Page 1

Spring 2010

Passport to America

p. 2-8

My Advisor & Me

p. 8-9

A new component of the program, the Passport to America is the vehicle by which current Global UGRAD fellows share their experiences and impressions about American life and culture.

For many Global UGRAD fellows, the advisor plays a vital role throughout the entire Global UGRAD experience. The advisor introduces fellows to their community, helps fellows choose courses, and guides fellows through their time in the United States. In this section, fellows and advisors reflect together on the amazing bond that develops over the course of a year in the United States.

Making a Difference p. 10-16

Alumni Updates

Global UGRAD fellows and alumni are a strong network of active people who help their communities. They design and implement development projects and per form community service. They promote positive social change and raise awareness about important social issues to those around them.

Global UGRAD alumni grow professionally following their program experience. Alumni enter into public service, succeed in the corporate world, and help their countries to develop socially and economically. This section highlights the personal and professional achievements of Global UGRAD alumni.

p. 17


Notes UnderGrad

Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Eurasia & Central Asia

Spring 2010


About Newsletter ........................................................................ Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

Notes from UnderGrad is a forum for the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program community to express views and share the Global UGRAD program participant and alumni experience. The newsletter is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State and produced by IREX.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the US Department of State fosters mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through international educational and training programs. The bureau does so by promoting personal, professional, and institutional ties between private citizens and organizations in the United States and abroad, as well as by presenting US history, society, art and culture in all of its diversity to overseas audiences.

IREX (the International Research & Exchanges Board) is an international nonprofit organization providing leadership and innovative programs to improve the quality of education, strengthen independent media, and foster pluralistic civil society development. Founded in 1968, IREX has an annual portfolio of $60 million and a staff of over 500 professionals worldwide. IREX and its partner IREX Europe deliver cross-cutting programs and consulting expertise in more than 100 countries.

Passport to America

Passport to America

A new component of the program, the Passpor t to America is the vehicle by which current Global UGRAD fellows share their experiences and impressions about American life and culture.


Notes from UnderGrad

The Vice-President & Me

The Southern Life

Katya Manukhina

Seda Grigoryan

Russia, Universit y of Wyoming, 2009-2010

Armenia, Florida State Universit y, 2009-2010

Not many American students have been given the opportunity to see a former vice-president, and even less have had the opportunity to speak with one. I did both when I met former Vice President Dick Cheney! It was in the beginning of autumn and the opening ceremony took place for the International Cheney Center in the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Many of my fellow students attended the ceremony. First, highranking officials of the university gave speeches which were then followed by a speech from former Vice President Cheney. After the speeches concluded, the former Vice President and his wife cut the ribbon marking the opening of the center. Afterwards students left to attend their classes, but I decided to come closer and take pictures of one of the most influential persons in recent U.S. history. After waiting my turn, I was able to meet and talk with former Vice President Cheney for several minutes! In front of journalists and cameras we spoke about where I'm from, how I came to the University of Wyoming, and about U.S. and Russia relations. It was an unforgettable experience and an amazing day in my life!

Campus life, and in particular all the young people I interact with on a daily basis, has provided me with so many opportunities to explore American culture. One of the first huge cultural activities in which everybody on campus was involved was the opening of the football season! The excitement of all the students was like nothing I'd ever seen. And yes, I even learned the rules of the game. Soon I became a fan of my school's team Go Noles Go! Then there was the privilege I felt when I experienced another unique feather of America by attending a live jazz concert. There was the “First Friday Festival”, a beautiful tradition in Tallahassee where you can enjoy old time rock music fused with modern art exhibitions, get hand made crafts, and t-shirts with the “peace sign” or pictures of the icons of American music. I've attended a comedy show, taken part in Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas celebrations, attended theaters, operas and the cinema, and of course, explored the American lifestyle with my new friends. Thanks to the Global UGRAD program, I've been able to see American culture in all the ways it can be experienced.

The Gateway to America Alexandrina Postica Moldova, Pierce Collage, 2009-2010

Having only learned about America from books and movies, I spent my winter break in California discovering many of the places that make this country famous. My travels took me to Alcatraz in San Francisco, Disneyland and Universal Studies in Los Angeles, and many other places. I was awestruck at the notion of traveling in the footsteps of the millions

who have come before as I was most impressed by one of California's most famous symbols – the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a masterpiece that makes you understand and feel the power of humanity. Even today, with all the technological and scientific advances, it would still prove difficult to build such a similar bridge. Standing next to it, you come to understand the meaning of power and beauty. I enjoyed every minute and seeing this trademark of San Francisco brought me one of the most valuable stamps in my Cultural Passport. Each time I open my passport it brings back to me the feeling of admiration for all that America is and can be.

Inspiring Generations to Come Lia Phutkaradze Georgia, Utica College, 2009-2010

My life has been significantly changed from my time in the United States of America. The U.S. is a world of diversity, unity, equality, freedom, and innovations. I have visited many historical, cultural, and political attractions. However, when I think of all the places I have visited, all the places that could represent the American spirit, the first place I think of is the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Kennedy's inaugural speech was inspiring and thrilling, possibly the greatest speech ever given. It was a celebration of freedom, an appeal to improve human rights, unite Americans, and create mutually beneficial international relations. He created a whole generation of Americans committed to making the world a better place. Exploring the museum and reading Kennedy's motivational quotes made me believe how important each person really is in making the world better for all its citizens.

Welcoming You With Open Arms Kanykei Kadyrberdieva Kyrgyzstan, Riverland Communit y College, 2009-2010

The United States of America is a country of diversity with many people of different cultures and languages, but most of all a people who are unbelievably generous and friendly. People all over the world come to the U.S. for study, work, and travel and I am, luckily, one of them! I have many reasons to love the U.S. and be appreciative for the great opportunity I've received. After hearing on the phone that I had become a finalist for the Global UGRAD program, I didn't realize the deep meanings those words had. I thought that I had finally been rewarded for all the hard work, but I didn't realize that those words would result in everything I have today - all my friends, instructors, people who love and take care of me here in Austin, Minnesota. The people at the college and community are so friendly and helpful. And it is like a dream when American families welcome you so easily into their lives to become a part of their families. They take away any echoes of homesickness and they will do anything to help you if you are in trouble. No words exist to describe how grateful I am for the people who make my life in the U.S. a fantastic and unforgettable fairy-tale. I hope that one day I can repay this gesture, for one day when I have a family and a house of my own, I too want to host a foreign exchange student. I want to return all the love and care I've received from the American people.

Passport to America


Notes from UnderGrad Spring 2010


Notes from UnderGrad

Diversit y Ever y Step of the Way Marziya Davlatova Tajikistan, Berea College, 2009-2010

I had never thought that my college would show and teach me about American culture, but upon the first day of my arrival in the U.S. the friendly community of Berea College welcomed me with warm and open hearts. Meeting new people, attending different classes, and exploring different places in my community helped me understand America. And even playing American board games with roommates in which you answer questions, perform, and guess the words that are related to U.S. culture have helped my understanding of America. Additionally, taking an American culture class helped me to expand my knowledge about the U.S. and identify cultural characteristics among my peers, advisors, and host family. Not only could I see people sharing a common culture, but people had many sub-cultures of their own. Behaviors and attitudes would vary from one person to the next making each person I came in contact with unique from the rest. There are many ways of exploring the great diversity of American culture and the first step for me was to start with my own community.

Representing with Pride Jamila Aliyeva Azerbaijan, Graceland University, 2009-2010

Passport to America

I am proud of being a Global UGRAD fellow and earning the opportunity to study in the U.S. for a year. It’s different from anything I’ve ever known and each day is full of new adventures and experiences. However, when I think back on my time in the U.S., one day sticks out that is really important to me. It‘s November 7th, 2009 and the occasion is my school’s International Night. It was a new experience for me because back home at my university we don’t have as many international students or exposure to other cultures. Participating in the Global UGRAD program gave me an opportunity to make friends from all over the world. Before I came to the U.S., one of my goals was to represent my country. I am the only student from Azerbaijan at Graceland University and I carried my country’s flag on this night. It was such an important honor for me. Besides carrying the flag I also performed songs on a piano. With more than 300 people in attendance, it was my first time performing in front of such a large audience. I was very nervous before my performance, but when I started to play, the applause of the audience encouraged me. It was a great night and a memory that will last forever.

Immersion into this American Life Victoria Vlad Moldova, Riverland Community College, 2009-2010

You can read a lot about a country, but the best way to really experience a country is through direct immersion into a country's culture. In the short time that I've spent in the U.S., I have used every moment to experience all the cultural aspects this country has to offer. Through interesting discussions, my mentor family helped me understand and learn more about American history. The holidays celebrated here have given me a greater understanding of this country's traditions, values, ideals, and beliefs. On numerous occasions my roommate Emma and I have cooked various types of American food. I've even enjoyed the homemade chocolate truffle prepared by Emma's grandmother. Fantasy became reality for me as I watched the ballet for the first time at the Minnesota State Theater. Watching theater plays and going to sporting events have furthered the meaning of American culture - I never thought that Americans were so enthused about sports, but just through their reactions to the games, I found myself getting more interested in their sports. By being here, and experiencing all these great moments on this land, I have learned what a vast and diverse culture America has.

Celebrating the Dif ferences Kiryl Katushkin Belarus, California State University-Dominguez Hills, 2009-2010

America is a country of a thousand differences. Who can really say what America is? For example, California appeared to me a sunny and cool place with outgoing young people. In this state everyone always smiles and life is full of excitement. New York, on the contrary, is the financial center of the country and people are always busy and walking with great concentration any time you see them. What state truly fits the image foreigners usually have when they imagine life in the US? There are many things one should see with their own eyes to understand America and Americans, because every place and every person offers something new and exciting. Coming to the US has allowed me to see this. My Passport to America will keep all these great memories with me for a long time to come.

Passport to America


Notes from UnderGrad Spring 2010


Passport to America

Notes from UnderGrad


Rocky Top Grandeur Rocky Top Grandeur Oleksandr Gonchar Ukraine, Tennessee Tech University, 2009-2010

For our fall break, the International Students Affairs Office of my university organized a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, and Dollywood, the famed amusement park. The Smoky Mountains are located in eastern Tennessee and when we arrived at the mountains we could feel the autumn spirit in the air. Everything was decorated for Halloween, pumpkins lay sprawled about, and the bright colors of autumn leaves made for a beautiful scene. We then walked the crowded streets of Gatlinburg and enjoying the atmosphere of the coming holiday joy. Country singers were everywhere and it was the first time that I heard live country music. It is one of the unique, cultural characteristics of the state of Tennessee. The songs were full of joy and the wonderful mood spread to all the visitors. We came to Dollywood and the main tourist attractions in this park were the roller coasters and other rides. It was the first time in my life that I rode a roller coaster! What fun! We rode all of the roller coasters two or three times. I will always have vivid and warm memories for this trip and I'm sure that they, like all of my Global UGRAD experiences, will stay with me my entire life.

Giving Thanks Gulya Israilova Kyrgyzstan, College of Southern Idaho, 2009-2010

Every day in the U.S. is a gift for me as I experience many new things I never thought possible. Of the many memorable experiences, perhaps the most memorable has been participating in the American holiday of Thanksgiving. For Thanksgiving I was invited to be a guest at my advisor's house. Through this I was able to gain a profound understanding of this magnificent holiday. What a special day it is when you take the time to thank people around you that make this world a better place to live in. I was very touched by the spirit of this holiday. That evening I called my parents in Kyrgyzstan and thanked them for everything they have done for me. I've already decided to celebrate Thanksgiving when I will be home again in Kyrgyzstan. And little did I know that the celebration would continue with the next day, Black Friday. My friends invited me to go shopping at 3 in the morning, which to tell you the truth, is a little bit early for me. However, since I am a person who doesn't like to waste her time, I was eager to see this uniquely American pursuit. I thought that nobody would be there, but I was shocked when we arrived that the line was huge and people were camping outside of the shopping area. So I did as any American would do and I said to myself, “You better go and line up as well�. My friends and I waited more than two hours to get inside the store, but I am glad that I was part of this crazy, but memorable activity.

All that America Has to Of fer Tatiana Morari Moldova, University of Wisconsin-Richland, 2009-2010

The Passport to America has changed my life. Since I have come to the U.S., this tiny but very important book has challenged me to involve myself in campus and community life. In only half a year, I have earned more than 80 stamps. Each stamp has a unique and diverse story to tell as I have enjoyed experiencing American life and seeing some of the best sights that America has to offer. The best of what I have experienced is certainly the Grand Canyon. Through this program, I have also become a member of various student clubs and I even became a president of one, the Wellness Alliance club. American holidays have been fun too, with my favorite holiday being Thanksgiving, a day I celebrated with students from my dormitory. We cooked together, covering a long table with food, and shared memories as we enjoyed each other's company. Yet these have only been the beginning as my spirit is still adventurous and every day I seek out new challenges and experiences. The Passport to America is the gateway to experience a truly American life.

On the Road Kate Forynna Ukraine, West Liberty State College, 2009-2010

During my winter break I traveled 3,000 miles in 5 days and lived to tell the tale! I and a friend traveled from the snow-covered hills of West Virginia to the warmth of South Carolina. We experienced Finlay Park in Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, where an amazing waterfall and streams cascade down landscaped terraces into a magnificent lake. We took in the grandeur of Congaree National Park, the largest remnant of old-growth floodplain forest remaining on the continent, with its record-sized trees making an everlasting impression on me. Our next stop was Charleston, SC with its beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean. And then came our unforgettable day in Atlanta, GA. Although a short time, we managed to see the world's largest and most breathtaking aquarium, the gorgeous Olympic park, the gigantic World of Coca-Cola, the beautiful Atlanta Botanical Garden, the praiseworthy High Museum of Art, and the storied CNN building. Finally, on our way back home we stopped in the Queen City Charlotte, NC. I never would have thought I could travel to 5 states in 5 days, however, I'm always open to new experiences and with the U.S. being such a big country with so many wonders, I think I set the right pace.

Passport to America


Notes from UnderGrad Spring 2010


Notes from UnderGrad

America the Beautiful Seda Grigoryan Armenia, Florida State Universit y, 2009-2010

To me, Point Dume at Malibu, California is the symbolic picture for my experience in America. Living almost a year far away from home, I always get excited for the new experiences that await me here. This country has given me a chance to achieve a new level of personal independence! Standing on a cliff with arms wide open and ready to hug the ocean and this wonderful sunset, America makes you feel that yes, this ocean and this sun could be yours! It makes you work and never stop creating new ideas or finding new inspirations that will make all your dreams come true! I will take this feeling, this energy, back with me to Armenia. I'm sure that with this energy, I will help the young people there find realization in their ideas and this same sunset will be theirs!

My Advisor & Me

My Advisor & Me

For many Global UGRAD fellows, the advisor plays a vital role throughout the entire Global UGRAD experience. The advisor introduces fellows to their communit y, helps fellows choose courses, and guides fellows through their time in the United States. In this section, fellows and advisors reflect together on the amazing bond that develops over the course of a year in the United States.

Mother of the World Victoria Vlad Moldova, Riverland Communit y College, 2009-2010

I was told that shortly after arriving in the United States I would undoubtedly encounter cultural shock. However, it was not to be. With the help of my host advisor, Mel Morem, I didn't have any kind of cultural shock. From my first day in the United States, Mel became the best international host advisor. And she wasn't just a perfect advisor, but she became a very good friend and mentor. She has guided me through all that I need to know and always makes sure I am well, that I have enough to eat, and activities to participate in. While serving as the Vice-President of International Student Club I had the opportunity to organize many events for international students. Each time Mel helped and advised me. The most memorable experiences were the Re-Fest, a celebration of green energy day where students canoed down the Root River. Later, Mel organized a special birthday for me at her house. I was so pleasantly surprised. All the international students gathered together and we had a nice party and bowling afterwards. I am very thankful to my advisor, Mel, who deserves the title “Mother of the World.�

Bringing out the Best Lia Phutkaradze Georgia, Utica College, 2009-2010

“He brought joy into my life and was there when I needed him as an advisor, a friend, and a brother.” Over the course of my adventurous life in the United States, my advisor is the person who introduced me to an American path to live by, to interact and maintain mutual relationships with other, and to the different societies in the United States. When I first met with my adviser, Daniel O'Toole, I felt that I was in the hands of a reliable person who was going to guide and protect me during my time on the Global UGRAD program. Since then we have built a strong, warm, and friendly relationship. The most important thing in our relationship is trust. Dan is not only the person who introduced me to the host community life but he did so representing the best in American cultural and social values. “It has truly been a pleasure having Lia here and I will hate to see her leave.” Lia was placed in a Residence Hall suite with five American girls that greeted her warmly as soon she entered the room. Her placement has to be the greatest placement any of my students has ever had. I wish I could find roommates like them for all the students. Lia quickly adapted to life in the United States. Lia has participated in every activity, including being the only student to dress in costume at our Halloween celebration. She has made more American friends than any other student that entered in the fall semester. She has truly embraced her time here on the Global UGRAD program.

Being All I Can Be Aina Amiralina Kazakhstan, Shawnee State Universit y, 2009-2010

When I came to America, the first person who had answers to all my questions and the person who I was sharing my impressions with was my advisor, Rita Haider. We became close friends and her role in my Global UGRAD experience has been so remarkable. A lot of what I achieved while being here is because of her wise advice. From the very beginning, Rita helped me to easily transition into life in America. She found me a host family, introduced me to my instructor on volunteer work, and she found me an academic advisor who shares my professional and personal interests. She actively worked to find people who matched my individuality. Rita also suggested to me that I participate in my school's “International Buddy” program in order to become more involved in American culture. Finally, Rita helped me to explore my passion for dance. Rita met my school's dance team instructor and asked her if I could have auditions for the Shawnee Dance team. Rita also encouraged me to participate in the annual talent show and even found a costume for my dance to present! My advisor wanted to make my Global UGRAD experience unforgettable. She's certainly done it.

My Advisor & Me


Notes from UnderGrad Spring 2010

Making a Difference Global UGRAD fellows and alumni are a strong net work of active people who help their communities. They design and implement development projects and per form communit y ser vice. They promote positive social change and raise awareness about impor tant social issues to those around them.

Race for the Children Andriy Maksymovych

Making a Difference

Ukraine, Eastern Connecticut State Universit y, 2004-2005


Notes from UnderGrad

Inspired by my U.S. experience of seeing a friend participate in Race for the Cure, I said to myself, “Why can't this exist in my own country?” Supported by ECA's Alumni Small Grants program, I identified assisting premature babies as an important health care intervention for Ukraine. I initiated a Race for Children in which I and a friend crossed Ukraine in 40 days. It was a great success and dozens of volunteers took to the streets to collect donations along the way. The Race was followed by two charitable balls and other fundraising events in the Parliaments of Ukraine and Canada. All told, the project raised over 55,000 USD. The project's team used this money to help Ukraine adapt to new WHO requirements for raising premature newborns. We installed brand new equipment - two incubators, three fetal monitors, two phototherapy and one pressure measurement devices - in four Lviv municipal and regional hospitals where more than 11,000 newborns are born annually. On March 19, 2009 we held a presentation of the equipment for premature newborns at the Lviv Third Clinical Municipal Hospital. The presentation was attended by the US Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, IREX Country Director Joseph Bednarek and local officials. During the press conference Ambassador Taylor noted that this project is remarkable as “Ukrainians are helping Ukrainians.” A video of our accomplishments is accessible on the U.S. State Department's website at This is just the beginning of bringing my UGRAD experience back home as I will be turning the Race into a long-term initiative for assisting the public health sphere in Ukraine.

Dancing with the Kids Aina Amiralina Kazakhstan, Shawnee State Universit y, 2009-2010

One thing that has impressed me the most about the United States is that people here just love volunteering. In my country we often participate in these kinds of events, but people often do so because it is mandatory. Here in the U.S., it is so nice to see that volunteering comes from the heart. Nobody is forced to do it. I am so excited too because many people are willing to help just because they want to, and not because of monetary or personal gain. Something changed inside me and I have embraced this idea as if it were my own.

To me it is very easy to make a difference, because it seems like everything is possible in the United States. You simply need to be open to all the opportunities that are here waiting for you. I'm grateful that with the help of the Global UGRAD exchange program all my dreams are coming true!

I have participated in Crop Walk, Clean-up Scioto County, and my local community's Martin Luther King Celebration. I've done presentations on Kazakhstan and performed traditional dances with the Rotary club and I've also become a member of several student clubs. The most meaningful achievement for me is using dance to make a difference. I love this art and I've had numerous opportunities to be involved in it here. I joined my university's dance team and participated in several performances and shows. I've taught dancing to children in the 14th Street Community Center. It was an amazing feeling seeing them having fun and seeing the gratitude in their parents' eye. Currently, I have two groups at Shawnee State University that I'm teaching how to dance. I am very proud of this and we are working to make a performance in April.

Bridging the Education Gap Shushanik Karapetyan Armenia, Bemidji State Universit y, 2006-2007

It's exciting to do something that will make a difference. Sometimes people don't take action because they are afraid of making a mistake. However, I like to follow the English idiom, “If you don't make mistakes, you don't make anything.” Before leaving for the U.S., I had participated in different volunteer activities, but only upon my experiences in the U.S. had a new phase of my life begun. I studied special education in the U.S. and this is a sphere that is still being developed in Armenia. Upon returning home, I started to work for a hospital school and put into practice the knowledge that I gained from my time on the UGRAD program. I started running a special educators' club during which we had discussions on how to make it easier for special needs children to study in Armenia with the little resources available. When I heard of the Alumni Small Grant program I decided to apply for a grant. Along with the other members of the special educators' club we took the games that we developed and compiled them in a book titled “Learning through Playing.” I was afraid at first of doing such a challenging project, but then when I saw the fruits of my success, when I began receiving thanks from the staff of the hospital school, I knew it was all worth it. I think this has been a great contribution to Armenian schools, especially regional ones. I have become encouraged and now I want to achieve more and more, take risks, and continue to make a difference in my community.

Making a Difference


Notes from UnderGrad Spring 2010


Notes from UnderGrad

Bringing It Back Home Alisa Nikitina Ukraine, Bethany College, 2008-2009

Before my participation in the Global UGRAD program I never thought that community involvement would mean so much to my life. I had volunteered and was active in NGOs, but it was my experience as a Global UGRAD fellow that opened my eyes to the possibilities around me. The crucial moment for me came the first day of volunteering in Greensburg, KS, when I helped to restore the city after it was devastated by a tornado in May of 2007. On my return home from this day I was filled with enthusiasm and a new understanding of volunteerism. Upon my return home, in June of 2009, together with another alumna, Eleonora Provozin, we volunteered at an annual ecomusic-land art festival "Trypilske Kolo" not far from Kiev, Ukraine. The volunteering required not only our tolerance, but honesty as well since we were in charge of collecting entrance fees. Having spent several days in tents and close to nature, I observed the positive changes happening amongst the youth of Ukraine. That was followed by a number of other experiences – volunteering at other festivals, collecting and preparing food for the homeless, visiting orphanages, and organizing free courses of English for students in my university. Today in my country many more young activists realize the importance of volunteering and contributing to the community, and I'm happy to be doing my part.

Ever yone Mat ters Maria Kuzub

Making a Difference

Russia, Stephen F. Austin Universit y, 2007-2008

My project “Community Smile�, funded through ECA's Alumni Small Grants program, worked to develop the volunteering capacity among young people to help elders and disabled people in our community of Saratov, Russia. Additionally, one of the main objectives of this project was to improve sanitary-and-hygienic conditions of lonely elders and disabled people who live in our community and to help make their living situation more comfortable. During the spring and fall of 2009, 90 elders and disabled people received free household services in their houses and yards. Services included winterizing their homes and clearing trash and debris. Approximately 120 social work students from 3 different universities in Saratov participated in the project. These volunteers were energetic and motivated to make the lives of these people better. Together, we had a real chance to help the people in our community by making their lives a little bit more comfortable. Working as a project coordinator was very interesting and it motivated me to continue developing new projects and volunteer activities that would benefit elders, disabled people, and foster care children living in our community. I started work as a social work specialist at the Zavodskoy social service center. In January of 2010 we initiated an art therapy workshop for more than 50 disabled people from Saratov. This event became possible thanks to a Project Smile grant. All of the project participants had one thing in common - no matter what disability they have they all loved art and they were open to expressing themselves in different art forms. Six different art studios were opened for two days and included such activities as drawing, painting, jewelery making, knitting, glass painting, and paper work. More than 50 disabled people aged 18 to 50 participated in the project. While some of them had already attempted some of these art forms, for many it was the first opportunity to try out different art forms. Again, volunteers did an amazing job organizing small groups where they worked individually with each participant. Unfortunately, many people who live in our city avoid communication with disabled people. My projects have helped to bring together disabled people, volunteers, and mass media to show people living in our community that people with cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, and other neuropsychic deviations are very talented and important contributors to our society. We further brought people in our community closer to disabled people by organizing an exhibition of the art work made by participants. We hope that this exhibition will allow people to observe these amazing pieces of art, and through this art, we hope it will open up communication throughout the community.

Cleaning Up Taguhi Sahakyan Armenia, Montana State Universit y, 2000-2001

In May of 2009, I organized an Environmental CleanUp Campaign of the Dzoraget River and I presented a Public Awareness Seminar on Environmental Issues and Ecotourism in my hometown of Stepanavan. The project was funded through ECA's Alumni Small Grants Program with technical assistance provided by many different partners - the Stepanavan Municipality, Secondary School #3, the Stepanavan Information Center, Fortuna TV, the United States Embassy, Byuregh Water, and Boghosyan Gardens. The purpose of the project was to improve Stepanavan's nature. People from all over the world come here to rest during the summer, and unfortunately, most vacationers often leave it worse than before they arrived. We cleaned up the Dzoraget River in addition to installing trash cans in highly frequented areas. Seventy local students and teachers as well as twenty alumni participated in this campaign. The project encouraging interested students and alumni to volunteer to clean up the river banks, and in doing so, experience the existing problems first hand. The hope is that those involved would gain a greater appreciation for nature and eventually become more involved in preventing litter in the future. Additionally, a public awareness seminar on environmental issues was organized. Interested students learned about current environmental issues, the impact on our lives, and the disastrous results we might face if they aren't remedied as soon as possible. The seminar was conducted by Edward Safaryan and Lusine Taslakyan, both alumni of the Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program. In addition to these activities, in order to better support Stepanavan's community as a tourism destination in Armenia, a bicycle trail has been created from the center of Stepanavan to Lori Fortress. The idea is to attract tourists traveling by bicycle while at the same time encouraging locals to use the trail as a cheap, healthy, and environmentally friendly form of transportation. In addition, a tourism information panel has been installed to help tourists and visitors learn more about the river. With all these initiatives I know that I am making a small, but important difference in my country.

Investing In Our Future Yerkebulan Sagiyev Kazakhstan, California State Universit y- Dominguez Hills, 2009-2010

By involving myself in community activities I have gained great opportunities for myself and my country. One of the most attractive things about the Global UGRAD program is that it involves volunteering and an internship. These have allowed me to build a strong network of professionals and friends and to gain many lasting experiences. They have given me the opportunity to present my country and to make some contribution to the local community around me. I volunteered at the Child Development Center where I took care of the children of my university's staff and students. I was given a big responsibility and was one of the teachers in the center. We provided a service to parents to allow them to teach and study without worrying about their children. Now I'm starting my internship in the World Trade Center (WTC) where I'm going to be an assistant to the Senior Manager. The WTC works to bring investment into California by assisting local businesses. We will help identify “green� projects for businesses. I think that by working in this organization I'll make valuable contributions to fostering California economy and making the state more environmentally friendly.

Making a Difference


Notes from UnderGrad Spring 2010

The Human Connection Andriy Kurasov Ukraine, Ball State Universit y, 2004-2005

It was minus 20 degrees and I and six other volunteers were heading up north from Kyiv in an electric train with no heating. Warming ourselves up with sandwiches that one of us luckily grabbed along for the trip, and with various jokes to stay awake, we reached our destination in Nizhyn, Ukraine. We were going to a tiny, but cozy orphanage called Zatyshok, which means “comfort” in Ukrainian. Somehow, comfort was exactly what we wanted to contribute to this place. At the front doors we were met by children with expecting and excited eyes, seemingly for the gifts we had brought them. We presented them some fruits, games, and an aquarium hoping that these gifts would make them feel comfortable and at home. With the help of a Project Smile grant and the addition of our own funds, we did something small at least, but at first we were ashamed that this was all we could do – that we couldn't have done more. However, only after having lunch and playing with the kids did we come to understand the meaning of the first glances we received coming into the orphanage. These children were not excited for the gifts and donations, but rather for the new friends and the interactions with us that followed. They relished the gift of those who would listen to them and respond with sincerity and kindness. Realizing this, their scorching souls melted our freezing minds. Somehow we did not feel the cold on our way back home.

Creative Therapy Ekaterina Kitkova Russia, Universit y of Minnesota-Twin Cities, 2009-2010

Majoring in Psychology at the University of Minnesota and Education back home in Russia, I searched for volunteer opportunities to work with children during my time as a Global UGRAD fellow. That's how I found the SteppingStone Theater in Minneapolis, MN. The SteppingStone Theater is an educational theater that creates diverse-experience educational programs for the youth and their families. Children obtain the skills critical for the profession of an actor and gain true-to-life experience - they learn how to perform, how to be confident in public speaking, how to be open-minded, and how to realize their creative potential. For me volunteering with SteppingStone was an excellent opportunity to observe how educational and psychological initiatives can be carried out through exciting theatrical activities. I love that the magical theatrical process is enriched by children bringing new ideas and feedback to my volunteering. I enjoyed my time so much with SteppingStone that I decided to become their intern. I am happy to have had such a great opportunity to become personally engaged with children, to see their smiles when they come to class, and to contribute to making a difference in their lives.


Notes from UnderGrad

Peacemaking 101 Lela Akiashvili Georgia, Universit y of Wisconsin-Superior, 2009-2010

Student organizations were a very important part of my life in Georgia. This is why from the very beginning of my time in the U.S. I joined several student associations at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and continue to participate with them. In this way I feel like I'm making a difference in the community around me. I am member of several peace associations such as Amnesty International and the International Peace Student Association. Through these associations I helped organize Peace Building Week the first week of November 2009. Each day we planned several events that would show people the necessity of peace and that would encourage them to make steps towards world peace. We created a Fair Trade Bazaar where

we sold souvenirs made by African children that would then be redistributed back to them. At the Hunger Banquet we showed the inequality of food distribution in the world and how some are dying of hunger as others are throwing food away. Another important part of the week was the Landmine Exhibition where we taught attendees about landmines, victims, treaties, and opportunities to prevent the deaths of millions of people. We spent a lot of time creating the week, but it was well worth the efforts as the results more than met our expectations. Many guests and even several newspapers and TV channels covered the event to help spread the word. I truly believe we made a difference.

Spreading the Good Word Elina Beketova Ukraine, University of Mississippi, 2009-2010

One hour before it is to start, I am frantically editing frames for the evening student newscast of “Newswatch”. I'm working on a voiceover for the “Relay for Life.” Here at the University of Mississippi students are involved in fundraising for the American Cancer Society. This year's team goal is to raise $20,000 to help aid cancer research. I am a member of the publicity committee and by making short stories about “Relay for Life” we hope to get more people involved. It doesn't really matter whether you're making a long package for a central

TV station or a short voiceover for a student newscast. “It's easy to make a buck, but it's much tougher to make a difference”, former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw once said. I have always thought it is better to do something rather than nothing. I am always asked by my friends why I participate in “Newswatch” when people barely watch the news anymore. My answer is always that you never how a story might affect someone's life, whether it might encourage a student to get a vaccine on campus or apply for the university's new bike program. On April 9th I will be doing my own part in the fight against cancer, by stepping out of the editing room and participating in the 12 hour overnight Relay. Many small steps can make big differences

Communit y Integration Meri Dallakyan Armenia, Minnesota State Universit y- Moorhead, 2007-2008

Before going to the U.S., I once volunteered for a local NGO Hope and Belief which assists children with disabilities. During my two years of experience as an Armenian and English language teacher in this NGO, I saw the difficulties disabled children confront in order to become an integral part of society. Upon returning from my Global UGRAD experience, I decided to apply for a Project Smile grant. I wanted to assist Hope and Belief since they were experiencing financial difficulties conducting outreach activities. We decided to plan an event that would make these children's day a bit different from their ordinary day. Together with a volunteer group, we took 25 children with disabilities on a trip to Vahanavank, a medieval church about 20km from the city the children are from. After arriving at the church, a priest told the children about Vahanavank's history. This was followed by a barbeque picnic and various games played with the children. A local TV channel “Sosi” came and reported on the event. In addition to gaining exposure and the attention of local sponsors for the NGO's great work, local community members were also able to see how these children can be integrated into society.

Making a Difference


Notes from UnderGrad Spring 2010


Making a Difference

Notes from UnderGrad

Education for All Kostiantyn Iakovliev Ukraine, Universit y of Missouri-St.Louis, 2007-2008

I am a Global UGRAD Alumnus from 2007-2008 who studied Mass Media and Communications. As long as I can remember I have always taken an active role in volunteering, but participating in community service as a Global UGRAD fellow helped me to develop the necessary skills to organize my own project. With the help of a Project Smile grant, I started the Magic English course for children with learning disabilities who live in a boarding school on the outskirts of Horlivka, Ukraine. It was challenging managing the project which included budget tracking, organizing visits, and recruiting volunteers. Making my job easier were several enthusiastic students who expressed their desire to volunteer and provide elementary English lessons. They gave the lessons in a fun manner that included games, both intellectual and physical, and ensured that each child was given personal attention. The funds for the project helped to buy study books and stationary supplies for each child. With very little of their own, it was important for the children to each have something that was their own. The project was a great success and even after it has finished, the volunteers still visit the school and use the educational materials to prepare children for their future life in a multilingual environment. Though it is a difficult struggle to bring better education to children with learning disabilities, I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to excel in this life. Hopefully this campaign has been the first step to making this a reality.

Bridging the Divide Seda Grigoryan Armenia, Florida State Universit y, 2009-2010

As a media production student, there are many ways to impact the community, find the gaps in needs, and fill them in. The community service I completed last semester was a beautiful experience – joining a gardening project, assisting patients in a retirement home, and performing child care duties in a homeless community. I was able to interact with people of all ages and backgrounds. In the gardening project, the supervisors I met were extremely devoted to nature. I learned so much about taking care of plants and I gained a greater understanding for how to protect the environment. In the retirement home, it was wonderful talking to the patients. I discovered exciting stories on their background and even met a former professor who was one of the first male members of a feminist movement! At the homeless community, the children helped me to just have fun and forget about the language differences because the way they communicate is beyond languages and nationalities! My experiences didn't end last semester, however, as this semester I received another chance to make a meaningful impact in my host community. Through my course work and internship, I have been able to make documentaries about these people and identify social issues facing the community. In helping my community better understand these issues we're playing a small part in solving them together.

Alumni Updates Global UGRAD alumni grow professionally following their program experience. Alumni enter into public ser vice, succeed in the corporate world, and help their countries to develop socially and economically. This section highlights the personal and professional achievements of Global UGRAD alumni.

Opening the World Murat Sariyev Turkmenistan, Alma College, 2001-2002

From October 1st through October 13th, 2009, Murat Sariyev (UGRAD '02) participated in the Open World Program. Sponsored by the Library of Congress, since 1999 it has enabled more than 14,000 Eurasian leaders to experience American democracy and civil society. Participants work with American counterparts, stay in American homes, and gain new ideas and inspiration for implementing change back home. Murat acted as facilitator for a Water Management Group from Turkmenistan. The group of three specialists from the Ministry of Water Resources of Turkmenistan met and exchanged ideas with their counterparts in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The delegates were also received by the offices of U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich, Senator Jeff Bingaman, and the Mayor's Office. The delegation from Turkmenistan was hosted by Albuquerque's Sister Cities Committee. It was a great experience and many important new skills were learned.

The Places She'll Go Alisa Nikitina Ukraine, Bethany College, 2008-2009

As a quite recent alumna, Alisa Nikitina has continued her studies at the Department of Linguistics of her home university in Ukraine. However, after participating in the Global UGRAD program a whole new world of opportunities opened up for her. The summer she returned from the United States, she began volunteering in an orphanage for local youth. She also joined the European Youth Parliament (EYP) Ukraine. To her great pleasure, having become an alumna of the organization after one month she was selected as a delegate to an International session in Helsinki, Finland. There, she was able to meet the Ukrainian Ambassador to Finland, who was familiar with the Global UGRAD program. Today, Alisa is actively engaged in EYP as an organizer for local events and an upcoming international forum. Alisa also strengthened her organizational skills during the International Youth Esperanto Congress in Liberec, Czech Republic. She has been involved with the World Esperanto community for several years, but it was the first time she was invited into the organizing team by a foreign Esperanto organization. In November 2009, she visited the International Week in Ljubljana, Slovenia, hosted by a local global management group. It was an amazing opportunity to learn about the political system of Slovenia directly from the Parliament, talk about the current socio-political situation with the mayor of Ljubljana, and discover the story of Si-Mobil, one of the most successful mobile companies in the country. At present, Alisa is staying involved with the Global UGRAD community by serving on the Alumni Steering Committee and participating in development workshops and seminars. She also continues her work and volunteer efforts as a teacher of English, to which the Global UGRAD experience was vital. Participating in the Global UGRAD program was an amazing experience and it didn't conclude when she returned to Ukraine - it only just began!

Alumni Updates


Notes from UnderGrad Spring 2010

Notes from UnderGrad Editorial Committee: Carolina Chavez, Bureau

of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), US Department of State <>

Aimee Clancy, International

Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) <>

Alumni Opportunities US Government sponsored exchange alumni are eligible to take part in various Bureau of Educational and Cultural Af fairs (ECA) supported training activities. In addition to events that support large audiences, individual alumni may apply for small grants that fund the organization of community service activities, conferences, publications, Internet-related activities, research trips, training programs, the creation of associations and other activities.

Chris Walters, International

Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) <>

Susie Armitage, International

Research & Exchanges Board (IREX)

ECA Alumni Programming for Global Undergraduate Exchange Program Alumni


Design by: zevs group

Submission guidelines: Have something to share with the Global UGRAD community? We encourage you to participate and submit your articles and pictures to the newsletter! Please submit material to <>. Submissions may be edited for style and language. Not all submitted material will be printed.

State Alumni Web Site: The State Alumni website is an online community by and for alumni of US Government-sponsored exchange and training programs. The content of the site is updated every day and alumni are encouraged to submit information to the website for posting. Features of the website include: calendar of upcoming alumni events, job listings and career development information, searchable database of alumni and US host families who have registered at the site, grant opportunity listings, live online discussions, discussion forum, alumni news, alumni resume database, articles written by alumni, feedback form/online survey, live online guest speakers, photo gallery, and the Alumni ListServ. <ht tps://> The UGRAD Alumni Small Grants Program: Alumni may apply to IREX for a

grant of up to $3,000 to conduct a community development or professional development project. Fundable project ideas include coordinating a community service project, launching a pilot program at an NGO or organizing a training program for professional colleagues and/or other alumni. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. <ht tp://w w> Project Smile: Project Smile, administered by IREX, is a community development program aimed at helping youth, the elderly and the disabled in Eurasia. Each grantee will receive up to $250 to perform public service in their home city. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. <ht tp://w w> Alumni Events: IREX and the US Embassy organize monthly alumni events

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

w w

throughout Eurasia. These events include workshops, conferences, trainings, roundtable discussions, happy hours, movie nights, seminars and lectures. Larger scale events include job fairs that allow alumni to have their resumes reviewed, learn about the current job market in their home country, and meet with potential employers. IREX local offices and the Embassies encourage alumni to actively participate in the development and implementation of such events.

Notes from UnderGrad Spring 2010  

Read an article about volunteering in teaching English for orphans in Ukraine by Kostiantyn Iakovliev within Project Smile grant by IREX (p....

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