The Office of Global Learning Initiatives hosted a special virtual session of its Tuesday Times Roundtable last month, bringing into conversation students and faculty from Chernivtsi National University in Western Ukraine and members of the FIU community.
FIU senior, and soon-to-be Global Learning Medallion graduate, Aya Hachimi shares her thoughts and perspective from this conversation.
What led you to attend this virtual discussion?
Previously, I spent almost a year working with a Ukrainian nonprofit organization called ENGin, which connects English speakers with Ukrainian students in order for them to practice conversing in English. Throughout my time volunteering, I met amazing people whose lives were completely disrupted by the war; many lived far away from their families due to their education being elsewhere. For me, joining this conversation added to my previous experiences.
What are your main takeaways from this session?
The students were so open and honest, and very brave; they shared with us that even though they are still pursuing their education, the constant bombings and fear make it difficult for them not to be stressed and distracted. Several students shared that their future plans had been disrupted, perhaps even permanently. With all of these disruptions, these students said that they hope for things to get better so that the borders can open and they can go back to chasing their dreams.
One of the things that struck me the most is that every day, these students hear bombs and sirens, get notifications about safety protocols, and see the news of people on the battlefield and the daily number of deaths. I don’t know if I could live like that. As one of the students stated, these things make them feel horrified and overwhelmed, so they just keep crying. Two of the students’ fathers are currently on the battlefield fighting for their country’s freedom, while another has an uncle whose location has been unknown for months. These young Ukrainians are paralyzed by fear for their families, themselves, and their communities, making everyday life so difficult.
How did this session add to your understanding of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and/or the Ukrainian people?
While I knew some about the culture and the people, and I had read about the ongoing war, I was saddened to hear about the extent of the devastation. The Ukrainian students reported that the occupied territories are ghost towns; civilization has ceased, and everything has been stripped away.
One of the students said: "This is a war not only between two countries but two cultures as well."
The students stressed the uniqueness of their culture, and its distinction from Russia and Russian culture, adding that they want to continue promoting and preserving their culture. One student told us that during an exchange program years ago in the United States, she discovered how little Americans know about Ukraine.
How did this session compare to other Tuesday Times Roundtable (TTR) sessions you have experienced?
The TTRs I have been part of have always focused on adding new perspectives to what we already know. Ukraine and its people, whom I have been able to get to know over the past year, have become near and dear to me. Part of being a global citizen in the international community is learning about current issues within our communities and the world beyond, whether they affect us directly or indirectly. Participating in events like this TTR allowed me to learn about ongoing issues from those who are experiencing them firsthand because honest and personal firsthand accounts help show students like me what is really going on.
Any final thoughts?
I am really grateful for this opportunity. I don’t think many of us comprehend the severity of living through a war. No matter how much we hear about others’ stories, living them will always be worse. Even though they have endured so much, these students wake up every day hoping for better days. All they ask of us is to be their voice and spread their truth. We are a community. If we don’t help one another, then who will?
Interactive Photo Gallery
As part of an ongoing dialogue with students from several universities in Ukraine, the Office of Global Learning Initiatives created an Interactive Photo Gallery by asking Ukrainian students and faculty from these universities to share photos of their daily lives during the ongoing war. Their photos are displayed on the second floor of the Green Library at MMC, where FIU students, faculty and staff have an opportunity to leave a question or message to these students and faculty, which we will share back with them.
We'll continue the conversation through the Office of Global Learning Initiatives' ongoing series, "The Russian Invasion of Ukraine."
Read more about the conflict, upcoming online dialogues and resources at https://goglobal.fiu.edu/ukraine-resource-guide/index.html.