On his way to Andover, Igor Barakaiev ’20 lost his baggage in France. When he finally landed, it was his first time stepping foot in the United States. Barakaiev had spent his entire life in Ukraine.
According to Barakaiev, his experiences at school in Ukraine were much different from his experiences at Andover.
“The education system is very different [in Ukraine]. It is still pretty much Soviet, so everyone has 18-20 subjects at the school. We take all of our sciences at the same time, all of the languages at the same time, as well as Ukrainian history and international history at the same time. You can’t really focus on all of them, so you spend a ridiculous amount of time doing each one of them and then you don’t remember anything,” said Barakaiev.
Barakaiev discovered Andover through a program in Ukraine called Ukraine Global Scholars.
He said, “Basically what [the program does] is they select several students from Ukraine and guide them on how to apply to schools in the United States. Most of them are alumni of top colleges and schools. One of them was Anastasia Prokhorenko ’15. She graduated from Andover in 2015 and introduced me to the school.”
Barakaiev said that one difference between Ukraine and the United States is societal attitudes.
“I would say people in the United States are generally happier, maybe because the quality of life here is higher. People at least smile and say, ‘Hi! How are you?,’ even if they don’t mean to ask, ‘How are you?’ It’s just a nice gesture. In Ukraine, people just ignore each other mostly. It has pros and cons,” he said
Although Miles McCain ’19, one of Barakaiev’s friends, has observed some cultural differences between Barakaiev and Americans, he believes that Barakaiev has smoothly adjusted to the United States’ culture.
“There have definitely been times where it has been clear with Igor that he is not used to the same social expectations. Never between us, but sometimes I have seen confusion between him and teachers. I have had several classes with Igor, and I think he gets caught up with the little details. He has done remarkably well here. He has earned very good grades, made wonderful friends, and involved himself on campus. As far as a transition from Ukraine to here is concerned, I think he has done quite well,” said McCain.
Misha Bilokur ’20, a new Upper, is also from Ukraine and met Barakaiev through the Ukraine Global Scholars program. According to Bilokur, his previous relationship with Barakaiev helped him adjust to life at Andover.
“When I arrived at Andover, it was really confusing at first. Igor was one of those people, and maybe the main person for me, that showed me around and helped me to understand how everything works. It is a really amazing thing when you have someone to ask honestly any questions you want. That is one of the main differences between my experience here and Igor’s. Igor arrived here alone, so he had to figure out everything on his own. My adaptation became much easier thanks to Igor,” Bilokur said.
Before Andover, during the summer, Barakaiev, who is interested in computer science, engineered the mobile game virtual “Icy Bounce.” In the electronic game, the controller plays for the central character, Dr. Penguin, and orders controls for jumping from one known ice block to the next. Stores, specifically the Apple App Store, featured Icy Bounce in 70 countries and the app has over 200,000 downloads, according to Barakaiev. Although he designed the app in Ukraine the summer before coming to Andover, Barakaiev believes his time at Andover helped the app grow.
McCain said, “Igor is one of the best computer scientists at Andover. I would say he is certainly one of the best we have seen in a long time. Unlike many here, he is doing real projects that you can go online and find or download from the App Store. It is rare to find someone who has… the technical skill of Igor, the social skill, and the drive. So Igor is this sort of holy trinity where all of these three very important factors come together. That speaks to his incredible music talent. That speaks to his prowess as a programmer. And it speaks to his success as an academic.”
Barakaiev is grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend Andover.
“[Attending Andover] gives me the opportunity to really understand how much value there is in the education here compared to Ukraine. [In Ukraine], I spent most of my time doing homework and didn’t really get anything from it. And additionally, you are exposed to really smart people here and the community is exceptional.
Editor’s Note: Andrew Cohen is an Associate Sports Editor for The Phillipian.