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From Russia with Flair

Junior art majors Kate Butko and Daria Katrich are not strangers to constant stares. Everything about the two Russian exchange students seems to grab attention.
Their fashion is often the first thing to catch an eye. Leather shorts, cat-eye sunglasses and vintage accessories are all staples in their daily uniform. Exotic accents only heighten their striking impression. To Butko, 20, and Katrich, 21, being unique is nothing to be afraid of.
“I see people staring at us all the time, probably because of what we wear and how we talk,” Butko said. “But being different makes me feel good.”
Beyond the clothes and accents, Butko and Katrich said they are more normal than the average on-looker would think.
“So many students come from so many places, but we’re all basically young people with an interest in life,” Katrich said. “Yes, we have different ways of expressing ourselves, but there is still a common denominator inside us all.”
The two Moscow natives said they are pursuing creative careers. Back home, Butko styles photo shoots for Russian photographer Daria Zaytseva and owns an online watch store, Milkwatch.ru. She also operates a personal blog, thekatemind.com. Katrich’s goal is to own an art gallery or become a curator.
They both said their biggest challenge in America has been forming meaningful connections.
“As an exchange student, I try to be friendly to everyone here,” Butko said. “Yet some people seem uninterested in getting to know us and other foreigners. It’s sad because we have so much to share with one another. I guess I want more from people than they’re willing to give.”
Katrich expressed a similar sentiment.
“The American attitude seems polite and easygoing. It’s easy to have conversations with almost anyone here,” Katrich said.
“But I also feel like people need to open themselves up more. They come to conclusions about us too quickly. We’re not all in the Mafia, and we don’t all carry bottles of vodka in our pockets.”
Despite these difficulties, the two students said they still managed to find the good in Ole Miss.
“I really love the professors here,” Butko said. “They make learning personal, which is something Russia doesn’t always offer.”
One such professor is Kori Forrest, whom Katrich and Butko had as an instructor for Religion 101.
“Professor Forrest truly seems to love her subject,” Butko said. “She reminds me of Indiana Jones, except as a woman.”
Forrest said the high regards are mutual.
“Kate and Daria have an incredible work ethic — not to mention they’re such cool dressers,” Forrest said. “They’re not afraid to be different.”
Forrest agreed that Ole Miss students, both foreign and domestic, should get to know more about each other.
“(Exchange students) can teach us how many different ways there are of looking at the world,” Forrest said. “We should learn that they’re humans, too. We have more in common than we think.”
As Butko and Katrich prepare for their return to Russia, they look back on the last five months and what they have given them.
“When I think of places like Rowan Oak, the campus and the balcony at Square Books, it feels like a beautiful movie or novel,” Butko said. “I’m thankful to this town for making me feel artistic.”
“Oxford has such a special atmosphere,” Katrich said. “Its history and character are mysterious to me. I think you need to live here for a long time to truly find the soul of the city.”
Butko and Katrich are two of approximately 800 international students who enrolled at the University of Mississippi during the spring semester, which accounts for approximately four percent of the student population, according to the University’s Office of International Programs.