This past summer, Viktoria Kulchyckyj ’19 returned to her home country of Ukraine to teach English at Camp America, an immersive 11-day English language and culture enrichment program. Vika volunteered as a junior teacher and translator for the camp.

Vika lived with her family in Kiev, Ukraine for 11 years before she moved to the United States, so she was seeking a summer service opportunity in Ukraine to sustain her hereditary connection. She connected with Camp America through a family friend, Alexa Chopivsky, who is the founder and CEO of the program.

Based in the Carpathian Mountains in the city of Chernivtsi, Camp America in its second year hosted 70 Ukrainian children between the ages of 6-15. Vika worked primarily with the younger age group, 6-8 year olds, and helped teach English lessons through the celebration of American traditions and holidays.  

“Each day we focused on different American holidays, like Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Halloween, and we integrated our English lessons into themed projects and activities,” said Vika. “For Easter, we were doing Easter egg drawings, but Easter egg designs are especially detailed in Ukraine. It was funny because I was expecting the kids to have typical American pastel colored eggs, but their drawings had the Ukranian influence! They all started making intricate details and patterns. Halloween is very American so they loved the candy from trick-or-treating.”

Throughout the program, Vika most enjoyed sharing lessons on American culture, covering topics spanning from Philly cheesesteaks to popular clothing trends, but she felt she gained more than teaching experience.

“It was great to understand what it’s like to be a teacher, to prepare engaging lesson plans, to keep kids focused and motivated, practice classroom management strategies,” said Vika. “We wanted to keep activities fun and engaging, almost teaching ‘secretly’ so the kids wouldn’t even realize how much they were learning. But the kids were also teaching me! I’m semi-fluent in Ukrainian so the kids and I, we both learned from each other.”

Vika hopes to continue to volunteer in Ukraine during the summer months, particularly to serve the refugees in the country. At MFS, she plans to join the Service Club and Humanitarian Aid Club and draw more attention to the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine.