It is December 2020, I am at my home in a small Ukrainian town called Kamianets-Podilskyi. It is hard to believe that almost one year ago I was studying in the United States of America. There are a few maps in my room from my campus in Allendale, Michigan, a Global UGRAD Post sheet, and some posters from Grand Valley State University on my walls. There are also textbooks and polaroids made in the United States as well. This is just a small part of many things that remind me that I have been to a country that is seven hours behind Ukraine. It is even harder to rewind to everything that happened after Global UGRAD, especially during such frustrating times. But that is what makes it special.
The spring semester of the Global UGRAD Program ended abruptly because of the COVID-19 pandemic; however, it encouraged me to dive even deeper into my work. I wanted to do something important and to use my experience gained in the United States to make this world a better place, and I did not want to waste time.
After the Global UGRAD semester finished virtually in April, I was also graduating from my Ukrainian university. I was still writing articles for a Ukrainian think tank and sending them electronically from the United States, and began to write articles for the Ukrainian media outlets. So, when I came back to Ukraine, I was featured on Ukrainian news as an expert in these areas.
From month to month, I was writing more articles and telling about my exchange experience. Studies in the United States enhanced my interest in American politics and I started to write more articles on that topic. Studying in the United States helped me to understand how America is governed and what Americans think about it. It gave me a new view on how we can analyze not only Ukrainian foreign policy but foreign policy of other countries. It improved my research and now my articles on the American political process. Furthermore, I applied for a professional role in a think tank in October 2019, after I had been chosen to be a Global UGRAD Finalist, this boosted my confidence and helped me to get this role.
A few years ago I also started to work on my hobby – music. I started working on my debut album ‘The Road of Life.’ It tells a story about my life journey with all its pros and cons. I needed to mature and grow up to make that project complete and my traveling to the United States served as an inspiration for it. This September my debut album was finally released. It had incredibly positive feedback from people from Ukraine and other countries. I hope that this long-play will inspire other people to accept all the difficulties of our life and of everything this is going on in the world, to be better people, to act, to be open-minded and ready for everything that life brings. My studies in the United States made this puzzle fully complete, and I could not achieve it without this experience.
The experience of international education is essential and important for me, and other people notice that too. When my think tank offered me the opportunity to lead their educational program ADASTRA EDU, I agreed, because it is finally an opportunity to share my valuable experience on a maximum mode. I am very satisfied with its turnout because I gave all my knowledge that I gained during my exchanges to the United States and Poland. As a result, we have an impressive platform for learning something new about international relations, politics, economics, and law in the Ukrainian language. And of course, it would not be possible without the Global UGRAD Program. Global UGRAD is not only about the achievements and studies. It is about people after all. During my time living in the United States, I met many incredible people from all around the world. We aren’t able to talk as often because of our time zones, but I feel that I am connected with my GVSU squad and every time I write to them there is a supercut of the best moments of my studies in my brain. Since my departure to Ukraine, I have worked with my friends abroad on some projects and initiatives together. Because of Global UGRAD I also met even more people online and joined an incredible initiative of Global UGRAD Alumni through “Global Exchanges.” I think that it is a great opportunity to tell the whole world something great about your country and find out more about others. I had one session about Ukraine as a part of this project, and the feedback on it impressed me.
It would be impossible without my Global UGRAD studies and all the people who are involved. I am grateful to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, the U.S. Department of State, World Learning, Grand Valley State University, and their workers for making it possible. My advisors and my professors made this experience remarkable and valuable. It is a big responsibility not to waste all of that and to make it work, piece by piece, and step by step. But I am ready for that challenge, and I am ready to make this world a better place one step at a time. That is why I have all these polaroids, maps, posters, and other little things from the United States in my room – to remind me to do everything I can to make this world better.
Artur Koldomasov, Ukraine, Global UGRAD 2019-20, Grand Valley State University