Episode XME 3: Flex Your Identity with Roman Koshovskyy
Who is Roman Koshovskyy?

  • Roman is Business Analyst at SoftServe, author of Youtube series and a podcast named "GOALS on FIRE" about financial literacy, investments and meaningful life.

  • He is a Personal Finance Planner at iplan.ua, a consulting service that helps Ukrainians around the world to plan their life goals with smart financial & investment decisions and milestones.

  • Roman also has a blog called Креатив Розвиток Пошук, where he shares the ideas on habits, psychology, good books, finances and a healthy & balanced lifestyle.
Listen to a recording of this conversation
What is FLEX? The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program provides scholarships for high school students from Europe and Asia to spend an academic year in the United States, living with a family and attending an American high school. Almost 30,000 alumni from more than 20 countries got an amazing experience of spending unforgettable 10 months in the US.
Episode XME 3: Flex Your Identity with Roman Koshovskyy
Roman Koshovskyy, FLEX alumnus of 2008, describes his FLEX experience and its impact on his life, talks about "Goals on Fire" podcasts and dispenses some wisdom with us.

About fondness for the English due to the Counter-Strike and desire to try something new

The overall curiosity about the English language for me came from first person shooters like Counter-Strike. And if you wanted to stay on top, to know about the latest developments in the game and learn how to strategize, you had to learn that from English resources. Since they got translated into Russian and Ukrainian later, you get behind. That's why my initial interest in English came from gaming in my teenage years. But later, as I studied English, I heard somewhere around seventh or eighth grade, that such a program exists from one of my friends. She was older, and she went on the FLEX program and I thought, that's interesting. I would like to give it a try. And then, when I tried to find out if I'm eligible to try, they said, I'm too young, so I had to wait for another year. And I didn't have any special preparation.

I enjoyed English in my daily life, so I just decided to give it a try.

About preparing for the FLEX testing rounds I didn't think I would pass all the levels. For me, it was mostly like a game. I didn't have special English tutoring. I didn't specially prepare for that. When I came to that first couple of rounds, and I've seen students from specialized English schools, my initial expectation was that it's going to be a lot about knowing that perfect English. Then I realized, when you pass those first one-two rounds, English is important, but it becomes secondary to the success.

The American Councils is looking for a broader skill set than just your English.

The finalist call moment I got the call during one of my classes in school. And it was like before the big break in school. I went out to talk because I've seen some number calling from Kyiv. I went out from the class and I came back and said, "Hey, guys, you know what? I'm going to the United States!". Yeah, that's cool. We ended up that lesson, stayed there, and then went for a big break screaming everywhere. We went to the dining hall, I called my parents to have a small celebration, I got excited. And then I thought to myself, okay, that sounds cool. But I was a bit scared as well. What is it going to look like? Because the initial thrill was great.

Yeah. Now I'm going to the US. But the second thought was, okay, what am I going to do, the 15-year-old kid? It was interesting.
With classmates in Ukraine
I stayed in central Missouri, it's North from Kansas City. It was Central High School of St. Joseph.

About host family

There was a hardworking single mom, four sons, two of which stayed with us and lived with us and two others were older. I would say, from the family perspective, it was a challenging time, because I had to fight for attention, fight for some family resources.

The family was a typical American family. I wouldn't say they traveled a lot, because when we talked before about some expectations, I thought that my host family would drive me places and give me some more guidance around the US. But it wouldn't be like they were trying to make the best year for me. I had to work around to keep the family life on okay level, but also find some extra curricular stuff. And that's where school helped me.

I would say that the family was good, supportive, but they had limited time and resources to fulfill all of the dreams of exchange student. But I was thankful because they provided a solid foundation and then I needed to jump from that and gain more experience by myself.

Host siblings
Having fun and spending quality time with other exchange students
About school and a Lift-A-Thon competition

What I enjoyed about school was the ability to select my courses. I had the option to choose, which was new for a 15 year old kid. And also, I joined some clubs like creative writing, Hacky Sack Club, DECA, which was a marketing use organization, and helped some kids after school.
DECA Competition (Marketing and Economics)
A Lift-A-Thon competition was a combination of a charity event and the weightlifting competition. We participated in it, despite the fact I was super skinny. Only three guys in my weight category tried out for it. And I placed third, I was the last but still on the podium. But I brought home this award. And it was interesting, because I said to myself, okay, even being super skinny, you can work on yourself, you can become better and stronger. So it ended up that we raised some good money for school charity, and also participated in some big guys pushing some good weights. And for me, the overall experience of belonging even to that sports area was definitely something new.
Coach Dudik, Lift-A-Thon competition and our "underground" gym
About the impact of the FLEX and Work and Travel on choosing future career

FLEX guided my way because I had the chance to participate in the civic education workshop for the FLEX program that was held back then in Washington. And it was a cool experience because for a couple of days, you get immersed in the politics, in international relations, you visit all this top cultural buildings of Washington, you travel, you move around. I got selected when there were a bunch of exchange students from different countries. That point brought me to the idea that I'm interested in something international, maybe it's going to be international economics or international relations, together with marketing experience from that DECA organization led me to choosing my major which became International Economics back in Ukraine.
First visit to Washington DC as a FLEX student
And then when I went on Work and Travel, while being a second year student at university, I just understood that even in the US, you can earn fair wages, support yourself. But still, if you want to progress you have to get a higher education. It's not mandatory, but it's better because you have more opportunities.

And that's also showed me that it's not only how hard you work, but how smart you work, can you align your values, your growth, your learning with potential income, not only hard physical work, but switch to more mental work and other models that work better.

About the growth mindset and a path to business analyst at a well-known and large IT-Company SoftServe in Ukraine

The thing is, you have to experiment and try. I combined the work in the company related to imports and exports and my study to get my diploma. I was working with different suppliers from various English speaking countries, usually Europe, and it gave me a good solid start. And then, combining my skills and looking for opportunities around, I thought that project management or business analysis would be an interesting fit.

During my professional life, I always try to stick to the vision that we have to stack different talents and evaluate ourselves. We have to be like designers of our careers. I like the quote from Seneca, which is "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

Some of the volunteering experiences in the US
About "Goals on fire" podcasts

The main idea is around building financial stability and then building a path towards financial independence. So the F.I.R.E movement, which stands for financial independence, early retirement is the concept that guides people to save and invest substantial portions of their income to create such a portfolio of assets that would generate big enough passive income to sustain a certain person's lifestyle. With the middle class that's emerging in Ukraine right now, they do not have the role model of saving and investing. They only know about some hypes, failures and defaults. The history of Ukraine is not rosy, but it's a new generation that can build wealth, and the "Goals on FIRE" show brings some ideas on how we can do that.
Some of the topics include lessons on net worth tracking, finances, and wellbeing, finances for kids, stages we go through while working on financial independence, minimalism, investment strategies, balancing meaningful savings with thanking yourself today.
Roman's favourite quotes:

"Wealth equals income minus ego."

Even if you earn more, you'll learn more, but your ego is so high that you spend it all, it's not gonna last forever. You have to be able to be willing to sacrifice something right now for a better and more prosperous future.
Terri - a friend and placement coordinator who helped me to understand the passion for international relations and audiobooks
"If you let your learning lead to knowledge, you become a fool. If you let your learning lead to action, you become wealthy"

Jim Rohn

Learning stuff is not enough, you have to act upon it.

"Prosperity is a combination of health, wealth, happiness, and love."

Lewis Howes, "The Mask of Masculinity"

What is FLEX for our guest?

The FLEX program for me was one of the initial experiences where I made the decision that I want to participate there. I was ready to go to another side of the globe to try something new. That expands your horizons and widens your perspective. You see different people, different cultures, religions, skin colors, it brought me a high level of tolerance to the differences.
Football games, Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL and Prom fun
Some life wisdom from Roman

What we see on social media, what we see everywhere, it's the success, but it's only the tip of the iceberg. Everything beneath the water is failures, hard decisions, some heartbreaks, some challenges, some declines, but if you are persistent enough, then it's going to lead you to gold and to shiny diamonds, which are your own destiny, your own future.

Key takeaways:

  • Play around with your curiosity from a young age. You never know what it might lead to: Roman enjoyed first person shooters and this led him to progress in English and study in the US as a FLEX-student, which then helped build a solid foundation in many areas of life

  • Explore your strengths and know the areas where you can bring value - professionally, personally and with your day-to-day or hobbies. Build your lifestyle and habits accordingly.

  • Experiment and look for the opportunities to widen the horizons: Roman enjoyed various activities and chances that his stay in the US provided, he took advantage of those and kept on collecting them and building this "trial and error" muscle. Studying and working abroad, making career changes and moves, starting a podcast or improving your fitness level - it all starts from small steps that gradually build up into conscious decisions.