Voices Abroad

An update from StMU students participating in the Ukrainian Catholic University Exchange Program

Pryvit from Ukraine!
Correspondence by: Crystal Gleeson

I pen this recount of my experience abroad as I sit in a café drinking espresso beside a window overlooking the impressive and historical Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet. It would be a grave understatement to say that Ukraine has far surpassed my expectations, especially the city of Lviv where I alongside my three peers are teaching and living over the course of six weeks. In the short time I have been here, I have fallen in love with the impressive architecture, cobblestone streets, delicious coffee, heavenly handmade chocolate, and most of all with the people. Ukrainians have been extremely hospitable and embraced the three of us with open arms. The people here are so proud of their beautiful city and country, and excited to share their rich history and culture with us.

Our first week here was jam-packed with culturally rich activities and experiences with both the students from our practicum school and university students from our partnering university UCU (Ukrainian Catholic University). One of the most memorable experiences thus far has been a visit to the ballet at the aforementioned Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet followed by a traditional Ukrainian dinner organized by UCU. We were fortunate enough to be accompanied by four UCU students, two of which had done an exchange at St. Mary’s previously, and the other two who will be studying at our school during our Winter 2019 semester. The theatre is deemed the “architectural gem of Lviv”, and if you think the outside is impressive you should see the inside! The theatre is in a word, elegant from the decorative hand painted ceiling and walls to the colored marble and regal colour scheme. The ballet itself was contemporary and much different from any other ballet I have seen before. As ballet is an art form, I cannot finitely say what the story was about. However, my interpretation of the story was that it was about the complication of modern day relationships and the struggle to be vulnerable.

Following the ballet, our UCU guides lead us to a beautiful restaurant at which they had made a reservation for us and we enjoyed some traditional Ukrainian fare. The food was delicious which came as no surprise, as it has become the norm to expect nothing short of incredible food in this country. Over the course of our meal we discussed the ballet, compared the education systems of our countries, and were given recommendations of places we must visit during our time here in Lviv. We spent nearly four hours chatting with one another and left the restaurant as newfound friends, promising to meet up at a later date. This really was a night to remember, and I’m so grateful to the UCU students for their hospitality. It is experiences such as this that make travelling so magical.

I promise amongst these cultural experiences, my peers and I are working hard at our practicum and learning and growing as educators. We’re just doing it whilst enjoying the beauty and charm of Ukraine.

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