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Junior Nataliya Malaydakh defines herself as someone with a big heart, but with even bigger aspirations. An international student, Nataliya is from Ukraine where she gained an appreciation for freedom of education, in addition to a realization that she was meant to play a role in creating change in our world.

For many years, Ukraine has been in armed conflict with Russia and has had disagreement with the European Union and some of its members. Under Russian pressure, in 2013, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned the country’s plan for the EU pact that, among many other things, would allow Ukrainian educational degrees to be recognized throughout the EU. The country has endured protests, President Yanukovych fleeing to Russia, the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia, and ultimately, the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution.

Experiencing the crisis in Ukraine shaped Nataliya’s life goal to become a diplomat in order to improve the relationships between countries around the world. She believes that her experiences can be used to help foster positive outcomes for others. “Everyone needs to have something that they believe in,” Nataliya said. “Following your dreams and achieving your goals is what life is all about. There is drive inside all of us; you just have to discover what inspires you. For me, it’s someday becoming a diplomat and making a difference in the way we can all communicate and get along with each other.”

Nataliya visiting Lake Huron.

Nataliya’s first step was to study in America, but between the visa needed to travel to the U.S. and the cost, her goals didn’t seem within reach. With some luck and a high school foreign exchange student program, Nataliya eagerly made her way to the U.S. when she was only 16-years-old. Coming to Michigan, of all places, was just by chance, thanks to the exchange program.

Her host family has played an instrumental role in helping Nataliya follow her dreams. They have not only taken her in as one of their own, but they have also assisted her with perfecting her English, traveled the country, helped her apply for scholarships, and introduced her to a network of useful connections. After completing her time as an exchange student and experiencing a few other college options looking to find the perfect fit, a friend of her host family suggested that Nataliya visit Olivet College.

Nataliya quickly found herself at home at Olivet College. The small campus and student body allows Nataliya to have her voice heard and build connections with the people around her. As a history major, she is studying how the world has become shaped to what it is today, and how to play a role in shaping the future. “Everyone has just been so incredibly welcoming,” said Nataliya. “Also, there are so many opportunities to invest yourself at Olivet.”

Nataliya has thrived within Olivet’s Student Government Association, a natural springboard for her career aspirations. She has used the platform to practice engaging with all types of people and representing them on a larger scale, and was recently elected as one of the senior class representatives for the upcoming school year. In addition, Nataliya has also played a large role in the formation of the new International Club and expanded her knowledge and interpersonal skills through service learning trips, such as the alternative Spring Break trip to Heifer Ranch International in Perryville, Arkansas.

While the situation in Ukraine has seen some improvements, Russian forces and reminders of the violent past are ever present. Nataliya graduates in December 2018 and isn’t quite sure what all the remainder of her time at Olivet holds for her, but she is looking forward to internships, travel and service opportunities, and most importantly, building relationships with as many members of OC Nation as she can.

“I’m just trying to change the world one day at a time because I know that all change starts small and grows from there,” Nataliya said. “Right now, I’m happy to have my voice heard and share the things happening in Ukraine to make others more aware.”

Learn more about becoming an international student at Olivet College, or contact Jim Weidman, director of admissions, who specializes in helping international students navigate their educational opportunities at 269.749.6612 or jweidman@olivetcollege.edu.

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