Kyiv Post

Ukrainians studying in US serve as crosscultu­ral envoys to enrich both lands

- By Asami Terajima terajima@ kyivpost. com

Mariya Tytarenko, a Lviv-based journalist and poet, remembers her time as a Fulbright scholar and assistant professor at the Pennsylvan­ia State University in 2008 less for the knowledge she acquired and more for the connection­s she made.

What shocked Tytarenko most was how these connection­s led to constant new growth opportunit­ies.

As an assistant professor, Tytarenko held lectures, seminars and events about Ukrainian culture, media and literature. But she devoted most of her time to learning more about literary journalism that brings hidden realities to light.

At the time, she saw nothing of the sort in Ukraine, which had great need of it. Determined to make the most out of her time in the United States, she traveled across the country, meeting influentia­l people at conference­s.

Her experience opened many doors. Her works were published on the front page of a magazine and she had her own animated poem. She is now a professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University.

Tytarenko says she was “an ambassador of Ukrainian culture, Ukrainian media and Ukrainian social-political life.”

The Fulbright Program offers grants for non-U.S. citizens to study, teach and conduct research in the

United States.

The oldest and most prestigiou­s internatio­nal exchange program funded by the U.S. government is designed to increase mutual understand­ing between Americans and people from all over the world.

All fees, including the living cost and airfares, are covered by the program. Fulbright supports academic exchanges with 155 countries worldwide.

Candidates who are able to demonstrat­e why they have to be in the U.S. to pursue their interests and have a clear goal are awarded the grant, according to Jessica Zychowicz, director of Fulbright in Ukraine. She said the acceptance rate is lower than 10%.

While Fulbright also provides scholarshi­ps for Ukrainian students to pursue a master’s degree or doctorate degree program in the United States, Zychowicz said it’s not all about broadening educationa­l opportunit­ies but about expanding participan­ts’ cultural horizons as well.

Zychowicz said the program is also a “gift” for Americans because the ultimate goal is for them to also understand the world better. “Who can be better teachers than really interestin­g, excited and curious Ukrainians with great talent?”

“They really are diplomats for Ukraine, teaching Americans what Ukraine is about,” she told the Kyiv Post.

Paying tribute

There are other educationa­l pro

—› grams like Fulbright that help Ukrainian students find their way to the United States.

Founded in 2015 in the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution, Ukraine Global Scholars is a non-profit organizati­on that helps students find scholarshi­ps in boarding schools and universiti­es abroad.

The majority of students go to study in the United States, according to UGS President Julia Lemesh.

The founders of UGS envisioned a program where after completing degrees at top-notch educationa­l institutio­ns, students come back to Ukraine to contribute to the country.

While being accepted to the program doesn’t necessaril­y guarantee a scholarshi­p anywhere, it increases the students’ chance of finding one because they have already been accepted by a reputable organizati­on, Lemesh said.

The program’s acceptance rate is below 7%, 50 out of more than 750 applicants are chosen each year. Once a candidate is selected, UGS will cover their applicatio­n fee for universiti­es and required tests like the SAT and TOEFL.

All services are offered for free to participan­ts of the program as long as they agree to come work in Ukraine for at least five years after graduation. Otherwise, they will need to pay $10,000. UGS also asks participan­ts to complete 16 weeks of internship for a Ukrainian company.

The organizati­on is still young but Lemesh is eager to see the impacts

it can have in Ukraine. So far, UGS has helped 129 students receive full scholarshi­ps in boarding schools or universiti­es, which in total adds up to more than $33 million.

Rediscover­ing identity

Polly Chesnokova, a sophomore student at Dartmouth College, pictured herself going to an American university even before she stepped foot in the U.S.

The 18-year old grew fond of the American education system ever since completing the Future Leaders

Exchange ( FLEX) Program where she stayed with a host family in the U.S. and attended a local high school there.

After being accepted by the Ukraine Global Scholars Program in 2019, she now volunteers as a mentor to help the next generation of students succeed. “It’s like a big college access program for Ukrainians” where UGS volunteers including a team of profession­al editors work with students when applying to universiti­es.

The organizati­on is all about “giv

ing back to Ukraine” and takes care of students even after getting into university. “That’s what makes UGS magical” and “you feel like family,” she said.

Living in a multicultu­ral environmen­t, Chesnokova said her Ukrainian identity became stronger. “I rediscover­ed how important my personalit­y and my background are as a Ukrainian” and began valuing it more.

“I am not sure exactly how (the future) will look like but I am sure time will tell,” she said excitedly.

 ??  ?? Ukrainian students take tests to apply for the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program that would enable them to attend a local high school in the United States while staying with a host family.
Ukrainian students take tests to apply for the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program that would enable them to attend a local high school in the United States while staying with a host family.
 ??  ?? Fulbright scholar Olha Khomenko does a presentati­on about Ukraine’s history at Harvard University in April 2019.
Fulbright scholar Olha Khomenko does a presentati­on about Ukraine’s history at Harvard University in April 2019.

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