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USF Students Collab with Eastern European Students During War

PETERSBURG, Fla. (CW44 News at 10) - Tampa Bay students have teamed up with students in Eastern Europe amid an international humanitarian crisis overseas.

Amid the war involving Ukraine and Russia, law students from neighboring country Moldova are collaborating with students at USF St. Petersburg to aid cultural unity and form cultural bonds during the time of chaos. But that the goal didn't start that way.

"Initially it began [when] we were introduced to what we would be working on for this semester," said Lea Rodger, a fourth year student at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg studying criminology and a soon-to-be law student. "So we all got connected over Facebook and email and find different ways with time differences and everything else to kind of connect and talk."

"To focus on human rights issues and we kind of compared and contrasted cases on those issues," added USF freshman Taylor Herman, a participant in the political science project.

The international virtual collaboration came to a head Wednesday when USF and Moldova students highlighted comparative legal research from both countries. Planning with the Free International University of Moldova, or ULIM, began a year ago. But on February 24th, Russia invaded Ukraine.

"That was a big deal for them and their day-to-day life. I know one of the students in our group, I believe she has some refugees that her family have right now as well," said Rodger.

The invasion altered the context of the project.

"Despite all the problems and stress that the conflict has placed on them and the their country and what they've been experiencing, they have stayed so strong in their communication," said Herman. Students in the two countries continued meeting virtually, but with missile strikes being heard in the distance, and refugees crossing into Moldova's borders, the backdrop of war posed significant challenges.

"It's very real. You really feel the impact of that while you're doing your research and working on the project together," said Rodger.

Despite those challenges, the global research partnership continued. Organizers, like political science professor who spearheaded the project Dr. Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan said that by continuing, it has provided tremendous benefits for everyone involved, confirming the value of international bonding.

"You really are a lot closer together in the things that matter, your interests and again, the issues that we think are so unique to us as Americans are actually pretty much the same for everybody, wherever you are in the world. And uh… it definitely helps you grow, both as a student and as a person," said Rodger.

To view a blog highlighting the students' comparative legal research, click here.

To view a blog showcasing Professor Judithanne McLauchlan's studies in Moldova, click here.

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