What’s in Your Bag?

As snow descends on much of the United States, the majority of the spring 2024 Global UGRAD students are busy unpacking their bags and settling into campus life for the semester, while others are finishing penultimate preparations in their home countries before their departure later this month.

Equally important to all the new experiences each student will have in the United States are the little pieces of home that they bring with them. Their bags may be packed to the brim, but Global UGRADs always reserve space for items that are meaningful to them. The significance of what they bring varies; some items serve as reminders of home and family, while others are souvenirs to showcase their country and culture to people they will meet in the United States. World Learning asked students to share about the special pieces they’ve packed; keep reading to learn more about all these unique items!

Taisiia Maslenkos’ gerdans and silyanka necklaces

“I brought traditional Ukrainian women’s necklaces called gerdans and silyanka. They are made of beads, people in Ukraine use bead pieces to decorate their headdresses, weave them into braids, and wear them on their chests, necks, and hands.

Gerdans (red and orange necklaces pictured) were the first to be worn by Ukrainians from the regions of the Carpathian Mountains, Podillya, Volhynia, and Halychyna. Silyanka comes from the word “silyan” – the technique of stringing beads on a thread. I made the blue Silyanka in the photo myself. Such folk necklaces have become very popular among Ukrainians recently, and they perfectly complement everyday looks. It is meaningful for me to wear traditional jewelry – Ukrainian traditions are rich, unique, and diverse; such beautiful necklaces are only a tiny part!”

– Taisiia Maslenko | Ukraine | Western Kentucky University

Raksa Ma wearing Krama

“I brought Cambodian handwoven scarves called Krama with me. Krama can be used in many different ways, including as a scarf, bandana, hammock, or for decorative purposes. I believe Krama will be useful in the cold weather in the United States. In addition, Krama is usually worn by Cambodians in cultural and official events.

I also brought currency and traditional cloth to share with my friends and, of course, the flag of my country. These items are very special to me because they remind me of who I am and how amazing Cambodian culture is.”

– Raksa Ma | Cambodia | Kansas State University

Ian Adipo’s collection of magnets, wristbands, and earrings

“My classes started recently and I love it here already. I brought some little items to give out as souvenirs to my professors and the friends I will make here. I specifically brought refrigerator magnets with Kenyan flags and giraffe sculptures, as well as Kenyan and American flag wristbands. Bead wristbands such as these are popular in Kenya and they’re made through handweaving. I carried wooden earrings depicting the Kenyan flag and the African continent as I am a proud Kenyan and, most importantly, an African.”

– Ian Adipo | Kenya | North Central College

Phil Justin Pangilinan’s inventory of snacks and souvenirs

“It feels like I’m starting my own convenience store with all the snacks and keychains I brought with me from my country!”

– Phil Justin Pangilinan | Philippines | Emporia State University