From Where I Stand Part II – the Global UGRAD photojournalism project

Ani Khachatryan, Armenia, University of Memphis, Global UGRAD 2016-17

After spending four exciting months in the U.S., I went back to Armenia with valuable and unforgettable experiences and reunited with my friends and family. Since then I have finished a Data Science program and have received a professional certificate from Microsoft. Right now, I am in Boston, MA doing an awesome Harvard internship in Computational Biology/Bioinformatics.


Asya Kara-Gevorgyan, Armenia, Keuka College, Global UGRAD 2016-17

When I found myself in my college dorm room in Keuka, I could have never once imagined that it was the start of the best chapter of my life. Thanks to Global UGRAD I became the person I am today. The program is my home where I created the best memories and met a lot of wonderful people. Nothing has been the same since I came back to Armenia. But this only makes life more interesting for me. I have overcome new challenges and now I found a copy writing job, which I absolutely love. I am also the Regional Student Adviser Assistant. The whole fall semester, I will be giving lectures about U.S. higher education to anyone interested. Hopefully, some of them will get the chance to change their worlds like I did.

Sayemin Azam, Bangladesh, Northern  Michigan University, Global UGRAD 2016-17

Like the colourful vibrant path that lies beneath me, I have carried the spirit of diversity and inclusion with me after my exchange. For the past year, I have channeled my passion for human rights and inclusion in projects such as the Leaping Boundaries (which aims to incorporate madrasah girls into the mainstream platform) and Posseabilty (which works on inclusion of the learning disabled). My journey did not end here! Thanks to my fellow UGRAD Alimana, I had the crazy opportunity to join her in Kazakhstan as a trainer on human rights for her summer school RISE. Indeed, this trip reinforced my love for diverse cultures. With the gleaming horizon in my sight, I want to carry forward in this path of solidarity and love.

Michelle Ceren, El Salvador, Marymount University, Global UGRAD 2016-17

I am currently training every day to get ready for the most important competition of the region, the XI Central American Games to be held in Nicaragua. As a Global UGRAD alum, I keep a balance between my classes at law school and volleyball so I can inspire and empower more girls to break stereotypes, practice sports, and follow their passion just like I am doing.


Oscar Ascenio, El Salvador, University of Wyoming, Global UGRAD 2016-17

Teaching has always been my passion. Now, I am taking a specialized course about “Teaching English to Young Learners” sponsored by the U.S. embassy, where I am learning how to teach English to kids in the best way possible. My dream is to improve the education in my country by creating social spaces of understanding and cooperation.

Pedro Vásquez, El Salvador, Missouri State University, Global UGRAD 2011-12

Since my Global UGRAD experience, I have been involved in community service with NGOs helping poor children continue studying in their schools. Recently, we were among the winners of the U.S. Department of State’s 2017 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund competition with the project “Don’t Stop Dreaming”, which is going to provide tools to teenagers to become entrepreneurs in the bakery business area and skilled in hotel and restaurant customer service. Now I’m in New York studying my MA in TESOL at Binghamton University SUNY with a Fulbright Scholarship.

Elgun Mammadov, Azerbaijan, Castleton University, Global UGRAD 2016-17

After coming back home upon completion of my Global UGRAD journey, I continued my education as a senior student. Following the completion of the semester, I participated in an internship with the English Department of Azerbaijan University of Languages and worked as a Stage Manager for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games. Now I have one more semester ahead. In early July, I started working as the Head of Incoming Department in Tourism Agency. Meanwhile, I continue to work as a home-translator for the Baku Office of a German company.

Hector Maldonado, Guatemala, Wayne State University, Global UGRAD 2014-15

I’m attending to the last semester for getting my chemical engineering degree. I’ve been working on a project with some friends at college about the pyrolysis of oil palm trunks as a way to process one of the major sources of biomass residues of the oil palm industry in Guatemala. The module I worked on was the design of a simulation process for the pyrolysis of this source of biomass and the lab experiments we carried on. Finally, I’m volunteering as an online-tutor for a chemistry course at IGER, an educational organization that gives access to adults for getting an elementary and high school diploma at low cost.

Reuben Bersonly Jean Louis, Haiti, Murray State University, Global UGRAD 2014-15

After Global UGRAD I returned home and started to do my best to help in my community, I had only three classes left to earn my bachelor’s degree in Agroforestry, therefore I had plenty of time to help around. I spent an entire year volunteering on my campus back home, and in my city: I did a lot of stuff, from helping on the farm, managing the bookstore and helping students improve their English writing and speaking. I have been working as an Academic Assistant at the American University of the Caribbean in my hometown while studying online to obtain a graduate certificate from the University of Florida, while teaching English to kids in the summer. This fall I will move to Trinidad and Tobago for a Masters Degree in Tropical Crop Protection through the CARPIMS scholarship funded by the European Union. Global UGRAD is an amazing program where you learn to help your community and help empower those who are weak, and there so many things you get in return that are worth more than money itself.


Jorge Sandoval, Costa Rica, Old Dominion University, Global UGRAD 2016-17

Help or research? Before Global UGRAD, I was a research assistant profoundly sensitive about the refugee crisis, but when I came back, I no longer sat there and cried. Today I stand with Habesha Project to give a second chance through education in Costa Rica to students affected by the conflict in Syria.


Robert Kirimi Mutiria, Kenya, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Global UGRAD 2016-17

“Once a UGRAD always a UGRAD.” I recognized the significance of this slogan late last year. Through Global UGRAD, I have been able to live a changed life and also positively impact my community since returning to Kenya. I have been volunteering with Equity Group Foundation (Equity Nank) through its mentorship platform for high school students by the name Wings to Fly since I came back. Through this initiative I have been able to embrace the clarion call of giving back to the society. A step by step process of stair casing others up a ladder. Through Wings to Fly, I have been challenged to start my own organization which is aimed at initiating the culture of volunteerism and giving vulnerable young people a platform to feel recognized in the community. The organization is in the last stages of registration.

Yelida Blanco Garcia, Dominican Republic, Illinois State University, Global UGRAD 2013-14

After becoming a Global UGRAD alum, I graduated from the University Autonoma of Santo Domingo, Faculty of Economics and I accomplished several achievements in my degree. One of them was to be the valedictorian of my class and having the honor of delivering the farewell statement at my graduation ceremony. Recently, I enrolled in a master’s degree program in applied economics. In 2014, I became an assistant researcher at the University of Santo Domingo and assistant researcher of the Dominican Studies Institute of the City University of New York. In 2017, I got the opportunity to work in the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development of the Dominican Republic and I’m currently a socioeconomics analyst there. Last but not least, being on Global UGRAD made me more open about different points of view and a leader who has the opportunity to inspire others.

Yousra Rebbani, Morocco, University of Southern Indiana, Global UGRAD 2016-17

Since returning home, I completed a two month internship in an advertising agency which was pretty insightful and fun. And I’ll be back to school soon for my final year as I will graduate soon (July 2018). Before the Global UGRAD Program I was a Moroccan student with a dream of discovering more places and people; after the program I became more like a global citizen. I am not sure what’s coming up next in my life, but whatever it is, I feel like I am ready for it. One thing I am certain of is that I cannot wait to find a new opportunity to meet with new people and see new places, because I believe the best thing in the world is to discover it. So here I am standing on memories of a unique experience with wonderful people, looking forward to a brighter future.

Cristina Caceres, Nicaragua, University of Nevada, Reno, Global UGRAD 2016-17

They told me it was impossible, but I am doing it. I am a medicine student and also I have a job as an English teacher, so now I balance my time between my patients and my students. Most of the time I wear the same comfortable shoes. Greetings from Nicaragua!


Njeri Muthaka, Kenya, Emporia State University, Global UGRAD 2015-16

I can’t believe its already been 2 years since I returned home from The Global UGRAD Program. During the end of program workshop in DC, we were challenged to start our own initiatives back in our home countries. We were taught to identify problem areas and create solutions. So I linked up with my fellow Global UGRAD alum from Kenya, David Ngatia. Both of us have a passion for the youth, having been student leaders in our university. We registered a Community Based Organization in our County called “YES” (YOUTH EMPOWERMENT SCHEME). Our main aim is to encourage young people in our county to take charge of their destiny by helping then understand their role as young people in our society. So far we have 152 registered youths. We hold youth forums monthly where we take them through an OPAL similar kind of teaching. We address issues of unemployment among the youth as well. Our goal is to create 100 job opportunities by September 30th 2017, and we hope this will create a ripple effect where every youth who leaves our center will be equipped to go out there and create more jobs for other young people. Thank you Global UGRAD for changing our lives.


Olga Skaredina, Russia, West Virginia University, Global UGRAD 2016-17

Participation in Global UGRAD filled me with confidence in myself. Volunteering in lovely Japan was my next step after studying in the USA. Helping with summer camp, working with kids, exploring Japanese culture, tasting unique cuisine, traveling around Japan is something I’ve accomplished after Global UGRAD!


Irina Andreeva, Russia, Missouri State University, Global UGRAD 2016-17

There is me crossing the street with my white cane in this picture. I have not been doing much since returning home. Every day, I am trying to be as independent as I was in America. It is important for me to keep in mind that I can do more than I thought.


Tania Matusse, Mozambique, Saginaw Valley State University, Global UGRAD 2014-15

After returning home, I got a job as a Public Relations and Admin Co. at Olam. It has been such an amazing experience because I have learned more about working and engaging with people both internally and externally. I have engaged in many projects of giving back to the community, social responsibility and empowering women and children. I have designed and submitted a project to the U.S. Embassy – Mozambique with an aim to open learning centers for short entrepreneurship classes. I have also completed a 6 month internship (Feb-Jul 2017) in the finance department at my current workplace. I have completed my honors degree in Business Management and am due to graduate this November. As soon as I earn my certificate and transcript, I will apply for my Masters in International Political Economy, hoping to start the course by fall of next year. The reason for selecting this course is that I want to engage in social welfare, how the government spends the money and donations given for social and human development. My wish is to be able to help restore human dignity, human rights, and to ensure ethical distribution of welfare and equality.

Vanja Petkovic, Serbia, Florida Institute of Technology, Global UGRAD 2016-17

One of the things I learned during the Global UGRAD Program is the importance of volunteering. After coming back to my home country I completed one more semester of studies. During the semester I have volunteered at several different occasions mostly with the U.S. Embassy using every opportunity to promote Global UGRAD and to share with everyone the amazing experience I had abroad. Currently I’m doing my best to graduate on time. There are many exams waiting for me next month, so this summer has been all about studying. I’m hoping to graduate in a month and afterwards I will probably start master studies, while doing more of community service and hopefully get a job.

Luis Hernández, Venezuela, Humboldt State University, Global UGRAD 2016-17

Since I arrived from my Global UGRAD experience in December 2016, I felt the need to give back what I had learned and experienced to the community of my country. The Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund 2017 gave me the opportunity to make this possible. Through a proposal made with my team of Global UGRADs we got to be finalists of this U.S. Department of State’s project competition, with which we will help the undervalued community of Autism Spectrum Disorders by empowering them through art and improving their quality of life: The arTEA Project. With this opportunity, I am very happy to be able to promote inclusion. In this new stage of my life and as a Venezuelan UGRAD, I am committed to promote positive changes that help my country grow.

Pascual Díaz, Venezuela, Georgia College & State University, Global UGRAD 2016-17

After I returned home, I didn’t know how I would be able to handle the fact that my exchange semester was already over. I don’t know if it was a sign from God but the following morning after my arrival in Venezuela, I received a call from the Director of Exodo Choir & Orchestra, a renowned music group from my city. The choir has been the perfect way to release my mind while I am waiting to start school and get my degree (yes, there’s a possibility I might become an official lawyer by December). Thanks to the choir I’ve been able to experience what it’s like to be part of an artistic group that at the same time is engaged to our community. During the past three months we have taken part in several peace concerts held against the oppression and violence that surround the political scenario of our country. We have also participated in concerts along with other famous musicians from my country to help raise funds for the most impoverished regions of my state.

César Palencia, Venezuela, Maryville College, Global UGRAD 2016-17

Since returning home, I still have not received my degree, but next year I will, hopefully. However, I received a job offer to work as a french teacher at a high school. This has been a complete challenge, since this generation of students is not the same than 10 years ago, but I reminded myself that I am a Global UGRAD and that there is not challenge we cannot face.

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