From Where I Stand: September 2020 Edition

Last month, we published the first part of the 2020 From Where I Stand series. This annual project highlights the achievements of alumni since completing the Global UGRAD Program. If you missed last month’s edition, you can still find it here. We’re excited to share even more stories below!

Gabriela Elizabeth Guzman Sanchez, Guatemala, Rochester Institute of Technology, Global UGRAD 2008-2009

It’s been over 10 years since I participated in this amazing program. I would say I’m beyond satisfied and Global UGRAD most definitely changed my life. I became one of the co-founders of the U.S. State Department Alumni Association in Guatemala; we’re currently 5,000 alumni from several U.S. State Department programs and each year our alumni association continues to grow. On a professional/academic side, after graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I worked for the public sector as a GIS Analyst doing amazing things and further expanding my knowledge of environmental science and GIS. Whilst working there, I did lots of research related to superficial hydrology and I modeled really amazing things for the city, and that made me realize I have a keen interest in water. Through a Chevening Scholarship I was able to study my master’s degree in water engineering with management at the University of Exeter in the UK and quickly it became another life changing experience.

I am currently working for  the real estate industry in my home country working with GIS and developing site selection models to build apartment buildings. I am also a member and VP of the U.S. based non-profit called “Women in GIS,” which helps visualize women working in the geospatial field. Additionally, I am a co-founder and volunteer for a civil society movement called “Laboratorio de Datos.” In this group we are “translating” official government COVID-19 data to maps, analysis, newsletters, and statistics to provide additional information to the Guatemalan population.

Daniela Lungu, Moldova, University of Arkansas, Global UGRAD 2017-2018 

The Global UGRAD experience was a turning point in my life! After I came back from the United States, it was truly hard to get back and adapt to my normal life at home, but everything that I’d learned while studying abroad helped me to overcome all the challenges and soon I started shining again. I won the Merit Scholarship – one of the most prestigious awards in Moldova – and I was named one of the top 50 best students in the country. I participated in 3 Erasmus+ programs in Croatia, Azerbaijan, and Italy, focusing on professional burnout, tolerance, entrepreneurship education, and refugees. I became a Young European Ambassador (YEA) for almost 2 years and together with other YEAs we promoted ideas and experiences related to the European Union. I also worked as a logistic coordinator for two English Foreign Language camps and met youth from around 20 countries. They were FLEX finalists who were going to spend a year in the United States, so my experience in America was a strong tool in managing the agenda and the activities of the camp so that the kids could adapt easily. I graduated from the Technical University of Moldova a few weeks ago with a master’s degree in architecture. So from now on, you can call me Ms. ARCHITECT! I do not know what’s going to happen next, but I am excited and ready for the next achievements and adventures. I truly hope I will be able to have a trip back to the States soon to see all my friends and teachers who inspired me and had a huge impact on becoming the person I am now – a person that I am proud of!

Seng Hour Sok, Cambodia, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, Global UGRAD 2019-2020

Since I returned to my home country, I have been fully occupied with my thesis, preparing for the national college exit examination, searching for jobs, and coping with other the issues relating to COVID-19. After going through all of these things, I realize that those burdens, while having a great impact on my mental and physical strength, also taught me to be a better version of myself full of patience, commitment, and determination. Getting through these things during this tough time has been hard for me, but I also found myself enjoying every moment and effort I devoted to work. The key motivation is support from family, mentors, and friends. I could still manage to share my stories and difficulties with them, and have received phenomenal life-advice from them.

To celebrate the moment,  I decided to go on a trip with two friends to Siem Reap province of Cambodia, the location of the ancient city of the Khmer Empire in August. We visited various temples, including Angkor Wat, the world’s biggest religious monument and the symbol of our country. Besides learning our history during this trip, we also deepened our understanding of each other through sharing our life challenges and solutions, and self-reflection. It was the most satisfying moment that I need to count this trip as the best trip I ever had in my entire life.  My “From Where I Stand” photo was taken in one of Cambodia’s ancient temples during my trip of self-recovery. And I just want to share that being a human is hard! Problems and challenges come and go, but at the end of the day, when we enjoy dealing with those things, we will see a better version of ourselves. Let’s cherish every moment.”

Hala Ahed F. AlAli, Jordan, Montclair State University, Global UGRAD 2019-2020

Since the completion of Global UGRAD, I registered for the summer semester with 18 credit hours at the Hashemite University, and I’m graduating this August! Also, I’ve been dedicating what’s left of my free time to help stray cats close to my home. It’s summertime and the temperature is above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) most days, so I’m trying to help these small kittens with whatever I can. I took this picture of Oreo after she finished her lunch.



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