Hei to everyone back in Norway and around the world! We would like to introduce you all to a special part of ISFiT called Dialogue. It is composed of three focus areas (Columbia, the Balkans, and Ukraine) which we are currently visiting. We are here to interview students who may get the chance to be a part of the Dialogue seminar in Røros, Norway. Bjørge, Donata, Hanna, and Talal are the team members for Ukraine. Here are some of our experiences and adventures!
Our first impressions of Ukraine were quite special. We first arrived to Kharkiv, a city in the eastern parts of Ukraine. Kharkiv strikes tones of a post-Soviet city. The cars are old, the buildings are concrete and it seems frozen in time. After barely surviving the taxi drive from the airport, we settled in quickly to this new environment, and began the next day with meeting students and conducting interviews. Can you believe that some students traveled over 13 hours to make it to their interviews?! We were impressed by the motivation, passion and dedication of the students we met. Not only were the students amazing, but our hosts went above and beyond. From the hotel reception in Kharkiv to the wonderful grandmother in Kiev, we were met with extraordinary hospitality. Arthur, one of our hosts, not only ensured that we were provided for in Kiev, but he gave us crucial insight in the complexity of Ukrainian politics and society and by taking us around the city.
Language was a bigger challenge than we expected – even simple things such as shopping seemed like an impossible task, especially due to the Cyrillic alphabet. “I felt like an alien”, said Bjørge after feeling as if he were talking like Mr. Bean in the shop for half an hour.
Our days consist of several interviews with interesting applicants, which lead to very long days and relaxing in the evenings. We all succumbed to tiredness, and some of us have even fallen a bit under the weather – but no worries, we are managing to rest and recover as necessary!
Aside from the physical tiredness, we have also been affected by the moving, personal stories shared by some of the applicants. We are grateful and lucky to have heard what they had to say!
Even with the long, tiring days, we have been making sure to have fun and to eat the AMAZING food Ukraine has had to offer! Here are some glimpses of what we have seen, done, and tasted!
Through this whole experience, we are learning more than we could have ever imagined! We are learning about Ukraine and its history through our meetings with the applicants, by spending time with our hosts, and by visiting historically significant places such as Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square). Hearing and seeing the stories and pictures left us solemn, speechless, sad, and with many other emotions. Getting insight on a different culture and its complexities, speaking with the wonderful students, and seeing all their positivity has made us not only happy, but also hopeful of what can be achieved by students and youth. It renews our sense of purpose to continue to work hard and achieve something special with the Dialogue seminar. Without a doubt, we will take these lessons and impressions with us to shape ISFiT19 Dialogue.