“When I received my host institution placement at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, I had to copy and paste this name into Google. The search revealed such words as Mississippi River, Alligators, and Mardi-Gras.”
Though he may have felt some apprehension over being unfamiliar with Louisiana, Dudko was soon immersed in Southern culture. After reading Mark Twain’s judgment that “an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi-Gras in New Orleans,” Dudko eagerly anticipated the experience. When Mardi-Gras finally came in February, he concluded, “I can officially say that I have seen the United States.”
Mardi-Gras was only one facet of his education in Southern culture, though. He explained, “Listening to live music in the French Quarter, I realized an eternal optimism flows from that city [New Orleans] and through all the people in the South. To think about what Hurricane Katrina has done to them and to see how they got up and continued on with a smile is nothing short of amazing. Being surrounded by this culture, not only in New Orleans but back in my host community, I saw and felt every day the resilient spirit flowing around me.”
Through his Global UGRAD experience, all that was initially unfamiliar about Louisiana and the U.S. South for Dudko has now become familiar.
“As my Global UGRAD journey comes to an end, I certainly feel that I'll be bringing back a large chunk of the American South back home with me. It’s part of my identity now and I couldn’t be happier,” he said proudly. “Building mutual understanding and engaging in cross cultural activities is a vital part of the Global UGRAD program, and I can’t wait to greet my friends in Ukraine with a friendly ‘y'all’ and a bowl of hot gumbo!”