Meet Oleksii, a Communications major from Ukraine, finishing up his sophomore year at LCC. This student describes himself as always having been adventurous, curious, and hard-working. These characteristics allow him to not only keep a high GPA and participate in leadership activities but to be a part of the Yearbook team as well. The President’s Leadership Scholarship that he received after completing his freshman year continues to be a launching point for the Ukrainian, empowering him with self-confidence and inspiration to be creative and to be a positive influence in the LCC community.
What can you tell about your life growing up in Ukraine? What kinds of hobbies and interests filled your life there?
I spent all my life in Ukraine until my last year of high school. Growing up, I was primarily interested in photography. My dad got me my first camera when I was 11, having been interested in it for a couple of years prior. Later I attended a private photography school, where I learned the basics of photography as well as editing. I would always go out to take pictures and have several of my friends come and bring a change of clothes just to take some pictures and practice my skills. This way I could shoot pictures over and over again, but it kept it fresh. I also attended theater classes, from kindergarten up to high school graduation, and I’ve even played some major roles in several plays. Another highlight for me growing up was being a Student Council President, along with other experience in leadership positions also.
You’re a FLEX program graduate. How would you describe your experience in the program?
Most students in Ukraine know about FLEX. The alumni from the program visit schools to talk about it, so we get a lot of exposure. The demand to be chosen is super high and the competition for acceptance is tight. My first attempt to get into the program was unsuccessful but I did get accepted on the second try. Going to the USA was a big deal for me, as no one from my family had gone abroad before. I was placed in the state of Arkansas, in the southwest part of America. This is actually where I learned what a yearbook was supposed to be like. In fact, I joined a class where the focus was purely on the creation of a yearbook. As part of the class, I did photography, went to events and conferences. Overall FLEX was a great experience, getting to know the culture, the people, and making new friends. I’m extremely grateful for the experience, as it made me grow as an individual, shaped my worldview, and taught me practical skills. What is more, because of FLEX I am now an LCC student.
How did FLEX make you aware of LCC?
FLEX recommends LCC to graduates of the program. Although I was hoping to study in the USA, the tuition costs were too steep. Luckily, I learned about LCC and its affordable North American style of education. LCC offered BA in Contemporary Communication, which I was interested in. So, LCC was a great opportunity for me to study in English, meet new people abroad, and do it affordably.
Last year you were one of the recipients of The President’s Leadership Scholarship. In what ways has it impacted and benefited you?
In my freshman year, I was really lacking in confidence. I compared myself to other students, their abilities, their GPAs, and their involvement in activities. I seemed to constantly ask myself, “Who am I compared to them?” Although I participated in the Yearbook Club and other activities, even had a good GPA, it all didn’t seem like enough to me. Eventually, I made a decision not to miss out on the opportunity, and I applied in the last days before the deadline. I couldn’t believe it when I received an email informing me that I was selected as one of the recipients. To say it was a confidence booster is an understatement. Now, I see that I indeed can do many things. Besides this new sense of empowerment, the scholarship has also given me extra energy to contribute more to the whole community. Being a Presidential Scholarship recipient, inspires me to do more every single day. If even one person is helped by what I contribute, then I’m satisfied.
You’ve been part of the Yearbook team two years in a row now. How has the experience this year been different from the last one?
Doing the yearbook online was far more difficult than it was when we were in person. It’s one thing to set up a photo booth in the alumni gallery to get headshots, it’s a completely different thing asking people to submit their photos themselves digitally. It was hard to motivate people to send pictures in, so unfortunately we didn’t receive as many headshots as we had hoped. In general, producing a yearbook involves a lot of small stuff - doing posts, making google forms for every detail we needed to collect, and an innumerable amount of other things that are very time-consuming, especially when doing it online. Still, I am proud of the whole team. We completed and released the yearbook within the academic year. With the extra workload, everyone still gave their absolute best. I’m really happy with the organization, focus, and passion within the team.
What kind of leadership position are you holding in the next academic year?
Next year I’ll be a Study Abroad Leader. I’ll be working with exchange students, and that’s something I’ve wanted to do since my first semester at LCC. From my FLEX experience, I do know what it’s like being an exchange student in a new culture. Also, I love meeting new people. Being able to travel along with them in the coming year will also be a huge plus.
What was it about Communications that attracted you to this major?
While in the USA, I realized the significance of a Communications major and saw it being offered frequently. I became very interested, and that’s why I applied to LCC as a Communication major. Beyond that, I am 100% a creative person. I love being creative and socializing. I especially like this major at LCC, because we get to try different courses, like Video Production, Photography, Visual Design, PR, Propaganda, and many others. I’ve been exposed now to various fields in Communication and it’s great.
What plans do you have for the future?
I think I am most proficient in photography. However, I heard someone say that just because you’re good at something, it doesn’t mean you were born to do this only. For now, I’m exploring what’s available to me. I’m interested in multi-media and public relations, for example. As a creative person, I also think I would love to be a Creative Director, overseeing specific creative work. Who knows? In the future, we might be working in fields that don’t even exist yet. The skills we are learning now are what will stay with us no matter where we end up career-wise, so it’s important to stay open-minded, adventurous, and to live in the moment.