When FLEX students prepare for their exchange year, they are taught the phrase “Not better, not worse, just different” and this is what must be applied to overcome the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is up to alumni to be creative, think of new ways of conducting events, come up with new projects ideas, integrate online and offline life, discover fun apps, and keep thinking outside of the box.

This is exactly what has happened for the FLEX Alumni Community in Eastern Ukraine.  As the COVID-19 pandemic began to effect Ukraine, many aspects of the community’s activities had to change in accordance with the new government restrictions. As elsewhere, alumni could not meet in large groups, be within six feet of each other, and eventually switch to virtual programming.

Prior to becoming an Alumni Coordinator this past summer, Stanislava Borovska (Kharkiv, Ukraine/Otsego, MI) was a City Representative (CR) for the 2019-2020 year. As a CR, she had planned many in-person projects to be held in the spring and early summer, but to her dismay, all the blood drives, city quests, and orphanage visits she had planned had to be canceled. After taking some time to understand this new reality she was living in, Stanislava quickly realized that quarantine didn’t have to mean the cancelation of her community projects, it simply meant she had to adjust.

One of the online activities that she and other active alumni in Eastern Ukraine have been organizing are webinars. They started the “FLEX Learning” initiative, a series of webinars put on by alumni to share their favorite educational topics or hobbies. The topics covered in these sessions included trainings ranging from venture capitalism to meditation and happiness. The series has been great for all involved and everyone learned some new tricks and skills.

As the restrictions began to loosen in the fall, the alumni community turned to implementing “hybrid events”. This meant that the event itself would be held in person while socially distancing, but anyone who wasn’t comfortable attending in person was able to join virtually. This allowed alumni to have more participants (once for an event held in Kharkiv, Stanislava had six people actually attending “Brunch with Chevening” but more than 30 joined online), and it also allowed for people to stay within their comfort zone and still take part. Events became limitless! No matter where you are you were able to conduct or join a project of any scale or theme.

FLEX alumni communities across the globe have had to overcome the various challenges being thrown at them by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, Alumni Coordinators and CRs have continued to successfully implement countless projects in their local communities. The FLEX alumni community in Eastern Ukraine is just one example of many, of how alumni are persevering during these times.