“Thank you for supporting Ukraine, sharing our stories, and spreading information about our community”, were the words of Anastasiya (Nastya) Rayina, a Ukrainian young leader and student to a group of students and professors at the University of Kansas. The other program participants with Nastya reciprocated the sentiment. While Ukraine has been in the news since 2022, the opportunity to interact face-to-face with Ukrainian visitors as a part of Global Ties KC programs provides unique opportunities to understand the realities our counterparts are facing in extremely trying times.
From October 26 to November 2, 2023, Global Ties KC welcomed 10 Ukrainian college students, between 19 and 20 years old, on the American Leadership Exchange Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and American Councils on International Education. Originally, the students were selected to be a part of the FLEX and YES program as a part of a year-long exchange, but they were unable to come to the U.S. due to the pandemic. With special permission, the Ukrainian students were given the chance to undertake a 3-week program which included time in Warsaw, Washington D.C., and Kansas City.
The students came from many different regions and cities in Ukraine. Some students remain within Ukraine finishing their studies, while others made the decision to find a home in other European countries. While in Kansas City, students stayed with host families within the KC community, cultivating life-long ties between Ukraine and local households. During the day, students participated in intensive programming in pursuit of professional development, leadership skill building, and cultural enrichment; not forgetting to lean-in to all of the warm festivities that fall has to offer. The greater KC community also came together to meet the students and hear their stories of resilience at Global Ties KC’s Casual Coffee Convos event hosted at Hattie’s Coffee. The mission of Global Ties KC has always been to create accessible opportunities for cross cultural exchange. With this mission in mind the students met with Eric Mikkelson, the mayor of Prairie Village, to talk about Prarie Village’s sister city of Dolyna, Ukraine and all the ongoing efforts happening with the community to support Ukrainians. Participants also met with staffers for Congressional Rep. LaTurner to learn about American politics, the role of Rep. LaTurner’s office, and to share their personal stories from Ukraine. Even though these students only spent eight days in KC, they created strong Kansas City ties, and have left an immeasurable impact on our community. Thank you again to every individual that welcomed them into their home and offices and helped make this program so incredibly successful.
Quotes from students:
“I believe in person-to-person diplomacy and its importance. I believe in people representing the values of their country as they move around the world.” – Sofya Shchypakina
“It has been two years since the war. A lot of people get tired of the news cycle but it is still very valuable to us to see communities supporting us and welcoming us with open arms.” – Kateryna Shablyko