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Just call him 'Stas'
Russian exchange student finds new home at MCC

(By Andrew Potter, TIMES-REPUBLICAN, February 13th 2011)

His name is Stanislav Kukhaenkov, but for the purpose of brevity he likes to be called "Stas."

He is currently an international exchange student from Russia taking part in the Marshalltown Community College Youth For Understanding Program as a student at MCC.

Kukhaenkov, 18, is staying with the family of Andy and Martha Schwandt, of Marshalltown, who serve as his host family during the school year. The Schwandts have hosted a total of five YFU students in their home through the years.

The student credits the family for making his transition to American life smooth."Everything is new and you really don't know what to do at first," Kukhaenkov said. "They helped me with that."

Kukhaenkov is studying business management at MCC with hopes to one day run his own business. Martha Schwandt said hosting international students is a way to expose their two boys to other cultures without having to travel.

"They have that exposure to their culture and their attitudes and outlook on life," she said. She said they also learn about their family and Americans by seeing how the international students react to them. "It's fun looking at our lifestyle through somebody else's eyes," Martha Schwandt said.

Kukhaenkov eye's got big on one occasion - when he witnessed the family's Thanksgiving, a tradition he had never experienced before. "It was a lot of food," he said. The Schwandts have enjoyed their time with "Stas" since August and may even have him stay an extra school year."He has a great sense of humor, he's a very friendly person and he's got a great smile," Martha Schwandt said. "He's up for most experiences and is a great role model for our kids."

Kukhaenkov said the Schwandts have helped him with his English and have welcomed him like a member of their own family. Kukhaenkov admits he does miss his own family back in Smolensk, which is located in western Russia.

He has another "family" so to speak while he is here which includes his fellow YFU students at MCC. Aside form learning American culture he is also learning from his fellow students from The Netherlands, South Korea and China. "It's very interesting," Kukhaenkov said. "I've got a lot of new friends."

More than 160 international students have made their way to MCC as part of the YFU exchange program the past 18 years. Barb Jennings, the director of the YFU program at MCC, said their presence enriches life at the college for both the students and the staff. "It broadens our global and cultural perspective," Jennings said. "I've learned so much from having these students on campus."---

Contact Andrew Potter at 641-753-6611 or apotter@timesrepublican.com

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