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Help for the Homeland

Second group of Ukrainian students here to train as educators

When Russian soldiers invaded their homeland, aspiring teachers Diana Nelin, Sofia Loboda and Alona Potapova had to flee their eastern Ukraine college campus to safety. 

Now they are spending a semester as Bridgewater State international students. But, with the war entering its third year, their thoughts are never far from home. 

“Many people died, and we don’t have enough teachers,” Diana, who is studying math, said of the importance of her career goal. “I’m planning to help my country.”

They are the second group of students to spend a semester at BSU thanks to a new partnership with Sumy State Pedagogical University. In addition to taking classes, the students participate in events supporting Ukraine and share their culture with Bridgewater students. Some even met American lawmakers. 

“During the stay of our students at your prestigious university, they not only received a quality education but also felt undoubted care and attention from you,” Sumy State Rector Yurii Liannoi wrote in a letter of thanks to BSU President Frederick W. Clark Jr., ’83. “Your well-organized teaching, highly professional lectures, and the efforts of your teachers leave a vivid impression in the hearts of our students.” 

Liannoi praised the Minnock Institute for Global Engagement and the BSU group Educators United for Ukraine for, “taking care of their comfort and safety.” 

Educators United for Ukraine is comprised of faculty and administrators working to bring Ukrainian students to study at BSU and, hopefully, use what they learn to rebuild their home country after the war. 

“It’s helpful and unusual to see just a group of people who are so interested (in supporting Ukrainian students) even though they are that far away from you,” said Alona, who is also studying math. 

Alona, Diana and Sofia are fully embracing the BSU experience, including hands-on lessons that they said makes learning much more interesting. They’re even taking classes outside of their majors in yoga and archery.   

As they consider careers teaching in Ukraine or neighboring Poland, the students hope to incorporate the BSU teaching style into their future classrooms. 

Outside of class, they enjoy playing Bingo, attending basketball games, and interacting with therapy dogs. In the residence halls, they introduce their American roommates to Ukrainian music and talk about differences in food and dating culture.  

“It’s important to meet new people from other cultures, get something new from their culture, and share your own,” said Sofia, who is studying computer science. 

Added Alona: “You need to see other countries and not just experience them from home on the television. You need to see it for yourself.” 

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