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Ukrainian students, from left, Pavlo "Pasha" Ievych, Sergi Titarenko and Serhiy Nikolenko arrived earlier this spring as part of a student work exchange program at Bergen's Nursery west of Park Rapids. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Ukrainian students interning at Park Rapids nursery

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A trio of Ukrainian students arrived in Park Rapids this spring to gain an understanding of U.S. horticultural practices, each of them pursuing an agricultural-related degree back on their home turf.

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They head to work at Bergen's Greenhouse west of town where "every day holds something different," according to Sergii Melnyk, also a Ukrainian, who serves as their supervisor.

"We're getting an international experience in agriculture," said Serhiy Nikolenko, who is pursuing a degree in farm engineering. "We're seeing a new country, meeting new people. It's great."

Sergi Titarenko, a food technologist in training, agreed.

But the weather, they concurred, can be fickle, "changing every five minutes."

Melnyk explained the climate they experience at home tends to be more temperate, compared with "sun, wind and rain like crazy" here. "One day it's cold, next day it's hot."

But the terrain, they said, resembles home.

Melnyk resides in Detroit Lakes, but the students have taken up residence in the Bavarian Apartments in Park Rapids.

Ievych returned to Ukraine Thursday due to a family emergency. But he hopes to return. "I will tell people it's very good here," he said of the "culture, nature and work" experiences. "It's great.

"The people are friendly," Nikolenko said of the acquaintances they've made.

"People are a lot more open," Melnyk said of greetings on the street, which doesn't happen in his eastern European country. "That's not bad, but different."

The trio noted they've gained skills and worked with innovative equipment, such as the water system and planting line found at Bergen's.

"If we mixed the technologies, we'd have a great system," Melnyk said of his homeland, known for its spacecraft and vehicle technologies.

Favorite place to eat? "Burger King" is their reply, along with laughter. U.S. food, they agree, is "very tasty." For the most part, they cook their meals.

They've played some golf and headed to the bowling alley. "And we walk to the park and the beach, when the weather's nice," Ievych said.

Hoped for destinations before departing are California and Florida.

"Students... aye yaye yaye," Melnyk said, shaking his head.

"We dream, we dream," Nikolenko said, grinning.

Los Angeles is on Nikolenko's and Titarenko's hoped-for itinerary before crossing the Atlantic, "to see some film studios," Friends their favorite television show.

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