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May 9, 2013

UGRAD fellows leave ULM with lasting impressions

Through the U.S. Department of State's Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, five international students spent a year at the University of Louisiana at Monroe experiencing the culture, the people, and the university.

The Global UGRAD-Pakistan program promotes youth leadership and mutual understanding by providing one academic term of non-degree undergraduate study on a highly competitive basis to a diverse group of emerging student leaders.

Begaiym Mamatova of Kyrgyzstan, Jasurbek Rajabov of Uzbekistan, Dinara Seibetkova of Kazakhstan, Iurii Galadzhun of the Ukraine, and Radu Marian of the Republic of Moldova, each came to ULM seeking new and varied educational experiences but found that they will leave with much more than that.

"I think ULM is the place where the world meets," said Rajabov.

"It is the place that turns social and academic life into one unforgettable experience."

Rajabov wasn't the only UGRAD student who felt a strong connection to ULM.

There was a consensus among the group that their time at ULM changed each of their lives in different and significant ways.

Seibetkova explains, "This one year has brought more changes than I anticipated," she said.

"It was my first experience of traveling alone to a different country so I learned how to be independent and take care of my problems by myself. However, the most significant change is that I became more sociable and self-confident. It is truly amazing because I made a lot of wonderful friends here in just one year, and it's very sad that I have to leave."

Mamatova reflected on her time at ULM through various special memories.

She said, "I have a lot of favorite memories at ULM: arts, different activities, games, holidays, etc. One of them was the International Banquet, where I met students from different countries and learned their experiences, and was able to share my own."

The students also received special care and attention from ULM faculty and staff, helping them adjust to life in the U.S. and life at ULM.

"Dr. Bill Rambin, former ULM faculty member, now retired, taught us everything about ULM and Monroe," said Marian.

"He's a once-in-a-lifetime friend. I don't think I've ever met a person with a greater heart than him. He was the first person who made us feel welcome here."

Iurii Galadzhun also felt welcomed by ULM's Director of International Students Mara Loeb and the President and Mrs. Bruno.

"Dr. Loeb was extremely supportive and helpful," he said.

"I also like that President Bruno and his wife attended so many events and were always sincere and friendly."

Each student also expressed gratitude for what they felt made attending ULM a fun and unique personal experience.

"Besides the common things like enjoying my time—parties, dinners, travel—with my friends, I enjoyed the lovely (almost surreal) early morning walks on the small bayou bridge," said Marian.

"During my performance at the 'ULM's Got Talent' the crowd was insane," continued Marian.

"They liked me so much! There was also a moment from a pep rally, when a big crowd made a circle around me, just to see me dancing hip-hop—and I'm not a fabulous dancer."

Although the students are returning home, they have advice for students looking to experience the U.S., and specifically ULM.

"I would recommend that students study here," said Marian. "I would tell them to keep a close relationship with the professors, because they love their students."

Seibetkova said she met a lot of wonderful people at ULM, who made her year amazingly interesting. She also commended ULM for "organizing different activities for students, making student life more diverse and joyful."

When asked what three words they felt best described ULM, each student gave interesting, yet reflective answers, based on their time at ULM and in Monroe.

Mamatova said that ULM is a "treasure, fun, and interesting." Rajabov described ULM as "diverse, fun, and original."

Continuing the enjoyment theme, Seibetkova chose "fun, Ace, and well-organized."

Galadzhun and Marian took a different approach, each choosing more physical characteristics to describe the university.

Marian said, "Warhawks, Louisiana, and Bayou," while Galadzhun chose "homey, bayou, and College of Pharmacy."

Marian concluded, with a sentiment that was shared by all when asked what he gained from his experience at ULM.

"I made a lot of wonderful friends and had experiences that I will truly never forget," he said.

"Most of all, I'll take home a nice, sweet, Louisiana accent."

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