Jonah Helwig has been studying Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasian history for two years at Stetson University in Florida. He studied abroad with SRAS and Novamova in Kyiv on the
Policy and Conflict program. Jonah hopes that the knowledge he gains about conflicts and possible solutions will assist him in a future career in the foreign service. Below are some of his favorite memories from his time abroad.
While in Kyiv I was very fortunate to have an amazing conversation partner. Лёша became a very close friend and we still talk regularly. This picture was taken on one of my last days in Kyiv, before I had to evacuate. On our last meeting we explored the Expo Center of Ukraine. I cannot wait to go back and visit my friend!
One of the best adventures I took while in Ukraine was a trip to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. This was an amazing and humbling experience to see the effect of the worst nuclear disaster in history. While there, I decided that I would be basic and take an artsy photo by the famous abandoned ferris wheel, so please enjoy!
One of the main trips of the program is to Odessa. On the way there, we stopped for a short excursion at an abandoned Soviet nuclear base that now functions as a museum. Among the old missiles and Soviet weaponry stood an old Soviet MiG. Our tour guide told us that we were allowed to take pictures on any of the Soviet machinery on the grounds. We could not help but take advantage of the opportunity to take a group photo on top of a MiG.
One of the most eerie experiences I had in Kyiv was passing by the Holodomor Memorial. The picture on the right was on a cloudy, quiet day. I was walking by just as the candle tower chimed its hourly sad tune. On that particular day, it was unsettling and extremely eerie. The photo on the left is from a sunny day after a memorial celebration. The flowers, sunlight, and silence made the place beautiful.
During our trip to Moldova we stopped at the largest wine cellar in the world. They proudly store about two million bottles of wine. Of course, we got to sample some wine while we were there. Needless to say we were quite happy when we took this photo! Featured in this picture are myself, my friend and fellow student Samantha, and our amazing program coordinator, Karina.
During our trip to Chernobyl we toured an old Soviet radar location near the reactor. The structure is not much to look at but it lent a nice backdrop for pictures. The radar plus the sign warning of radiation made for a perfect group Chernobyl photo.
The Policy and Conflict program in Kyiv hosts SRAS students as well as those from the United States Military Academy. I became close with the three guys from West Point and we made some unforgettable memories. This picture was taken outside of a winery in Moldova. We had quite a bit of wine and were preparing to say goodbye as the West Point boys who would be leaving early because of the global health crisis. I demanded multiple pictures with them so that I could never forget my friends from West Point.
While visiting Pechersk Lavra, I climbed the bell tower and took this picture of the main church and part of the Kyiv skyline. The golden domes and pictures of saints on the building were truly beautiful. It was a beautiful day and truly an amazing, peaceful view.
This photo of my friend Sam and I was taken outside a Ukrainian elementary school. We were very proud of ourselves after teaching a volunteer English class to a group of about 30 children. This was one of the most rewarding experiences I had while being abroad.
This picture was taken during the English class that my fellow students and I got to help teach. The children were told to come write words related to home on the board. I was there to help with spelling and handwriting. This particular kid was quite the hellion and, yes, he is writing GTA (Grand Theft Auto) on the board.
One incredible experience I had while in Kyiv was the opportunity to volunteer at a Kyiv organization that helps feed the needy. One of the conversation partners at NovaMova was a member of the community of Sant’egidio. Every week they prepare sandwiches and tea for people who cannot afford food. Four of us from my study abroad program went to make sandwiches and accompanied the group to distribute the food. It was truly touching to help.
One of the last excursions I took was to Pechersk Lavra. I had a free weekend and so I went with another student, who is also named Jonah, on our own excursion. We explored the catacombs and all the beautiful churches. We were walking around when we came to a dead end, when we turned around we found this amazing view of the complex. I could not help but take a picture against this gorgeous backdrop.
They say that if you did not see an opera in Odessa, then you did not actually visit Odessa. Unfortunately, our trip to Odessa was not long enough to see an opera. But, we did get to see the beautiful exterior and enjoy the weather. I guess not seeing an opera gives me reason to go back to Odessa one day.
Zoloti Vorota, the famous Golden Gate of Kyiv was a staple monument of my time in Ukraine. I passed this structure everyday on my way to school. It was also our standard meeting point for my friends almost every weekend before going out. This spot represents the center of Kyiv for me and will always hold an important meaning for me.
This picture perfectly captures my final time in Ukraine. In the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak, everyone was beginning to wear masks and gloves. On my flight out of Kyiv the flight attendants were covered head to toe in protective gear. It was extreme, but all that matters is that I made it back to the US safely.
On our last day in Moldova, we went to a traditional Moldovan restaurant. After some good wine and amazing food, we decided it was time for a photo shoot. The restaurant had crowns and thrones for picture, allowing my friend Emilie and I to become the king and queen of the restaurant. This trip was truly amazing and I made some lifelong friends and memories.