May 27, 2011
By Tara Longmire
In the fall of 2010, I was accepted to be the 2011 Graduate Intern at the Ramon Hnatyshyn Canadian Studies Centre, Chernivtsi National University (CNU) in Chernivtsi, Ukraine.
During my time in Chernivtsi—February to the end of April—I taught a third-year course on Canadian politics and governance. This was an excellent opportunity, as it provided me with the challenge of designing my own course and preparing weekly lectures. I developed a structure that encouraged students in my class to share their experiences with political life in Ukraine, and contrast it with what they learned about Canadian politics. Discussion was an important part of every class, as it allowed the students to articulate their own ideas aloud and to ask any questions they had.
I was always impressed with the level of engagement and interest the students had for the subjects they studied, but found that often a challenge for them was accessing viable research materials, and other resources. Resources in general were often scarce, and sometimes even something as seemingly insignificant as procuring paper in order to print out examinations could be difficult.
The course was also beneficial to students as a way to develop their English language skills by interacting with a native English speaker, something that is a rarity in Chernivtsi. Throughout my time in Chernivtsi, I found that the opportunity to talk with an English speaker from Canada was of great interest to faculty and students, as well as other residents of Chernivtsi who were usually eager to meet me and find out what I was doing in their community. Outside of the university, relatively few people spoke English, which was sometimes frustrating as it made communication difficult for someone with very limited knowledge of Ukrainian language. However, it was often also a source of curiosity and interest for many residents of Chernivtsi to find an English speaker in their midst; the reaction was usually positive, and even strangers were quite eager to interact with me.
The city of Chernivtsi itself is very beautiful, with some wonderful architecture, particularly in the old area of the city. It also has an impressive history, dating back some 600 years. During my internship, I was lucky enough to be able to travel and see more of Ukraine, including Kyiv and Odessa, as well as more local sites of interest within Chernivtsi Oblast. These excursions provided valuable opportunities to learn about Ukraine, and proved to be unforgettable experiences.
Overall, my experiences as a graduate intern in Chernivtsi were incredibly positive, and provided me with the valuable experience of designing and teaching a class to the students at CNU, and allowed me to learn about and experience life in Ukraine. The opportunity to interact with Ukrainian academics and students enabled me to learn about Ukrainian approaches to political life, and to gain a better understanding of a vastly different perspective. The wonderful and sincere hospitality I encountered during my stay in Ukraine will truly not be forgotten.
I very much hope that future applicants to the Graduate Internship Program will have the opportunity to experience Ukraine in the same unique way I have, through participation in this program.
Tara Longmire is a graduate student in St. Thomas More College