The journey of ‘Explore Kiev’ began on the 15th of June, where I was not only welcomed by the lovely AIESEC team but also at the same time, the unexpected 32-degree heat of Kiev. Sunshine was long missed through out the period of my study in England, however I could have never imagined a city that is three-hours-flight away from London could be as hot as my home city Ningbo in China. I was born in a Chinese family and came to study in England since the age of 14, hence I was quite confident that “cultural shock” could have never happen to me before I came to Ukraine, as I deeply believed that this will not be the case as I had been exposed under both Western and

 Clear blue day – A bird view of Kiev and Dnieper River

Eastern culture for quite a while. However I was wrong, the shock was immediate as I got off the plane: Kiev is very much different to London, to many of the European cities that I have been including Paris, Munich and Zurich in many ways due to its unique culture and history, but shares a number of similarities to cities in China including my home city Ningbo and the Chinese capital Beijing. In fact, I would say my first impression since I got off the plane told me that Kiev looks so much like the cities in China but only with the difference of clearer skies and fresher air, and also the language that people use.

Historically speaking, China acquired a large amount of urban planning technologies and skills from the former Soviet Union, where Ukraine was the key strategic center of the former Soviet Union. Along the road from the airport to the center of Kiev, I observed that there are people selling fruits and sunglasses alongside the road, the transports and tall building where the historical mark from the former Soviet Union Era are still evident, also the greens and plantings that clearly indicates the country’s emphasis on environmental protection. For this reason, coming to Kiev was very much like coming home in China in less than three hours from London for me, where I was embraced by the familiar surroundings and friendly atmosphere that I thought I could only experience at home before I came to Kiev.

People

My host family buddy Dana and the breakfast warmly cooked by her grandma

One of the most attractive things that I found in Kiev were its people where I was overwhelmed by the love and kindness that I received in this country. I was firstly greeted by one of our Explore Kyiv member Nastya as soon as I arrived at the airport who supported me with the transportation from the airport to my host family. Along the way there are numerous strangers who offers hand to my heavy luggage and kindly pointed direction to me. At my host family, my buddy Dana and family welcomed me with delicious bakery and foods, prepared my room in supreme comfort and actively seeking to offer additional help in case of my needs. In addition, my personal coach Lena and other Explore Kyiv team members were also incredibly supportive and caring, for instance Polina accompanied me all the way back from city center to my host family on my first day in Kiev to ensure my safety, where I was also helped by the lovely gentleman on the metro who offered me hand when I loose my balance. Everything that I experienced with all those the lovely people really are the precious gift in life, and made me believed even more that Kiev is a city of love and friendliness.

Transport

 

I was impressed by the public transportation system in Kiev which are in average twenty times cheaper than the public transport in London. But most importantly, the underground in Kiev was the deepest that I have ever taken in my life. I had taken the underground in London countlessly where more than five lines of underground intertwines, but non of them takes as long as the metro in Kiev to get to the end—it is endless. My personal mentor Lena joked around and said the elevator in Kiev’s metro stations offers enough time for her to do revisions and have a brief nap. In fact, I think this is a fair statement of this interesting metro system in Kiev, as through out research I found that the Arsenalna station is one of the deepest station in the world. Therefore I would suggest anyone who come to Kiev should definitely try to have a ‘Metro experience’ as it was truly magical, something that you can rarely experience from the rest of the world.

Street View

Walking along the street of Kiev, the instant feeling that contrasting the busy street of London was how quiet and clean the streets are, where traffic jams are rare and people enjoys their days under the sunshine. There were people who plays accordion under the tunnel of the metro, who are properly dressed and reading books under the shadows of trees, who enjoys their family times with their kids, who buys ice creams from those beautiful little houses on the side of the street (beautifully decorated by the way), and who sells the most refreshing minty lemonade I have ever taste on the street…

Kiev may not be a city that is as noisy as London, as diverse as New York, as busy as Shanghai or as luxury as Paris, but Kiev has her own dynamic that you could clearly hear its heartbeat from the things as little as the graffiti at the corner of the street, or the street dancers having fun at the fountains, people enjoying drinks at open bars around the golden gate, and the bird view from the water tower in the Marinsky Park. Kiev has its own proud history of revolution and post-modern development that can be clearly seen from the architecture and the spiritual image of its people. Being in Kiev was extraordinary, that one can only feel when they come to this multidimensional city in person.




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