A student’s journey from Ukraine to Dallas

There has been a gradual decrease in international undergraduates at UD. Photo by Francesca Pennell.

While the University of Dallas has many students from across the United States, UD also holds an international population. Savelii Laptinov, a first year international student and comparative literary traditions major, shared his journey from Kharkiv, Ukraine to Irving, Texas.

Laptinov’s move was just a month ago, but he states that he has been settling in well with Gregory Hall, enjoying the peace and silence when he returns to his dorm. Laptinov said education in Ukraine is similar to the American K-12 structure. However, he remarked how Ukraine doesn’t offer many classes or elective choices.

Professors here, according to Laptinov, are more experienced and professional. He also appreciates his interactive classes here, which encourage students to participate in intellectual discussion. In high school, his favorite class was history, and now it’s politics and philosophy. Currently, he is working on writing a thesis for his essay for Homer’s “Odyssey,” which he has enjoyed more than “The Iliad.”

Laptinov came to know about UD through a family friend. He was looking for a strong liberal arts school, so UD seemed like the right choice to him. After graduating, Laptinov hopes to become an international journalist who reports on global news like natural disasters, historical sites, etc. For now, he states that his priority is to focus and excel in his academics. Though he mentions in the future he may consider joining the Cinema Connoisseurs Club and may apply to work for the school’s newspaper. Some of his other life goals include traveling to California and Arizona.

Laptinov was excited to share some of the traditions from his home. “Our traditional food back in Ukraine is a soup called borscht, and then we have our own kind of special type of porridge which I love,” Laptinov said. Traditionally served with bread, borscht is a vibrant red soup filled with root vegetables and meat. When asked about the food here, Laptinov responded, “It’s great. I even wanted to find out who’s the head chef here so I could express my appreciation.” Another Ukrainian tradition that he enjoys is baking paska which is a sweet bread that is usually made during Easter. Just as Americans experience culture shock in other countries, Laptinov noted how Americans have a very authentic culture. He mentioned how people like to smile for everyone here, while in Ukraine, strangers never smile at each other. He also mentioned how he was surprised at how easy it is for people here to adjust to the dry and hot weather, though he appreciates the forest-like nature of the University of Dallas.

Laptinov readily shared stories from his life and culture in Ukraine, even if they’re mere glimpses. He said, “I just want people to know that Ukraine does exist because it’s not very popular in the media. I would say that Ukraine has distinct cultural differences from its neighboring countries.” Ukraine holds a strong tradition of folk art and embroidery that is still present today. Christmas and New Years are also important celebrations in Ukraine.”

Laptinov emphasized how excited he is to embark on his higher education at the University of Dallas. He is ready to dive deep into the world of literature and critical thinking. Some enjoyable parts of his everyday routine are enjoying the lattes at the Cap Bar, writing letters to his loved ones back in Ukraine and studying at the library.

The number of international students at UD has slowly been decreasing throughout the decades, going from 387 students in 2003 to only 102 at present. It’s a delight, therefore, to celebrate and get to know one of these students in the hopes that more will share their unique stories and experiences.


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