Alumni Gathering: Azerbaijan

After Global UGRAD, the six of us – Sabina, Zeynab, Elgun, Maleyka, Sevda and I (Pasha) – met for the first time on a chilly October day to catch up with each other. Of course, our reunion had to be somewhere resembling the U.S. – Starbucks! We started sharing our impressions of the exchange program and what we’ve done since we came back to Azerbaijan.

Zeynab continued her education and graduated the year after her Global UGRAD program. After graduation, she started working as a mobile developer in one of the retail companies. Moreover, she attended the WomEncourage conference in Belgrade, Serbia, to share her research project which she worked on during her senior year.

Sabina started working at language courses as an English language instructor, where she gained tons of experience for over a year and a half. At the same time, she started an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Baku. She says she was honored to get a certificate of completion from H. E. Ambassador Robert F. Cekuta and gained life-long experiences. Graduating with a high GPA, she applied for a Master’s degree in Azerbaijan and received full scholarship. Her major is Linguistics, and so far, she enjoys it very much. This summer, Sabina started her own NGO called Y&P (Young and Powerful), and her debut project TinY (Talent in You) was designed to help Azerbaijani children in rural areas with limited resources to develop their talents. The project attracted sponsors and recently AAA (Azerbaijani-educated Alumni Association) agreed to fund it. She has recently started her MA studies and got a job at the Division of Graduate Studies, Admission and Research at her university. Together with Elgun, they have designed voluntary promotional information sessions for Global UGRAD in 6-7 universities in Baku, with the support of AAA and the U.S. Embassy.

After coming back, Elgun started working for the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games, and then as a tour guide for three months while studying at the same time. During his last semester, he and Sabina organized the Global UGRAD info session at their university. Apart from that, he organized two master classes on “Translation and Interpretation” and a workshop on “The Role of Study Abroad in Career and Life,” where professionals shared their experiences with and advised the students. Upon completion of his degree, Elgun got a job at Media Agency as a translator and journalist and worked there for four months. He was then offered to be the Executive Director of Translation and Event Management Company and has continuing his career there ever since. Finally, Elgun joined Sabina in her TinY (Talent in You) project aimed at helping talented teens living in rural areas who come from low-income family and don’t have access to opportunities we have in urban areas.

Maleyka continued taking classes at Azerbaijan State Academy of Arts alongside being a SABAH student of Prince School of Traditional Arts in London. In April, she received a highly commended certificate for “Catwalk Design Competition” from British Council presented by Her Majesty’s ambassador Dr. Carole Crofts. Later she volunteered at Azerbaijan Fashion Week 2018, and for one day at the Fashion Organization at the Italian Embassy. In September, she volunteered at World Cleanup day and helped cleaning the Caspian seashore with fellow Global UGRADs. Now she is a senior year student and working on her Fashion collection. She is also planning a small social project with support of the U.S. Embassy to contribute to Azerbaijani society.

Coming back to Azerbaijan, Sevda worked as an English instructor at a children’s development center in her region in order to help improve English language skills of the kids coming from rural areas. Although she has been very busy with her studies, since she is a senior year student, she has started an English conversation club at her university this year. She has been very active with promoting Global UGRAD on a local level and is very eager to explain the program in detail to potential candidates.

As for me, I worked at the International Relations department of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences for four months. In the summer, I won a small grant from Peace First organization to help me launch Equality Azerbaijan, an initiative focused on raising awareness about gender-related problems in Azerbaijan through provision of informational sessions and seminars. I participated in a few study weekends organized by International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), which helped me become a participant of their International Summer School on Migration. I then participated in “School for Leaders” training program in Tbilisi, Georgia, and EuroSchool 2018 edition organized by the European Union Delegation to Azerbaijan. Moreover, I participated in this year’s session of Imagine Dialogue – Center for Conflict Transformation, in Istanbul, Turkey, funded by the U.S. Department of State. Moreover, this year I was selected to represent Azerbaijan at the Congress for Local and Regional Representatives’ initiative on Rejuvenating Politics, and will soon travel to Strasbourg, France. Currently, I am continuing my studies at the university while working as an Intern at the United Nations Azerbaijan. Finally, Sabina and I were selected as Young European Ambassadors (YEAs) within the framework of EU mission in Azerbaijan, and soon we will start different projects on youth integration into Europe.

Written by Pasha Babayev, 2017-18 Global UGRAD student from Azerbaijan at Juniata College