While Ukraine probably doesn't top the list of spring break destinations for students, 10 North Hollywood High School freshmen and sophomores have packed their bags for a trip starting Friday to the former Soviet republic.
The three-week visit, including a cultural stop in Kiev, marks the first phase of an American-Ukrainian-Russian exchange program that will bring a group of Ukrainian students to North Hollywood in November.
The program was organized by the American Councils for International Education in Washington. Funded primarily by the U.S. Information Agency, each student will kick in about $700 for the chance to compare cultural notes with teens across the world.
"I can't wait to be immersed in their culture," said Jennifer Kretchmer, 14, who is completing a crash course in Russian at school. "I get e-mails from them [Ukraine students] everyday," said Jonathan Sicotte, 16. "We read the same books and share the same technology. I want to dispel our country's negative stereotype of Ukraine as a primitive outpost."