By Kristina Ruth Stierankova ’20 (Hrachovo, Slovakia / Kuna, ID)
I am the alumni coordinator for Slovakia, and I support FLEX alumni in my country in organizing projects and activities to address community needs and enhance their own professional development. But our impact can stretch far beyond the borders of Slovakia, and I have always found international projects the most exciting. What is international cooperation, you ask? To me, it involves sharing cultures, exchanging ideas, and broadening one’s perspective.
During International Education Weeks, I cooperated with FLEX alumni from different countries such as Mongolia, Moldova, Estonia, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, and Poland. Together, we organized presentations about their cultures and a Socratic discussion titled, “Going to College,” where alumni discussed their opinions based on their country’s points of views.
FLEX alumni in Slovakia also collaborated with international alumni when promoting the FLEX program, organizing events such as American Sign Language Webinar, Clean-up Day, Mental Health Webinar, Culture Sharing Meetings, and so much more.
On May 6, I led a session called “Welcome to Idaho” via Google Meets for students in Turkmenistan. I organized the session in cooperation with Yusup Agajanov. Yusup works for the American Corner located in Turkmenistan and is an activity coordinator there. I first met Yusup at a meeting organized by American Councils staff to support city representatives, and we exchanged our numbers. Yusup first contacted me, and we came up with an idea to organize an online event together to engage audiences from our respective countries: Turkmenistan and Slovakia. We agreed that our countries are very different, and it would be a pleasure for both of us to cooperate, since this was the first time the American Corner in Turkmenistan collaborated with a European country.
Forty-four high school students joined the session and heard about the FLEX program, facts about Idaho, and stories from my exchange experience. We also discussed questions concerning the culture of Slovakia and some information about the U.S. in general.
After the session, I stayed in touch with Yusup, and we plan to organize more events together to strengthen cross-country collaboration and try to engage even larger audiences.
“I think it is vitally important for American Spaces to collaborate with other counties, because working together collaboratively can result in greater accomplishments, offer various perspectives for innovation and growth, and open new channels for communication,” Yusup said. “There will always be things and resources that each space can share and incorporate into the program to attract new audiences and foster engagement. Having attended the session, I became familiar with the state of Idaho, its uniqueness, and most importantly, the presenter’s exchange year experience, benefits she had gained attending the FLEX program and the impact on Kristina’s personal and professional development. Moreover, the facilitated session will pave the way for future collaboration and build strong relationships.”
Being a FLEX alumni coordinator opened so many options for me, one of them being creating an international network. And what is better than directly working with international alumni and organizing events together? I found this to be a great way to get to know alumni from different backgrounds, their values, cultures, and problems. All this created strong relationships, that I may say, are my motivation to continue to be an active alumna.