A Friendship Overseas: College Students in Ukraine and the U.S. Build New Relationships in a Time of War

A couple of years ago, Daria Samotuga lived a typical college student life in the dorms at Alfred Nobel University in Dnipro, Ukraine. However, the ongoing war forced her to move back to her hometown of Kryvyi Rih. Despite the daily air raid sirens, she and other students in her master’s program have found solace in a new set of relationships – with American college students at Colorado School of Mines. The students have been meeting over Zoom since early February to learn about each other’s lives and cultures, according to the story on NPR.

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Key Takeaways:

  • The ongoing war in Ukraine has led college students to form new relationships with American students at Colorado School of Mines, providing solace and support.
  • Shared humor and interests helped the students connect and bridge cultural differences, creating strong friendships despite the distance.
  • The initiative revealed the power of cross-cultural connections in promoting global understanding and breaking down stereotypes.
  • Collaborative projects enabled the students to learn from each other and prepare for careers in a globalized world.
  • The students hope to continue their friendships and meet in person, highlighting the potential for long-lasting connections across borders.

Connecting Over Memes and Humor

As an icebreaker, the students shared memes with one another, revealing they have similar senses of humor. While the American students were initially hesitant to discuss the war, they soon learned that humor was a powerful coping mechanism for their Ukrainian peers. “In reality, humor is one of the greatest instruments for protecting our mental state,” one of the Ukrainian students wrote on Discord. Professor Kenneth Osgood even brought in a therapist to teach the class how to support their Ukrainian classmates during difficult times.

Life as a College Student During War

The students filmed day-in-the-life vlogs, showcasing their lives as college students in Ukraine and the U.S. While both groups faced challenges, the Ukrainian students were uniquely affected by air raid sirens and spending hours in bomb shelters. Attending classes online, they dealt with the realities of war on a daily basis.

Finding Common Ground

Despite the differences in their experiences, the students found common threads in their lives. For example, Hannah Weist, an American student, compared the constant threat of missiles in Ukraine to the constant threat of gun violence in U.S. schools. Through shared experiences, the students built empathy and understanding.

More Than Just a College Course

The students created a close bond through bi-weekly Zoom meetings and daily chats on Discord, sharing everything from pet photos to Taylor Swift songs. They even developed their own slang dictionary to understand each other’s phrases better. These connections provided a welcome distraction from the war and fostered a deep understanding between the two groups. The students hope to continue their friendships and meet in person one day.

Strengthening Friendships Beyond Borders

As the friendships between the Ukrainian and American students grew stronger, they began discussing more personal topics, including family, hobbies, and aspirations. The communication between them not only served as a support system but also helped break down stereotypes and misconceptions about each other’s cultures.

Expanding the Initiative

Seeing the positive impact on the students, the professors from both universities discussed expanding the initiative to include more students and additional cultural exchange programs. They hoped that by fostering more cross-cultural connections, they could promote global understanding and support among young adults in different parts of the world.

Collaborative Projects and Learning

The students started working on collaborative projects, such as online art exhibitions and joint research papers. These projects allowed them to learn from each other and gain valuable insights into their respective fields. Furthermore, these experiences helped prepare them for future careers in increasingly globalized industries.

Maintaining Connections and Planning Future Meetups

The students continued to maintain their connections through social media, Zoom meetings, and frequent conversations on Discord. They dreamed of meeting in person one day, hoping to organize a student exchange program or a group trip to experience each other’s countries firsthand. Until then, they cherished their virtual friendships, which transcended borders and bridged the gap between their different worlds.

Related stories:

Balancing Life: How Full-Time College Students Manage Work and Academics

American Style of Communication Compared to the European one

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