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Seton Hall University

Experiential Learning Abroad: Teaching English in Ukraine

Andrew Misura at Ukrainian Catholic University.

Andrew Misura with his B1-level English class at Ukrainian Catholic University.

Andrew Misura ‘13/M.B.A. ’23, assistant director of Digital Marketing and Analytics in the Division of University Relations, recently returned from an impactful volunteer experience: teaching English to students at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv, Ukraine. Misura’s familial connection to Ukrainian culture sparked a growing interest in aid and volunteer opportunities following Russia's full-scale invasion, fostered further by the University’s response to the war and programming.

In early March, Misura attended a talk by Sofiya Opatska, vice rector for Strategic Development at UCU. There, he learned about the university’s English Summer School (ESS) program, an intensive English immersion course for first—and second-year students at UCU. Intrigued, Andrew applied and became one of 25 volunteer teachers with diverse teaching and higher education backgrounds who would travel to Ukraine.

Under Prof. Tetiana Basiuk's academic direction, the ESS program brought together over 100 university students on a rural satellite campus outside of Lviv. Prof. Basiuk says, "The collaboration between the volunteer teachers and UCU students is an amazing and life-changing experience. Students and teachers learn from each other and expand their worldviews in an English-speaking environment. After English Summer School, our students become more ambitious."

UCU is considered the most competitive university for admission in Ukraine, as it only admits students who score in the top 5% on the national high school exam. Despite UCU students generally being a year younger Misura found that, "The UCU students are the best in Ukraine; working with them is a pleasure. The faculty, campus facilities, and students at UCU match up with any high-level American liberal arts university. The students and faculty are proud of their university and should be." UCU’s campus facilities are modern and modeled after American universities, featuring central campuses and common spaces.

Students practicing English

Students practicing English through mock job interviews.

Misura taught a class of eight B1-level students from various degree programs, including Psychology, Philosophy, Law and Theology. His lesson plans focused on building students’ confidence in speaking English through individual and group activities, such as mock job interviews and project presentations. In addition to his main class, Andrew conducted electives on resume and interview workshops and American sports and language, engaging students with diverse interests. He also provided one-on-one tutoring sessions each evening, further supporting the students' language development. Other degree programs represented were history, cultural studies, computer science, social work and political science.

While Misura was in Ukraine, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law establishing English as a language of international communication, making knowledge of English a requirement for specific governmental positions.

Beyond the classroom, Misura was deeply impressed by the resilience and determination of UCU students and faculty. Despite the ongoing conflict and disruptions, the community displayed a remarkable sense of purpose and unity. Misura noted the students' forward-thinking attitudes and commitment to contributing positively to Ukraine's future.

"Students shared that mental health and social work support are both gradually becoming accepted in Ukrainian society, reflecting a broader awareness of support for those affected by the war," commented Misura. "This extends beyond veterans to include their families and children, who have faced disruption to their education in Ukraine since the outbreak of COVID-19."

Misura's class in a storytelling exercise.

Andrew Misura's class participating in a storytelling exercise.

This sense of purpose and resolve was similarly present in Lviv's vibrant culture and city life. Despite the ongoing conflict, Misura observed that Ukrainians went about their days with remarkable resilience and unity. He witnessed, "an inclusive society that values democratic ideals drawn together by a healthy patriotism in the face of difficulties presented by Russia’s aggression."

For example, days were planned, adjusted and readjusted around frequent power outages due to the destruction of electrical production and the grid. This presented occasional challenges with students and teachers maintaining flexibility with their studies deadlines based on the daily situation. Air alert sirens went off on some nights but infrequently presented a danger to western Ukraine with the current level of air defenses.

Misura’s experience at UCU also provided a personal connection to his heritage and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which plays a significant role in western Ukraine. He valued the opportunity to attend liturgies and interact with seminarians, enhancing his appreciation for his cultural and religious roots as part of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.

Reflecting on his time at UCU, Misura expressed gratitude for his relationships with faculty, students, and fellow volunteers. He emphasized the program was not a sightseeing trip but a rigorous educational endeavor that demanded and rewarded effort and dedication from both students and teachers.

Misura looks forward to returning next summer to continue his involvement with ESS, confident in the promise of Ukraine's future and the value of higher education in shaping it: "I am thankful for my connections with the UCU faculty, students, and volunteer teachers. I feel a deeper appreciation for the value of higher education and a personal desire to pursue teaching opportunities. I hope to travel again next summer to see my new colleagues and friends."

Misura encourages Americans to visit Ukraine when they feel comfortable doing so, as they will be rewarded with the hospitality of the Ukrainian people.

Categories: Arts and Culture, Education, Nation and World