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2 SOPS family shares cultural experience

Greg (left), Aerobella, Nathan, Lily and Roze Sharp welcome Darya (Dasha) Likhacheva to America Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, in the Colorado Springs Airport terminal. The Sharp family is hosting Likhacheva for the school year through the American Councils for International Education exchange program. (Photo courtesy/Roze Sharp)

Greg (left), Aerobella, Nathan, Lily and Roze Sharp welcome Darya (Dasha) Likhacheva to America Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, in the Colorado Springs Airport terminal. The Sharp family is hosting Likhacheva for the school year through the American Councils for International Education exchange program. (Photo courtesy/Roze Sharp)

Darya (Dasha) Likhacheva (second from right) prepares to play Settlers of Catan with Lily (left), Greg, Nathan and Roze Sharp Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, in the Sharp family dining room. Likhacheva came to the U.S. through a student exchange program and will be staying with the Sharps until the end of the school year. (Photo courtesy/Roze Sharp)

Darya (Dasha) Likhacheva (second from right) prepares to play Settlers of Catan with Lily (left), Greg, Nathan and Roze Sharp Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, in the Sharp family dining room. Likhacheva came to the U.S. through a student exchange program and will be staying with the Sharps until the end of the school year. (Photo courtesy/Roze Sharp)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A Team 5-0 family recently welcomed a new addition to the family, albeit temporarily, who will give all of them the opportunity to learn what life is like on the other side of the world.

As part of the American Councils for International Education exchange program, the Sharp family welcomed Darya (Dasha) Likhacheva, originally from Karaganda, Kazakhstan, into their family Aug. 20.

"We've always been interested in helping and taking in kids," said Staff Sgt. Greg Sharp, 2nd Space Operations Squadron mission crew chief. "We thought this would be an interesting opportunity to have that experience, but at a different level, to bring the culture into our house and show the kids parts of the world and learn about things that even we ourselves don't really know much about."

Sharp said his family learned about the program through their church, an Eastern Orthodox denomination, as the program was looking to place students from Russia and states formerly part of the Soviet Union. The idea intrigued both Greg and his wife, Roze, so they decided to apply as a host family.

"We got the email and we contacted a gentleman who's been placing students for many years," Roze said. "They didn't let Dasha know that she had a family until everything was finalized. That was only a week before she arrived."

Likhacheva said she was excited to have the opportunity to come to the U.S., and even happier to find out she had a host family waiting for her.

"My teacher, she came to me and asked if I wanted to take part [in the program] and I said yes," Likhacheva said. "When I got [notification of a host family] I was really happy. I had a lot of wonderful emotions and I even cried."

James Kerr, a local coordinator for ACIE, said the placement process can take a number of weeks, depending on how long the screening process, and confirmation of enrollment from a school, takes.

"An application is required and that is followed by a background check for all persons living in the home who are over the age of 18," Kerr said. "A home interview is done and photographs are taken of specific parts of the home. A school enrollment form must be signed by a school official. And, after the student has arrived, a second home interview is done to confirm the value of the first interview."

"They vet your family just as much as they do the students themselves," Roze said.

Because it was so close to the beginning of the school year and the program was hard-pressed to find families, the process was moved along quickly, Roze said.

"They asked us for things and we had it sent to them in 24 hours," Roze said. "[The process length] also depends on how bad you want it. Knowing that school was starting and not wanting her to be delayed very much, we were very proactive with it."

With such a short time to prepare for her arrival, the Sharps said they tried to find out as much as they could about Likhacheva's native country and culture.

"As soon as we decided this was something we wanted to try, we started looking up, reading and finding videos, trying to figure out the language," Greg said. "We really tried to learn as much [about her culture] beforehand."

They also tried to communicate as much as possible with Likhacheva prior to her arrival.

"Once we were approved and they notified her, we emailed and found each other on Facebook," Roze said. "It's a 12-hour [time] difference, so it was hit and miss."
Likhacheva has only been in the U.S. for a short time, but already she seems like the perfect fit for the Sharp family.

"She fits right in, so we're very blessed in that regard," Roze said. "Dasha's a great kid."

The feeling is mutual, Likhacheva said.

"They are very kind, generous people, it is easy to make friends and kid with them," she said. "I really love these people."

The smooth transition to family life has helped to make other adjustments easier, Likhacheva said.

"There are really small things I have to adjust to," she said. "Really from difference in time to the climate, everything is really different."

Greg said they haven't had many communication issues, and the issues that do come up typically have more to do with slang words and varied meanings as opposed to actual language barriers.

"Roze said, 'whatever,' to her sister on the phone and she's like, 'what does whatever mean?'" he said. "So some of those sorts of slang."

"We have a lot of empty words in our language that we don't really realize [we have] until somebody questions," Roze said.

They have also noticed a few cultural differences in things, but nothing that has a major impact on daily living, Roze added.

"We noticed that she wouldn't take a drink with her meal," she said. "Typically, they will eat and then have a tea of some sort afterwards. [There are] just small little cultural differences, nothing that affects greatly our daily life so far."

Both Likhacheva and the Sharp family are hoping to gain understanding and appreciation for diversity from this experience.

"To meet people not from my country and make friends [with them]," Likhacheva said of her expectations while in the U.S. "Then to take something home from another culture that we do not have in our culture."

Greg said he's hoping this year will plant a seed in his children to want to travel and learn about other cultures as well.

"I think having someone else come from literally the other side of the world, really it does create the desire to travel and learn more," he said. "It's a good chance to hopefully plant that seed that [our kids] will want to travel."

Roze's desires delve a little deeper.

"You take someone from that side of the world and you have the opportunity to teach your children tolerance and understanding and acceptance," she said. "Even within America, you can be pegged a certain person based on color or race, you know. It's just a great lesson to be able to teach them."
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