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A Study Abroad Program just established at East Central University will allow ECU students and faculty to change places with their counterparts at two new sister universities in Ukraine and Russia.

The international educational exchange program was established through agreements between ECU and Kiev National University of Linguistics in Kiev, Ukraine, and State University of Management in Moscow, Russia.

ECU President Richard Rafes signed the agreements during a trip to the two universities. The ECU delegation included his wife Tommye, who traveled at her own expense, and Dr. Mara Sukholutskaya, ECU associate professor of English and languages. Sukholutskaya earned both bachelor's and doctoral degrees from Kiev National University of Linguistics.

"The foundation was laid for strong professional relations between ECU, the National University of Linguistics and State University of Management," Rafes said. "The future of the Study Abroad Programs at East Central University looks very promising."

ECU entered into a bi-lateral agreement which allows ECU students to pay ECU's tuition, fees and housing costs while studying at either university, said Dr. Scott Barton, dean of ECU's College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

"While the exchange program can theoretically start next semester," Barton said, "the practical aspect of going on an exchange requires some planning. We hope that students who want to participate in the exchange program will start the planning process by meeting with Dr. Sukholutskaya and me."

Students from all majors can apply for the exchange program. Courses in Russia will be taught in English.

"The goal is to have a one-to-one exchange, but that will be over a three-year period," he said. "During the first three years I would like ECU to send five to 10 students to Russia and Ukraine for semester-long exchanges."

The agreement also allows ECU faculty to teach in Ukraine or Russia, and professors from those universities to teach at ECU.

"There are some visa issues to work out, however, before we can start accepting scholars from international universities and start having faculty exchanges," Barton said.

The agreements call for the universities to exchange educational materials and publications from their libraries and provide housing for exchange students and housing and office space for faculty members.

ECU students who enroll at the State University of Management in Moscow are required to have an intermediate knowledge level of the Russian language. They may enroll in up to four courses at SUM, provided all necessary prerequisites have been met.

The ECU delegation traveled first to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine and Sukholutskaya's hometown. Signing the agreement for Kiev National University of Linguistics was Galik Artemchuk, the rector, or president.

The university has 7,000 students studying English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and other foreign languages. The School of English is the largest at the university.

Rafes presented Artemchuk with a replica of Remington's Bronco Buster (horse) and received a painting of Kiev. He toured the university and met with the junior class of the English Department. He told more than 100 students and faculty about ECU and Oklahoma, and answered numerous questions.

"Students asked about cost of education at ECU, the grading system, athletics and recreation opportunities in Ada," he said. The faculty asked him about his research interests and about his and ECU's publications.

Sukholutskaya was the guide as the Rafeses toured the 1,500-year-old city, which is home to three million people and known in history as Mother of all Russian cities.

"The most memorable stops," Rafes said, "were at the monument to the legendary founders of Kiev and at Vladimir Cathedral, Vladimir Hill and Babiy Yar, where 90,000 people, mainly Jews, were massacred on Sept. 29, 1941."

They also visited Lavra, a place of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians, saw Assumption Cathedral and walked through catacombs which housed the relics of monks and heroes.

"Our Kiev colleagues invited us to attend the Ukrainian National Opera where we saw the jewel of the world ballet, "Swan Lake" by Peter Tchaikovsky," he said.

"The visit to Kiev left us with a very warm impression," he added. "Our Ukrainian counterparts were extremely hospitable and accommodating."

The University of Linguistics will celebrate its 60th anniversary next October and Rafes was invited to take part in the festivities.

An overnight train took the ECU delegation to Moscow, capital of Russia, also known as the Third Rome, once a stronghold of the Orthodox Christian faith in the 14-16th centuries after Rome and Constantinople.

"The train ride is an event in itself with stops and passport control at Ukrainian and Russian borders," Rafes said. "We looked trustworthy and our papers were in order, so they let us through. We arrived in Moscow at 6:30 a.m. We had an hour to freshen up and change before going to the University Center of International Programs at the State University of Management, our Moscow host."

Rafes met with several of the 17,000 students and toured the university, which focuses on economics, management and business.

He and Aleksey Lyalin, president of SUM, signed the agreement. Rafes was given a book on Russian history, written in Russian and English, that has an ornate metal cover.

After the official portion of the visit was over, the group toured several famous sites of Moscow, including Red Square with St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin, and the Tretyakov Gallery that holds the major collection of Russian art. They also shopped at a Russian chocolate factory outlet store.

"The Moscow colleagues treated us to a really special event, tickets to attend the first-night performance of the ballet 'Corsair' by Adan at the Kremlin Palace of Congresses," the ECU president said. "One of the most famous Russian ballerinas, Anastasiya Volochkova, was dancing that night. The music and costumes were superb and the palace was spectacular.

"We found our Moscow counterparts more business-like compared to the Kiev officials," Rafes said, "but still very efficient, welcoming and generous."

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