Located in Central Asia, Kazakhstan is a country many know only through Sasha Baron Cohen’s character Borat. What some may fail to recognize is the fact that Kazakhstanis have so much more to offer than Borat ever could. Take for instance Jacksonville University senior and Kazakhstani native, Lidia Lyssenko, whose philosophy on life can easily convince anyone to become a more caring individual.
“Being the change you wish to see in the world,” Lyssenko answered when I asked her motto on life. Her attitude towards treating everyone fairly and respectfully makes her a valuable addition to the JU campus and has earned her the rightful position of president of the International Student Association.
Coming to America for the first time, Lyssenko noticed differences right away and laughed as she recalled what her economics professor at JU once told her. “Americans have a lot of stuff for everything, like an avocado peeler. I think Kazakhstanis get by on much less.”
The reasons she chose the United States for an education and more precisely Jacksonville University are plain and simple, according to her.
“We had a lot of peace core volunteers in my school back home,” Lyssenko remembers. “My favorite volunteer was from Jacksonville so I decided to come here. The campus looked beautiful and Yvonne Martel in admissions was very helpful.”
Being so far away from home has had its positives and negatives. Lyssenko admires the friendliness of the people she has met here, which has helped her become a more patient and accepting person.
“I think just seeing another culture helped me a lot. I have learned to appreciate culture more and in the end I am glad I went to a different country.”
However, her freshman year came with challenges. “During my freshman year I guess I was just not prepared for college,” said Lyssenko. “We had tons of papers all of a sudden and I had to learn to push myself.”
Lyssenko may have struggled with her grades her first semester here but she is graduating in good academic standing with a degree in business this May.
Her love for languages – she can speak three – is something she wants to continue working on. She was also the Marketing Coordinator for this year’s New Student Orientation. Lyssenko may be known by many to be a sweet girl with lots of friends, but to the international students at JU, she is their ever-so-worthy president.
“It took some time for me to get into ISA. I thought at first I wouldn’t belong, but once I joined it has been all fun from there,” Lyssenko says. “We have that one thing in common, international, and we learn from each other. It is such a relaxed atmosphere to be in. Also, Kristie and Susan are like our mothers.”
She is referring to Kristie Gover and Susan Bonfanti, the international student advisors who work around the clock to make international students feel right at home, as does their caring president.
Speaking to Lidia Lyssenko, one can easily see what JU is all about, a small friendly community. A self-proclaimed hippie, Lyssenko treats others how she wants to be treated, wishes the best for people and wants everyone to do the same, enjoys hiking, plans to one day own a small café and will make an awesome peace-loving addition in anyone’s life.