From Where I Stand 2019 Part II | The Global UGRAD Photojournalism Project

Last month, we published Part I of our 2019 From Where I Stand series, the Global UGRAD photo project that creatively shows what our alumni have accomplished since returning home. If you did not have a chance to read last month’s installment, you can find it here. We are thrilled to share even more stories of volunteerism, academics, and growth with you this month. Enjoy!

Gayane Vardanyan, Armenia, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Global UGRAD 2017-2018

After the Global UGRAD experience, I’m back to Armenia for my very last semester in Yerevan State University, where I study computer science and applied mathematics. I also found a job as a technical content writer, where I combine my tech education and love for arts and writing. Apart from the daily job, classes, and my thesis paper, I had the chance to be a part of a few amazing programs. I spent a month in the Czech Republic this past summer, taking courses at the University of Pardubice while also traveling. As for my writing passion, I was a part of the “Write in Armenia” camp for young international writers and created my own writing blog to share my poetry and stories. And since peace was always my number one priority, at the moment, I’m also a part of a new initiative – multimedia storytelling cooperation between Armenian and Azerbaijani journalists and young bloggers with the aim of peace making between the two nations.


Sokpisey Song, Cambodia, Nazareth College, Global UGRAD 2017-2018

This is where I stand in a school building. I’m working in the Academic Department in a language school. At the same time, I am finishing my undergraduate program in TEFL. Despite these, I have also worked in a community project with our fellow Global UGRADs, and I always look for more opportunities to contribute and step forward.


Irma Cerna, Honduras, Tennessee Tech University, Global UGRAD 2016-2017

It has been more than two years since I concluded my Global UGRAD experience, and since then a lot has changed. It was definitely a life-changing experience; if it wasn’t for this program, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Last October, I moved to Munich, Germany to start my master’s degree in Management and Technology at the Technical University of Munich, one of Europe’s leading universities. I just finished my first semester and I am very much looking forward in the rest of my master’s program. Also, I got my first job as a working student at Allianz Technology SE, which is the world’s largest insurance company. All of this wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for that semester abroad at Tennessee Tech University in 2016 – after that, everything changed.


Ricardo Sanchez, Honduras, Endicott College, Global UGRAD 2016-2017

From where I stand, I created a program called Chispa Honduras that is focused on inspiring and supporting people to become the best version of themselves through online resources. I recently completed my bachelor’s degree in finance and now I am working for one of the biggest companies in Central America.



Hasna El Asri, Morocco, Saginaw Valley State University, Global UGRAD 2017-2018

This is Hasna El Asri, and these are my feet stepping on a tramway track. I took this photo on my commute to a public high school where I work as a teaching intern. One more semester until I graduate as a TEFL certified teacher!



Tam T. Nguyen, Vietnam, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Global UGRAD 2015-2016

After returning home from Global UGRAD in 2016, I started working in several community development projects and fortunately, got a full scholarship to study a Master of Science in Rural Development at Ghent University in Belgium. Amazingly, this master’s program has given me a lot of opportunities to have the so-called “2 years, 3 continents and 4 countries” journey and be exposed to new culture, people, and perspectives. And guess what? Last week, I just had a reunion with a fellow Global UGRAD from the Philippines. She has the same scholarship and is studying at the same university with me. We really had a cheerful time together in Ghent, a shiny, picturesque, medieval city. Whenever I think of Global UGRAD, particularly while I am doing my international master’s, I always feel thankful to what the program has done to me. Most importantly, it has equipped me with “bravery” and an open mindset to welcome, listen, and learn from the world’s diversity so that I haven’t got any “culture shocks” and quickly adapted to my the new living environment, becoming friends with people who are different from me. Love and gratefulness.

Gulfiya Kadyrzhanova, Kazakhstan, West Liberty University, Global UGRAD 2015-2016

Being a Global UGRAD completely changed my life. Many thanks to Global UGRAD! After I graduated from medical university, I decided to switch to biomedical science, specifically I was admitted to a Master of Molecular Medicine program. In February 2019, I attended an interview workshop for PhD program at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University in Japan. And after a few days, I have received an offer for PhD program at OIST. Global UGRAD brought me to the new, bright, and amazing chapter of my life, and now I can say that I have a friend almost in every country all over the world. Once a UGRAD, always a UGRAD!

Rebecca Awiti Obonyo, Kenya, Murray State University, Global UGRAD 2017-2018

When I came back home from the exchange, I went back to school to complete my final semester and internship at the same time. I graduated in December 2018. I am now a volunteer at a non-profit organization called Faraja Foundation which reintegrates former prisoners into society. I work in their communication department twice a week. The rest of the week I work as a freelancer online. In the picture, I am in my ‘work-from-home’ fashion. I am planning to go to graduate school next year (2020), hopefully in the United States. Global UGRAD is still the best thing that has happened to me and, from where I stand, I know I will achieve my dreams because of this wonderful community.

Sandy Karam, Lebanon, Western Kentucky University, Global UGRAD 2017-2018

Coming back has truly been life changing. I am currently in my last semester at my university in Lebanon and will have my Mechanical Engineering degree in a couple of months. Also, I am currently training hard for my last season as a professional athlete for my country and I’m truly honored and excited to make it a great one full of achievements. But best of all: I just received the official acceptance letter and have been granted a fellowship to pursue my graduate studies in the States starting August! Can’t wait to move back and start my career.


Yana Said, Lebanon, University of Connecticut, Global UGRAD 2017-2018

Once the roller coaster ride that was Global UGRAD ended, medical school was the next challenge I had to face. Honestly, to become a doctor is so much more than merely studying and managing stress. It is a way of being as your perspectives, values, and standards get shaped differently. In order to be able to cope with the ups and downs of this hectic journey, a certain level of maturity and flexibility is needed and I had the chance to attain these aspects through the opportunity I was given as a Global UGRAD. This program has molded me as I am still trying to make small changes all around me between exams and by volunteering in cancer centers and by organizing free national health days for refugees. From where I stand, things are looking tough, but worthwhile.

Khadijetou Wane, Mauritania, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Global UGRAD 2017-2018

I am Khadijetou Wane, the girl from Mauritania, North Africa, for whom Global UGRAD has changed her life. I said once: “UGRAD is a life chapter that never comes to an end,” believe me it is true. It’s a step toward success that you have to keep going. When I came back to my country I didn’t want to stop what I had already started, and therefore I applied for a teaching exam. I got selected, and now I am in the High College Teaching Training to become an official teacher for the government. It will take me two years. Besides that, I am involved in community service and working as a translator, translating documents between French, Arabic, and English. I strongly believe in what Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.”

Ayman Bushanq, Jordan, Old Dominion University, Global UGRAD 2017-2018

After coming back from the U.S., I secured a part-time position as an Information Security Engineer. I’m thankful for the soft-skills I acquired in my experience abroad, which helped me get here.