S. focuses more on soft skills, Ukraine concentrates more on hard skills such as note-taking and memorization.

“We have 17-19 mandatory classes and learn a lot of theory, take many notes, and learn poems by heart, which are all part of our educational system,” Yanishevska said. “But in the U.S. you focus on understanding the plot and how you can apply it in real life.”

Another difference between Ukraine and American schooling is the student body. There are differences such as student class numbers and the location of each class. Each class in Ukraine has a small number of students which varies in each grade.

“In the Ukrainian and European system, students are in a class with a certain number of students, like 20 or 30, during all years of study. It means that there might be 90-100 seniors,” Yanishevska said. “Also, we are in this class most of the time, and the teachers change [instead of students]. Here in the US, it’s the opposite. The number of seniors in Westford is the same as in the whole school, you are constantly changing your location and you have different classmates in each class.”

Another significant dissimilarity are school activities and the opportunity to choose classes in American schools. Yanishevska was president of her school, so she was excited to start exploring WA’s selection of extracurriculars as well.

“American schools allow students to try everything, even several sports and all kinds of art,” Yanishevska said. “In Ukraine, if you want to play sports, attend clubs, draw, or play musical instruments, you can only do it during after-school hours as your extracurricular activity.”

Furthermore, Yanishevska thinks the perfect school education would be a mix between American and Ukrainian schooling.

“I think that focusing on only hard skills or soft skills is not that good because both systems have their pros and cons. I believe that a perfect educational system would be a combination of Ukrainian and American approaches,” Yanishevska said. “Since I graduated from my Ukrainian school and am now studying here in Westford Academy, I can state with confidence that the combination of our systems will be a great field for students to flourish and become ready for adulthood.”

Yanishevska was a youth activist in Ukraine and was the deputy chairwomen of the Youth Council. She and her team won a prize of $150,000 all together.

“I was the deputy chairwoman of the Youth Council in my town. Our team won a 5 years-long grant with an approximate sum of $150,000 to build the Youth Center in Dolyna,” Yanishevska said. “I’m also winner of Girl2Leader Ukraine ‘21 global campaign and facilitator of the project Gender Balance which focused on feminism and gender equality.”

Overall, Yanishevska is excited to grow her academic career, and will be a first-year at NYU this upcoming fall. She was a part of a Ukraine volunteer program, called Ukraine Global Scholars, which helps Ukrainians apply to many boarding schools and colleges in the U.S.

“Before my actual studies at the university, I decided to immerse myself in the culture earlier,” Yanishevska said. “I am absolutely convinced that this experience will be extremely helpful in my future. I also believe that traveling allows people to broaden their horizons as much as possible.

While Yanishevska faces many challenges, they all help her to be a stronger individual.

“Here, I get a lot of challenges and I start to think about stuff I hadn’t even thought about before. Different mentality, cultural customs, attitudes. All of these help me become a stronger version of myself and understand people from all over the world even better,” Yanishevska said.