BUCKHANNON — A host family experience with an exchange student who stayed in Buckhannon is now coming full circle.
Tyler Boyd and Lily Hicks, both 2016 graduates of Buckhannon-Upshur High School, have been invited to Kiev, Ukraine to reunite with their friend Alex Shlyeyenkov and make a presentation at the U.S. Embassy there.
Boyd said his family hosted Shlyeyenkov in 2015-2016, and the experience change their lives.
“There was a Ukrainan student looking for a host family at the high school,” Boyd said.
He said he was inspired to host Alex because of his own foreign exchange experience.
“I was an exchange student to Italy two years ago for Lions International,” he said. “I won a scholarship there, and so that amazing experience the Lions Club offered me inspired me to take in an exchange student. That was one of the best experiences that my family has ever had.
“We knew we would show him around town and give him a slice of our culture, but we didn’t know he was going to become part of our family. I don’t really consider him an exchange student any more, I consider him my brother, and I don’t think twice about saying that. It’s really awesome and a great experience to host an exchange student.”
Alex was a junior during his time at B-UHS and played for the Buccaneer tennis team. He also excelled at academics and ended the year with a 4.0 grade point average. Alex became good friends with many of Boyd’s friends, including Hicks.
“We all thought he was family,” she said. “He was a permanent part of our lives here — and then he left.”
Boyd said it was like mourning a loss when Alex had to return to Ukraine.
“When he first came, he was very proper,” he said. “He talked in proper English, and by the time he left he was laying on the couch and hugging us. He got some of the American accent down and some of the words.”
Alex and his family have invited Boyd and Hicks to come for a visit. They depart June 15 and return July 5, allowing enough time for several trips to see the sights. They will visit different cities in Ukraine as well as make trips to Poland and Austria — all with Alex.
“That’s the biggest bonus,” Boyd said. “Not only are we getting to see these beautiful places and experience this culture, but we are going to experience it with Alex. It’s going to be a lot of fun and we are not going to be sleeping the whole trip.”
In addition, they have been invited to give a presentation at the America House Kiev, the American cultural center of the U.S. Embassy in Kiev. They will be speaking about West Virginia culture, as well as life in Buckhannon.
To help improve their presentation, they are asking the community for small items representing Buckhannon, Upshur County or West Virginia that they can give away, such as pens, postcards, prints, or anything similar.
To donate an item, contact Hicks at 304-439-6615 or [email protected]