One of our favorite sayings is “Once a UGRAD, always a UGRAD.” Even when the U.S. portion of the Global UGRAD experience is over, alumni are always a part of this big and talented family. The lessons learned and knowledge gained during the exchange live on as alumni share their stories and dedicate efforts to shine brightly in their home communities.
Every year, we check in with recent program alumni to hear how they are making an impact. We’ll highlight these stories in this month’s and next month’s feature article, “From Where I Stand.” Join us in applauding these alumni and finding inspiration for how we can similarly share our talents and experiences with those in our communities.
Arpine Kirakosyan, Armenia, Kansas State University, Global UGRAD 2017-2018
After returning from the Global UGRAD Program, I was full of energy to initiate new projects, and had many exciting opportunities coming my way. I am in film-making and it was an honor for me to get a job as an editor for one of the greatest Armenian film directors, Artavazd Peleshian. I also directed a music video, worked on six short movies, and met U.S. filmmaker Darren Aronofsky during the Golden Apricot Film Festival. One of my achievements during the past year was to be an active and responsible citizen of my country. During one of my classes at my host university, I had a leadership professor who was the former mayor of Manhattan, KS, who taught me to be a leader in my community and take action when needed. During the recent Armenian revolution, I was an active citizen and took responsibility for myself to create the future I want. Civic engagement was critical for the people to finally get their voices heard. Now I am looking forward to creating more in my beloved country and being a person of change.
Sonen Soth, Cambodia, University of Missouri, Columbia, Global UGRAD 2017-2018
I run to class every day, not because I am late, but because I’m excited to graduate. I can’t wait to have a full-time job following my passion. After the Global UGRAD Program, I have successfully landed my first project in helping youth to learn about self-exploration. Plus, I also actively participate as a trainer in two other projects led by the Fulbright and Undergraduate State Alumni Association of Cambodia to help youth with their project management and leadership. Last but not least, I have used my voice to be a guest speaker on several educational media channels (Facebook, TV and radio) about youth and the importance of volunteerism. A life with a purpose is exciting. And I am looking forward to more opportunities to keep up the good work and make a great contribution in society. Sending love to all Global UGRADs!
Myrna Landa, Honduras, Kent State University, Global UGRAD 2016-2017
From where stand I share with my students my experience as a teacher. The Global UGRAD Program was the bridge to get this job once I returned to Honduras.
Maksim Kim, Uzbekistan, California State University, San Marcos, Global UGRAD 2016-2017
Two years have passed since the end of my Global UGRAD journey, but I still remember everything as if it was yesterday. So here I stand, on the stairs of the Ministry of Public Education of Uzbekistan, working as a Chief Specialist of the International Projects Department. But who would have thought that I would start cooperating with World Learning through the U.S. Embassy as a part of my job? Indeed, life is an interesting thing. Uzbekistan has undertaken profound economic and political reforms, opening up for the world, and I am happy that I can put my might into the transformation using valuable knowledge and skills that I have received in the United States. I feel proud when I read stories about the positive impact that my fellow Global UGRADs make across the world, and I am grateful that I am a part of this global family. Keep on dreaming and changing the world!
Sofia Zakharyan, Armenia, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, Global UGRAD 2017-2018
Since my return from Global UGRAD, my life has dramatically changed. I have graduated with distinction from law school in Armenia and even had a chance to be a speaker at my university graduation ceremony. Within my speech, I had a chance to share my Global UGRAD experience and gave speeches about my experience at the Russian-Armenian University. Furthermore, thanks to my Global UGRAD experience and knowledge, I received a scholarship to get my MA degree in Jurisprudence at the American University of Armenia, for which I am very grateful. Global UGRAD has also helped me appreciate the importance of giving back to the community. I am trying to do that by helping locals to deal with human rights violation issues free of charge. Nowadays, I am assisting a lawyer connected with human rights and international law issues. In any case, I will do my best to keep in touch with Global UGRAD and the U.S. alumni community.
Ikbale Bouziane, Morocco, University of Maine, Global UGRAD 2017-2018
These happy feet belong to Ikbale Bouziane also known as your future Master’s graduate and teacher of Arabic as a foreign language. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the feet that took me to more underprivileged areas for volunteering, and to a third continent for more sharing and inspiration!
Huong Nguyen, Vietnam, West Virginia University, Global UGRAD 2017-2018
“Country road… take me home to the place… I belong… West Virginia…” Thanks to Global UGRAD, I am more mature and confident about my future career to become a clinician. Returning from the U.S., it was not easy to overcome reverse culture shock. I chose to stay busy by volunteering, doing research, and sharing my experience about Global UGRAD at workshops. I had already joined a medical mission trip called the “Pacific Partnership 2018.” This annual medical program strengthens the relationship between Vietnam and the USA. During that mission, I was an interpreter that connected U.S. military health providers and Vietnamese health providers at several hospitals in the Khanh Hoa province. I also supported U.S. and Vietnamese physicians at Hanoi Heart Hospital in a mission named “A Call from the Heart.” We did over five heart surgeries for poor children who suffer from congenital heart diseases. Those volunteering jobs exposed me to many touching stories that nourished my compassion to become a good doctor. Moreover, a part-time job as a research assistant in collecting data from many hospitals throughout my country got me a valuable perspective inside Vietnam’s healthcare system in comparison with U.S. health care system. Those experiences were tremendously useful for my career. About my life at campus, I challenged myself and registered for the most prestigious competition at my university, “Student of the Year,” and got into Top 5. Through the competition, I expected to inspire medical students in learning English to enrich their knowledge and opportunity for study abroad. Recently, I am doing my own research and finishing up my thesis to graduate medical school in June 2019. My journey had just begun when I came back home from Global UGRAD. As I said a thousand times before: “UGRAD was the best time ever.” I’m thankful for everything in my life. I took this photo at my university garden. Mother Nature always lifts me up to get over all challenges in life. I love my life, love people, and love nature. And yes, here is where I stand!
Alice Mwaniki, Kenya, University of Nevada, Reno, Global UGRAD 2017-2018
I have been busy and so occupied with school work, but thankfully this is my last semester before I finally graduate later this year. This semester I have been doing my research project on “Diversity and Abundance of Avian Species around my University.” The project is so interesting especially now that I am collecting data, just getting to interact with nature and identifying different species of birds. Birds are very conspicuous and very beautiful and play an important role in our environment – therefore, there is need to conserve them and their habitats. Actively collecting data and interacting with these special creatures and nature, in general, has taught me how to be patient and has improved my skills on species identification. Most importantly it has motivated me on the need for conservation.
Ahmad Firdaus, Malaysia, Florida Gulf Coast University, Global UGRAD 2017-2018
Much has occurred since my return. I graduated with a B.A. in Leadership (Hons) and obtained a number of recognitions from my university and the state: Vice Chancellor’s Award, Best Academic Award, First Class Honour, and the State of Terengganu Award for High Achieving Undergraduates. The long list of accolades has certainly been made possible from my Global UGRAD participation, where the awarding committee took note of the prestige, experience, and achievements attained from the program. Reflecting on my Global UGRAD journey has also proved useful in the writing of my motivation letter for graduate admission in top world universities, of which I am set to leave to the Netherlands in August 2019 for MSc in Public Administration. Global UGRAD has taught and given me so much, the best of which is mastering my inner self through the use of a positive mindset, optimism, determination, and gym sessions! The latter has seen me spending a significant amount of time at the gyms here, and I found weight lifting to be the most remarkable outlet for inner troubles while maintaining a healthy balance between the mind and body. This is where I stand, or rather, footed on the gym mats for my next routine.
Witness Sitole, Mozambique, Emporia State University, Global UGRAD 2017-2018
Since the U.S. part of my Global UGRAD experience ended, I have accomplished some really cool things. First, I presented a project to the U.S. Embassy to do a volunteer service of going to every secondary school in Maputo talking about U.S. scholarship opportunities and a little about our own experience. It was approved and they provided us with a lot of material and gifts for the students. I was very keen on continuing the project when I got selected for an internship at the British Embassy in Mozambique six months after my Global UGRAD experience in the U.S. I have no doubt that my fluent English and my cultural diversity mindset, both developed during my time in U.S., were the key factors for my selection. Initially I was sure that the Global UGRAD experience developed people for academic success but wasn’t sure how it helped professionally. Now, I am happy to announce that I am the youngest full-time employee at the British Embassy in Mozambique. Before Global UGRAD I could explain to you in theory what Brexit is and its effects since my course is economics. But now, I am part of the Trade Policy Team working on the Trade Agreement Policy deal for Mozambique and UK. I haven’t finished my undergraduate degree yet, and I am meeting Mozambican and British Ministers from different sectors. It has been really cool having all this VIP treatment. Before Global UGRAD, I would only dream of meeting my favorite Mozambican pop star. Now I’ve met her and others at the events that I am invited to, we chat, and then take a selfie like it is nothing. With all these, I can only say “the Global UGRAD EXPERIENCE is a LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE.” And that is why I keep encouraging people to apply and also mentor them during the journey. So, thank you very much for the experience you gave me and all the changes that it brought to my academic and professional life. #OnceAUgradAlwaysAUgrad
Maneth Nay, Cambodia, Carroll College, Global UGRAD 2017-2018
It has been a much greater life after returning from the Global UGRAD Program. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in International Relations a few months ago, and immediately got offered a job as a lecturer at my university’s Department of International Studies, the Royal University of Phnom Penh. That is why the picture below was taken in the lecturer’s office at my university with my stationery around plus a cup of coffee. However, that is not all I am doing. My team and I had again organized the largest STEM Festival in Cambodia which we received more than 29,000 visitors last year and more than 34,000 visitors this year. This year as the 5th year of organizing the largest STEM Festival in Cambodia, my team and I received the Medal of Honor from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. Moreover, I was involved in other projects as a team leader, a mentor on project management and implementation, or a speaker on how to apply for scholarships to study in the U.S. Last but not least, I was also involved with the U.S. Ambassador’s Youth Council and Fulbright and Undergraduate State Alumni Association of Cambodia. I am excited to keep contributing to my society!
Kelvin Orina Getuno, Kenya, Northern Michigan University, Global UGRAD 2017-2018
This is my vegetable garden. It’s a long-term study of different ways of growing crops which I intend to escalate by training young people in farming methods. It’s part of a wider project that includes chickens which are housed in a different town. So, when I’m not in class or selling honey, this is where you’ll find me.
Budoor Snober, Jordan, American University, Global UGRAD 2017-2018
In January 2019, a little after a year of returning home from Washington, DC, I got my bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature. Now I’m applying for Fulbright scholarship to continue grad school. At the same time I’m applying for jobs and internships. This is a picture of my favorite “lucky” shoes that I wore on my interview. As I’m waiting for my next adventure in life I’ve been working on myself. Until then I’m waiting for a call for my job interview to work in an exchange programs department where my exchange experience will come in handy!