Alumni Spotlight: A Global UGRAD Mini-Reunion

In the spirit of fostering lifelong connections and celebrating the diverse achievements of Global UGRAD alumni, Michelle Cerén (El Salvador), Sophia Pylypyuk (Ukraine), and Abdessadeq Ourkiya (Morocco), recently embarked on a reunion that transcended borders and cultures. All three were Global UGRAD participants at Marymount University in the Fall 2016 semester. In this collaborative article, they share about their experience and how they’ve stayed in touch with each other and three other alumni from their cohort. In their words: 

Michelle Cerén (El Salvador), Abessadeq Ourkiya (Morocco), and Sophia Pylypyuk (Ukraine), 2016 Global UGRAD alumni hosted by Marymount University, reunite in Paris

“Our story, filled with accomplishments and shared experiences, paints a unique picture of the impact of international exchange programs like Global UGRAD. We all come from different backgrounds and cultures, but when we met in 2016, we immediately clicked. Moreover, we managed to nurture a solid friendship that has lasted through time zones and thousands of kilometers for seven years.  

We stayed in touch, shared ups and downs, rooted for each other, and finally – we reunited. This time around, the reunion took place in the heart of the French capital, Paris. The result was a truly transnational and multicultural experience, drawing a canvas of success and friendship.”

Michelle Cerén, now an international lawyer, stands out as a shining example of the doors that can open through dedication and global experiences. Following the Global UGRAD Program, she attained a Fulbright scholarship that has enabled her to pursue a Master of Laws degree in international legal studies with a focus on human rights at American University, Washington College of Law, which showcases the impact of the program on participants’ professional trajectory.  

Sophia Pylypyuk’s transition from Deputy Editor-in-Chief at Wonderzine Ukraine magazine to a Content Team Lead at Headway, an education application and platform, is another striking example that underscores the versatility of skills strengthened through her international experiences following the Global UGRAD Program. Notably, her remarkable resilience is further highlighted by her ability to navigate and succeed in her professional endeavors while maintaining international friendships.

Abdessadeq Ourkiya’s pursuit of a Master’s degree in intercultural management and subsequent role as a European Union Program Officer in the International Department of the Academy of Dijon exemplifies the global mindset instilled by the Global UGRAD Program. His work contributes to cross-cultural understanding and collaboration on an international scale. 

“This kind of reunion reminds us of the transformative effect of the Global UGRAD Program. The program changed our lives and gave us not only professional tools but also a global support network. In times of turmoil and uncertainty, having friends who are like family gives us hope to continue working for a more understanding world where diversity can be celebrated.”

Whether in Washington, D.C. or Paris, once a UGRAD, always a UGRAD!