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Borderlands Between East and West | An Exploration Seminar in Ukraine, Romania and Moldova

Students with Program Directors Ileana Martin and Mark Gitenstein, former Ambassador to Romania.

October 9, 2019

Earlier this fall, program directors Ileana Martin and former U.S. Ambassador to Romania Mark Gitenstein led an exploration seminar, where they traveled with a group of students from the University of Washington to Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine to examine the behind-the-scenes diplomacy that governs relationships along the contested borders of Eastern Europe:


“The Exploration Seminar “Borderlands between West and East” took us to the margins of the EU in Romania and Republic of Moldova, and even further to the East to Ukraine. In all three countries, our schedule combined in-class lectures with peripatetic courses through downtown Bucharest, Iasi, Chisinău, and Kyiv, as well as guided museum visits, trips to hidden gems of architecture and culture (Painted Monasteries in Bukovina, Peles Castle, Bran Castle, Medieval Fortress of Suceava, Palace of Culture in Iasi, Old Orhei in Moldova, the baroque village of Kozelets in Ukraine, to mention only a few). Most importantly, we were always exposed to multiple facets of the same historical or political event as we interacted with locals from different generations with diverse backgrounds and also had the privilege to learn the American diplomats’ point of view. In each country we were the guests of the American Embassy and saw the dedication, hard work, and professionalism of diplomats who inspired some of us to follow in their steps. Furthermore, to be able to witness first hand the daily struggles of ordinary Romanians, Moldovans, and Ukrainians who look up to the American system makes us reflect upon our own society, politics, and challenges. Our last speaker was professor Mykola Kapitonenko, one of the advisers for the Ukrainian Parliament, who talked about American – Ukrainian relations just a week before we learned about the phone conversation between the presidents of the two countries. Beyond the personal growth, self-reflection, and academic knowledge, we have gained something even more precious: the desire to be engaged more in restoring the US role as a beacon of democratic values in a region where democracy, transparency and the rule of law are struggling to survive.”