Ukrainian student considers Miller ‘great little community’

Kaleena Ricketts

Following this May’s graduation ceremony in Miller, Daniil Rakov, smiles alongside his host parents Christina and Jeff Hadlock, as well as host sister and fellow graduate, Claudia. (Photo submitted)

Academic excellence lands Rakov spot in program at University of Missouri as collegiate career begins
Imagine traveling across the world, alone, and for the first time ever. And then, upon arriving at your destination, your new home is made with a family that you’ve never met, in a country that you’ve never been to. Also, you're only 17.
This is exactly what Daniil Rakov did this past school year. Rakov, who calls Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, home, moved to Miller to take part in the foreign exchange program.
Rakov, who made his temporary residence with Jeff and Christina Hadlock, as well as their youngest daughter Claudia, said it was his desire to break out of his comfort zone that made him apply for the program.
“I wanted to travel and see new things and break out of my comfort zone. I applied but I wasn’t sure if I would be selected by a host family. I did not find out that I was selected until the night of the deadline,” said Rakov.
The Hadlocks wanted an exchange student, but decided that ultimately it would be Claudia’s decision. Claudia, the youngest of their four children was the same age as Rakov and they wanted both he and Claudia to be comfortable with him moving in for the duration of the school year.
Ultimately, the decision was made to invite Rakov into their home and once told, he was excited to make the trip.
After 11 hours on a train from Kiev followed by four flights, Rakov landed in Springfield. Upon his arrival, he became acutely aware of just how rural Miller can really feel.
“At first, I thought I was being placed in Mt. Vernon since that is where (my friend) Alex, another exchange student, was sent to live. I thought, 4,000 people, that’s not too bad. And then we got to Miller and I see that it’s only 700 people, and I think, woah! But it’s really a great little community.”
Extracurricular activities
School was a great learning experience for Rakov, although he didn’t expect to be quite as involved as he was. In his short time in Miller, Rakov took advantage of most every opportunity thrown his way. Throughout the school year, he chose to take part in FFA, where he competed at the state level and took second place in Job Interview; FBLA, track, show choir and he also tried out for and was chosen for a part in the school play. When asked what his favorite extracurricular activity was, he didn’t hesitate to say that it was undoubtedly FFA, thanking FFA advisors Jacob Noblitt and Emily (Paul) Krase immensely.
“FFA, absolutely. The reason for that is we all have different perspectives. So many people think that FFA is just a bunch of farmers. But it’s not just that. Agriculture is very important and with everything going on in the world, you have to care about technology and figure out infrastructures and make sure that people get to eat. And that is what FFA is about.”
Currently at Mizzou
Thanks to his outstanding high school achievements, Rakov was accepted to the University of Missouri, where he plans to study international business and finance. Following graduation, Rakov moved to Columbia at the end of May.
“In high school everybody has different opinions and different thoughts. I’m looking forward to college where more people know what they want to do with their lives and so it's easier to connect with more people and find more people you relate to. I’ve been accepted into the Harry Cornell program at Mizzou. I’m excited to travel within the program and learn all that I can.”
Rakov’s host brother Nielson also attends the University of Missouri and several of his fellow graduates will be there in the fall.
Traveling back home
With the ongoing war in Ukraine, it has not been possible for Rakov to make the trip back to his own country. The train station in Kieve that he once traveled to and from, is no longer there. It has been completely destroyed by the Russian military. Even if the station were still standing, it would not be safe for Rakov to try to make the journey home, at least not for awhile. But someday soon, he would love to be able to go back home.
(Due to the sensitive nature of the topic of the war in Ukraine, Daniil did not want to discuss the matter in great detail. His family is still in the country and although they are currently well, he did not feel it was safe to speak about them in great length.)


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