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Alumni Stories

Alina Korshunova – Fulbright Alumna

Alina Korshunova is a Fulbright Program alumna. This is one of the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange programs in the world that grants support for graduate study and research. In the US she was studying linguistics at Eastern Michigan University, where she got her master’s degree. This experience is truly life changing!

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Academically, this program brought a lot of new insights into the field that Alina was studying for a long time. New connections in academic sphere, professors and fellow students, have influenced her in a good way. Brilliant professors, who are truly dedicated to what they are doing, inspired her to do research in different fields of linguistics, which she later presented at conferences. Fellow students “infected” her with passion and desire to study the depths of this science. The department also had the necessary equipment for the research, for instance, in phonology, which was very helpful along with library resources.

Outside of academia, Alina had an opportunity to learn more about the working culture of Americans. She won the Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program, which is a summer internship program funded by the U.S. Department of State that provides emerging leaders from Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia with the opportunity to gain real-world experience complementing and enriching their graduate studies in the United States. Alina spent her summer in California interning at the Long Now Foundation. San Francisco Bay Area vibes and atmosphere of Silicon Valley, technologies, and network brought a completely different perspective into Alina’s mind. “Bay Area brings a lot of surprises. For example, I used to live on the same street with the professor, whose works I read as a student, and I was really excited about it! One day my coworker introduced me to him! Moreover, that professor who I didn’t even dream to talk to invited me to his garden party. I couldn’t say no, obviously.” In addition to establishing academic contacts with UC Berkeley faculty, Alina widened her network with professionals of SF Bay Area, who she still keeps in touch with.

The Long Now Foundation has a lot of different projects. PanLex, the project that Alina contributed to, flew to the Moon! During her internship Alina had an opportunity to visit Google, Facebook, Netflix, and Airbnb HQs for networking.

“These two years definitely enriched me personally, academically, and professionally. It is hard to overestimate the power of studying abroad. It widens your horizons, opens your mind, changes you. I’m definitely not what I used to be before my trip to America. I’ve become more open-minded, tolerant, confident in what field I want to devote my life to. Also I got a clearer vision of what I am as a person, how I can adapt to a new culture and life circumstances. And I can say for sure that I will never regret that I accepted that challenge, because obstacles and troubles of adjusting to a new culture, academic, and work life made me stronger. Now I’m ready for the new ones!”

In Alina’s opinion, studying abroad should be a part of every high school and university’s curriculum, because only this way we will have generations of open-minded, empathetic, and strong individuals, who can change our society for the better.

Sophia Balashvili- YEAR Alumna

Sophia is an alumna of YEAR Program. She came to the United States to have academic experience. She studied at American University in Washington D.C. Then it turned out to be something more than that for her. She has proven herself that she can live on her own, even when she is far from home. Sophia understood that she wants to study abroad in the future. She also improved her networking skills and learned more about communications and finding approaches to different people.

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“I learned how to appreciate what you have and to be grateful for it. I embraced the idea of living a life with a purpose. I’ll do my best to build my career in law or policymaking in the way to have the best possible impact,” Sophia said.

The year in America was not easy for her, but Sophia managed to overcome the challenges and became stronger than before. “I missed my family and my natural environment. Sometimes I could not hear myself because I never had a chance to live on my own before,” she said. “In the beginning, it was difficult for me to be independent and to stay mentally strong. I learned a lesson and, I am thankful for it. I overcame challenges simply by facing them, by choosing my priorities, and by taking responsibility.”

Sophia would recommend going on a study abroad. In her opinion, “it is a life-changing experience.” She advises not to waste a minute of the time that you spend abroad. “Be open to every opportunity. It doesn’t mean losing your mind, stop being rational, and go wild. No, on the contrary, be wise and don’t be afraid to meet new people, to travel, and to be proactive,” Sophia said.

Elizaveta Chumakova – YEAR Alumna

“It changed my perception of life greatly, I see a lot of changes for a better in myself, I know my strong and weak features now. And I am sure that it changed my future path, too…”

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Elizaveta is another YEAR Program alumna. She came to the U.S. for cultural exchange, the practice of English, and people who live there. “I think the most important skill that I got from my experience abroad was that everything is possible, just everything depends on you,” Liza said. “So, I think this life-long motivation that I learned to cultivate in myself is the most important thing that I got from my year in the USA.”

In terms of academic experience, Liza improved her speaking skills and became a more educated and broad-minded person in general. “As I don’t have any real profession I can say that I began to approach my hobby in a more serious, professional way because of the YEAR and the environment that I was in during this year,” she said. Liza studied at the College of Southern Idaho.

Without any hesitation, Elizaveta would recommend everyone interested to go on a study program as it is such a great and life-changing experience. “Sometimes it takes for other people their whole life to have as much life experience as the finalists of a YEAR program have, just by the end of the year,” she said. “My advice would be to take from this opportunity as much as possible! Be active on campus, be active outside of campus, just be this kind of person who is like a child wants to try and explore everything and every opportunity that life brings to them.”

Alice – Access Alumna

“I learned much more about me than I knew before. I have become a responsible person with a lot of goals and plans. I met many great and talented people and now I am a part of a big community and I am proud of it.”

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Alice is an alumna of Access program. She joined us a little later, but it did not prevent her from getting an incredible experience. According to the alumna, the most important thing is that she understood that she is “the only person who is responsible for progress, success, future and everything” that’s connected with her own life. “I now think that life has no limits and everything is possible if you work hard,” Alice said.

Also, this program has changed Alice’s views in the world in a good way. “During the program, I was learning something new and practising all the skills, including English language, critical things, responsibility, time management and more that I need to know in the future almost every day. Without this program, I would still be a girl

Andrew – Access Alumnus

Andrew is also an alumnus of Access program. Andrew feels like a completely different person after the end of the program. According to him, the program has changed everything in him.

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“I became stronger, clever and more determined. My English became better, stopped being afraid of talking with Americans or anybody. I start saving every minute of my life and I feel invincible!” said Andrew.

Of course, there were difficulties. “There were a lot of them. My communication with teachers and guys was not good, sometimes I wanted to stop participating in this program and didn’t know what I came here for,” Andrew recalled. “The parents helped me to overcome these challenges. They were constantly explaining to me that I must go and learn.”

Andrew learned that he must take everything that he can from his stay in America. “Everything is useful. You do not know what will help you in the future!” Andrew said.

Eva – Access Alumna

I will give simple advice – do everything with high quality and coolness, and then you will start to get pleasure from it!

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Eva is also delighted with the program.
“I think I would recommend anybody else to go on a study program abroad because it is an extension of the inner world, it is the emergence of new friends, emotions, and impressions. I believe that any knowledge and experience will be useful; we can not know exactly what will happen next.

According to Eva, after the end of the program, her life has become better. “The program has changed my life. There were wonderful people from whom I learned a lot of interesting things.”

Eva learned so much and it is difficult to choose the most important element of her American life. “It is difficult to choose one of the skills that I got there. But I would choose communication and the ability to work on a project, from the emergence of idea to its implementation.”

Elizaveta Chumakova – YEAR Alumna

“It changed my perception of life greatly, I see a lot of changes for a better in myself, I know my strong and weak features now. And I am sure that it changed my future path, too…”

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Elizaveta is another YEAR Program alumna. She came to the U.S. for cultural exchange, the practice of English, and people who live there. “I think the most important skill that I got from my experience abroad was that everything is possible, just everything depends on you,” Liza said. “So, I think this life-long motivation that I learned to cultivate in myself is the most important thing that I got from my year in the USA.”

In terms of academic experience, Liza improved her speaking skills and became a more educated and broad-minded person in general. “As I don’t have any real profession I can say that I began to approach my hobby in a more serious, professional way because of the YEAR and the environment that I was in during this year,” she said. Liza studied at the College of Southern Idaho.

Without any hesitation, Elizaveta would recommend everyone interested to go on a study program as it is such a great and life-changing experience. “Sometimes it takes for other people their whole life to have as much life experience as the finalists of a YEAR program have, just by the end of the year,” she said. “My advice would be to take from this opportunity as much as possible! Be active on campus, be active outside of campus, just be this kind of person who is like a child wants to try and explore everything and every opportunity that life brings to them.”

Nino Lazaria – YEAR Alumna

Finally, meet Nino from Moscow. Nino is also YEAR Program alumna. For Nino, her year in the U.S. was, first of all, a year of study. Nino went to Alma College in Michigan. First, it was a challenge for her to communicate — she needed to ask a lot of questions. “Then I got used to it,” she said.
“I am so happy that I got his chance to study in the United States!” Nino said. “I got plenty of new friends from all over the world, and I plan to study abroad in the future.”

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