From Where I Stand – Part I

Note: We have so many stories to share that we’re posting a Part II of From Where I Stand next month. Stay tuned!

Nail Mustafazade, Azerbaijan

It is only a few months since I’ve returned home from the incredibly beautiful place called Wisconsin. Nail AZBut this short time is enough to miss my exchange life during Global UGRAD. Currently I’m looking forward to starting the last year of my university degree and getting prepared to apply for a master’s program. My goal is to gain acceptance from an American or European Education Master’s Program. During the last two months, I had one great travel/hike to the northern mountains of Azerbaijan and took some beautiful pictures. I’ve also created my own blog about statistics and data analysis since I like this field and I am eager to share my knowledge with others. My blog is called BLUSTAT in honor of the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Blugolds! It will be ready soon. Now I’m interning at Demir-Bank. I want to say a big THANKS to everyone at World Learning. I still very much miss our DC meeting with everyone because it is a very rare thing to be together with so many great people. Not everyone has this chance, and I feel really lucky. I hope to meet all those people together again. Sounds very difficult, but it’s possible, no doubts! Because once a UGRAD, forever a UGRAD!

Hein Htwe Maung, Burma

When I first got back, I felt empty and blank. Having no “semester” education system in Myanmar, most of us have to take a gap year to participate in Global UGRAD. Hein Htwe MaungIt was worth it. But still all the free time left me empty. I felt like I was walking in the dark. Then my school called me and asked if I was available to coach freshmen for a debate tournament and they offered me an internship in the Marketing and Customer Service Department. There was no student club at my college but now there is one. I started a debate club called, “The Owlers,”- an owl being a country mascot and representing wisdom. Its motto is “Observe and debate, and become a little wiser everyday.” I bring the most challenging topics and take on most controversial current issues in the club every week. Since my club focuses on the Karl Popper debate format, it’s all about making a change and creating a plan for a better good. I’m glad that I get this chance to be the founder and am very proud of the members who brought home a trophy. They shine their lights on me. From where I stand, I see an owl and their lights shining upon me.

Grecia Romero Sabillon, Honduras

Since I returned from this awesome adventure in the U.S., GreciaI have been spending time with my loved ones and getting used to my normal life again. I started classes at my university the day after I arrived from the U.S., and I also started a short internship that I already finished. My definition of volunteering changed during my time in the U.S. Volunteering is something awesome where you can help others, but also you help yourself because you receive a lot of love. Now, I am part of an organization called “Guala” that we started with three other Global UGRADs and it’s been great. The idea with this is to build hand prostheses using 3D printing, and to this day we have delivered the first one. We are working on and additional two prostheses to continue this project. I have also started plans to teach English in my church, not just for the people who go to this church, but for anyone who wants to learn the language. I feel responsible and happy to do this because I have received so much from World Learning and the U.S. Embassy, so I try to give back a little bit from all of it. I am so blessed to be a Global UGRAD alum and to share everything I can from what I learned during my time there. Thanks again to World Learning and the U.S. Embassy for opening these doors for us.

Mahmudul Hassan, BangladeshMahmudul

Since the completion of the Global UGRAD Program, I have been serving as the organizing secretary of my university’s Debate Club. In this role, I work with an amazing group of people to organize programs ranging from debate competitions to critical advocacy. This year we have organized a month-long debate training program, the biggest of its kind. In the training program we have provided training to 652 participants on debating, critical thinking, presentation and professional development.

Souleymane Mamane Illia, Niger

Being a Global UGRAD is one of the most important things that ever happened to me as it gave me a deeper understanding of the world and new perspectives of life. Upon my return home I got involved in many community service activities. SouleymaneThe most important achievement I made is the successful running of two campaigns I initiated. The first one called “Caravane de la Paix,” a French expression meaning “Peace Caravan,” consisted of reaching out to young people by joining their tea parties in order to discuss and exchange ideas on how they can contribute to and maintain peace in their society. The second campaign called “Parlons de democratie” aimed at sharing ideas and giving many young people, especially non-instructed ones, a deeper understanding and new insights on the concept of democracy. Both campaigns have been fruitful because through them, positive and mind-changing messages are spread. In order to take my struggle to the next level I have decided to start working on the creation of a new organization that will be called “Jeunesse-Action-Développement” meaning “Youth Acting for Development.” It will aim at promoting young people’s involvement in the development of their local communities by addressing issues such as girls’ education, immigration, responsible citizenship, climate change and so on. My ambition in creating this new organization is to raise people’s consciousness, especially young ones, on the need for societal changes. Once a UGRAD always a UGRAD!

Huyen Bui, VietnamHuyen

After coming back from the U.S., I was very excited to join a volunteer project to help children learn science in fun and creative ways. This project is very special because it was initiated by groups of Vietnamese Global UGRAD alumni, and was one of the winners of AEIF in 2014. I am currently working on the executive board of this project in Season 3 to create more positive impacts on my community as well as to continue part of the Global UGRAD spirit.

Kseniya Mahileuskaya, Belarus

Participation in the Global UGRAD Program affected me a lot. It’s even hard to put in words how grateful I am for the experience I had during the time I spent in the USA. KseniaThat’s why after the end of program I came back to Belarus very inspired and full of new ideas. After having such a great language experience I was wondering if I could do something to improve the English of youth in Belarus. So now with my friends we are trying to develop a new English learning program for children, as learning programs in schools are not enough. As I did tutoring before, this is just a first step. I want youth in Belarus to be interested in learning new languages and communicating to other cultures. I want exchange educational programs to become reachable and open for all the students, as seeing other countries and cultures broadens your mind and gives you the opportunity to take a look at life from a different angle. I have the whole big world around me and I hope I can change it for better, even a little.

Khamla Sabpaso, Laos

Global KhamlaUGRAD for me is is a life-changing experience. What I had seen as impossible to change, to perform, to initiate, is not so in my mind anymore. Instead, it has been replaced with an optimistic perspective, for I have reset my mind from ‘Impossible’ to ‘I’m possible.’ Since returning home from my wonderful, fantastic experience in the United States, I’m always seeking opportunities to go around and assist people in need, not only in my country but in my neighbor country also. This picture was taken at Srinakharinwirot University which is considered to be one of the best universities in Thailand. I am here as a teacher’s assistant for the ‘Urban Development Workshop.’ The workshop is a cooperation between three universities: Chulalongkorn University (Thailand), National University of Laos (Laos), and Meiji University (Japan). In addition, I am assisting my friend to create a proposal in which we really hope to get a grant to help poor students in rural areas in another province in Laos. Once a UGRAD, always a UGRAD!

David Ngatia, Kenya

DavidI have learned that we are living in a world that is interconnected and thus it is a global world, and Global UGRAD confirmed the fact. From where I stand, I just graduated from my undergraduate degree in Business Information Technology with first class honors from Kenya Methodist University. Now I’m standing on a bridge that depicts the next level of education that I am going to take. After mentoring student councils with skills and experiences gained from the USA, I am ready to advance my education again and continue giving back to society. Asante Global UGRAD.

Aleksei Subbotin, Russia

After the Global UGRAD Program, I have so many ideas of what and who I want to be. I understood once again that I want to work with people of any age (my volunteering experience at a retirement home and school showed it to me). AleskseiTherefore, I came back to Russia and got my museum worker certification, and now I am a tour organizer officially! I work as a guide as well. Recently, I’ve been involved in an important event called “The Tolstoy Family Reunion,” where 84 descendants of the great writer, Leo Tolstoy, met and shared their knowledge and experience. My employer found that I was responsible and gave me that opportunity to be an interpreter and translator, organizer and guide. I did my work successfully and met many people whose lives are connected with Leo Tolstoy. By the way, I work at a museum-estate “Yasnaya Polyana” where Tolstoy lived and worked. Here are my feet! You can see another foot here in the picture. It is Leo Tolstoy’s foot, and it is more than 10 times bigger than mine. The thing is that I am standing near the biggest monument dedicated to a writer in the world, and its height is 7 meters!

Battogtokh Bold, Mongolia

From the time I returned to Mongolia, I felt different than before.B Bold I find myself more motivated and determined to fight for my goals, and the experience made me try new things each day. I enjoyed doing community service in the U.S. because it helped me to socialize and made me feel part of something. In that spirit, I’ve applied for volunteering opportunities as much as I can. I had the chance to volunteer for Asia Europe Meeting in Mongolia and I made successful contributions to this special event. I hope I can have more opportunities in coming months. This photo was taken when I was traveling through central Mongolia. It shows my feet in front of the door of a nomadic family home. From where I stand, I see my future opportunities are welcoming me like this open door. I see my future so bright like this light inside the door. And I feel I’m in the right position and path – like I’m standing in the light, not the dark.

Anh Ngoc Nguyen, Vietnam

After returning from the U.S., I changed my major. AnhI have never dared to think about it before, because as you know, every change is messy. However, Global UGRAD enabled me to believe more in myself, and have more courage to act for my passion. Global UGRAD also sharpened my civic responsibility and deepened my community engagement, for which now I’m a volunteer teacher for Vietnamese orphans, and a participant in ASEAN Youth Exchange Program Thailand. This picture was taken one month after my 21st birthday, when I was standing at Chualongkong Universiry, Bangkok, recalling all good and bad moments that happened in my 20s, and of course, how I would deal with my thesis next year in bio-signal processing – the new major that I have just started with nearly zero background knowledge.

Aicha Fall, Mauritania

Since returning from my Global UGRAD experience, I have been trying so hard to find a job and apply for other potential scholarships. I have been trying and actually still trying because I haven’t reached that level where I am satisfied, but one thing I have learned from my Global UGRAD experience is that nothing is impossible, and faith, hard work, and patience are keys to succeeding in life.Aicha On the other hand, I have been thinking about and actually working on opening an English Center where I am going to be teaching English to my friends and anyone out there that wants to speak English or simply improve their English level. I also want to include regular community service activities in the center, because I have learned a lot about the importance of community service during my Global UGRAD journey and how it can change people’s lives because it helps draw a smile on a person’s face – and there is nothing more beautiful and inspiring than to see a person relieved and smiling thanks to a small act that you did. On that note, I would like to embody the sense of volunteering in my other Mauritanian fellows, and actually showing them its importance and impact in people’s lives. I would also like to point out, the only thing that could be challenging is actually having financial support to open my English Center, but my ambition and devotion to make it in life will help me make my dreams come true. This picture shows my current situation that is the search of scholarships or job opportunities – but no matter how hard it gets, I know that I will make it!

Zhu Rui, China

It has been two months since the completion of the Global UGRAD Program. Zhu RuiThe wonderful experience with World Learning has left precious memories and a significant impact on my life. After returning to China, it is the experience with World Learning that makes me pay more attention to education and voluntary projects. I have set up a TOEFL organization with my friends which helps other Chinese students prepare for the TOEFL exam for free. This organization also aims at guiding them on how to apply for American universities. We hope that our work can help many people go abroad. In the project, I feel a great sense of accomplishment and joy. At the same time, I also participated in an international architectural competition with my friends, so this photo of feet was taken in our classroom at 1:00am. I hope we can earn a good result. Learning at World Learning gave me not only precious memories but also significantly impacted my whole life. I hope more and more friends can join our happy family.


Kereen Franchesca Rojas, Dominican RepublicKareen

After my trip in the U.S., I have been looking for a job as an English teacher in public schools, but they have kept me waiting. I got a bit desperate to have an income and to do something important and that I’m passionate about, so with two of my closest friends I have started an English school in my city. This picture shows that I’ve been working on the construction and design of the school. I’m so excited and hopeful that Nagua city, my friends, and I will benefit from this project.

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