Yulia BychkovskaLast year, Matias Costa Navajas ’11 served as a mentor for the Emerging Leaders Institute, a comprehensive leadership program that prepares CC students to be engaged citizens within their community. Matias was paired with Yulia Bychkovska ’21, an international business major who is one of the resident assistants in New Hall this year.

In addition to being business students, Yulia had another thing in common with Matias: A native of Zhytomyr, Ukraine, she first came to America for her junior year of high school through the Future Leaders Exchange, a foreign-exchange program administered by the State Department. “It was a good experience, my first time coming to the U.S.,” she says.

During her year in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, Bychkovska received a college-admissions solicitation from Columbia College, among others, in her email. She replied, and began striking up an online conversation with Director of Admissions Counselors & Events Kathy Trabue. “She was very excited. We Skyped, and she helped me apply.” After taking a gap year—a rarity in the Ukraine—she received a Presidential Scholarship to attend Columbia College.

Even after the official mentorship between Matias and Yulia concluded last spring, he agreed to continue offering support, encouragement and advice. That connection came in handy this summer, when she was offered an internship to work with Project Transformation, a faith-based leadership development and community-oriented summer camp program, in Washington, D.C., this past summer.

“[Me being in D.C.] was basically a coincidence, because when we started the mentorship I didn’t know that I would be there,” Bychkovska says. They met a handful of times over the summer, and she was introduced to one of Matias’ co-workers who is also from Ukraine. “It really was a fun and great experience for me, because he has done a lot. I was joking that I want to be him! He’s a great example of if you have a goal, you can achieve it.”

This story appeared in the Winter 2019-20 edition of Affinity Magazine. Click here to check out the complete edition of the publication!

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