I learned more about the obvious cultural and economical differences between the West and East in Ukraine but was able to put it into historical and political contexts. Language experience and instruction was exemplary.
I learned that it is important to learn Ukrainian on its own terms. Many students come to Ukraine with a knowledge of Polish and Russian, and these languages will give them a leg up with Ukrainian. But thinking in Ukrainian will bring rewarding results for those trying to immerse themselves in the language.
Three aspects of the program were particularly rewarding. First, our daily language instruction was supplemented with lectures in sociology, political science, and geography, held by professors from the University of Ivan Franko. My classmates and I listened to the professors in Ukrainian, simultaneously acquiring knowledge of Ukraine and the Ukrainian language. The professors taught us the most salient aspects of the geography of the Ukrainian economy, presented us with survey data about the complexities and nuances of contemporary Ukrainian identity, and reviewed with us the various hypotheses on the origins of the Ukrainian ethnicity and Ukrainian statehood. Secondly, one of the most rewarding cultural experiences of the program was a short trip to the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine, including the cities of Uzhorod and Mukacheve. It was a great chance to see a different kind of western Ukraine. Lastly, the host family stay was perhaps the best part of the program. We were at home in a foreign country and had a chance to see Ukrainian life from the inside out, as well as practice our Ukrainian. Our host family saw to it that we were properly oriented and prepared for each day in the city.
The academic side of the program is structured in a manner that allows students to quickly acquire basic understanding and proficiency in Ukrainian. Students are not required to have any prior language study to participate in the program, but, in my opinion, some prior study of a Slavic language will benefit the student, as the summer Language Institute is an accelerated, six-week course meant to provide the equivalent of one year of study at the University of Kansas. Students with prior language experience will be better prepared for the intensive language study that awaits them.