How Ukrainians affected by war can continue their studies in Europe: Ukrainian Catholic University teaming up with European universities
April 19, 2022

How Ukrainians affected by war can continue their studies in Europe: Ukrainian Catholic University teaming up with European universities

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February, 2022, many Ukrainian students have been forced to leave their homes and places of study and look for new opportunities to continue their education. In response, many European universities have offered their support to Ukrainian students by enrolling them on their courses, reducing or waiving tuition fees, and providing scholarships.

In this blog, four Ukrainian Young European Ambassadors (YEAs) affected by war share their experience, why they have decided to continue their studies in Europe, where they found their desired programmes, how the application process worked, and what their studies are like now. They were interviewed by Ukrainian YEA Vladyslava Vertogradska during the week of April 4-10, 2022. She is a fourth-year student majoring in Contemporary Communication at LCC International University in Klaipeda, Lithuania. Originally, she is from Donetsk, but her family moved to Ivano-Frankivsk in 2014 due to the Russian occupation of the territory. Currently, she is finishing her last semester at the university, while volunteering for a Kyiv-based organisation that translates news into English and carries out fact-checking.

In the first part of this blog, we met Vitalina Shevchenko and learnt about the 100 places for Ukrainian students at universities in Castilla y León region in Spain. In the second part, we found out how the University of Zurich is expressing solidarity with Ukraine by accepting Ukrainian students from Bohdana Batsko.

Now, it’s time to meet the third heroine of these stories – Victoria Kulyniak. She is a second-year student from Chervonohrad in the Lviv region, majoring in Political Science at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU). When the war broke out, Victoria was volunteering in a humanitarian organisation and was translating news for foreigners. When recalling her emotions while she was still in Ukraine, Victoria, like any other Ukrainian, says she was frustrated and perplexed. “I have never seen such inhumanity. I have neither been a witness nor a victim of war crimes. I haven’t experienced Russian terror and atrocity directly. But many of my fellow citizens did. They are suffering right now. It hurt a lot then. It hurts even more with every new day. All the stories about cruelty during WW2 that were told to me by my grandma when I was little have become a reality that I didn’t want to believe in. Pain, aggression, huge compassion — these were the key emotions during the first days,” she noted. But Victoria tried to channel her negative energy into productivity and it worked: “Now, my aggression has converted into an enormous motivation to pursue democratic ideas further and eliminate authoritarianism in Europe.” 

“My biggest life goal is to do everything possible to make Ukraine an Eastern European ‘tiger’ and an efficient player in the global political arena,” Victoria proclaimed. This goal motivated her to go abroad to expand the horizons of her expertise, make it more competitive, create international initiatives, and establish new connections for her professional future. Victoria feels that diplomacy is the field in which she implements her potential the best. “The desire to contribute to my country intellectually has prompted me to apply for studying at a foreign university,” she said. 

The exchange initiative was launched by her Ukrainian university – UCU. It has agreed to partner up with multiple foreign institutions for Ukrainian students to pursue their studies abroad for a semester. Every term, students of the full-time educational UCU programmes (2-5 years of study) can take part in international student mobility programmes. The duration of the exchange depends on the programme they apply for. For instance, it can be a three-week summer school or a term lasting for 5 months. Among the UCU’s partner universities are representatives from countries such as Belgium, Canada, Poland, the Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, the USA, the UK, and others. All the information about the actual programmes can be found on the UCU website.

“The admission process was not very challenging,” said Victoria. To participate in the programme, she signed a learning agreement and a couple of other documents to confirm her transfer to the university. The entire process took two weeks to complete. “The most challenging thing was to combine completing academic credits at two universities at the same time,” she added. 

Indeed, Victoria studies at two universities simultaneously – UCU and KUL, the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski Jana Pawła II). It is the oldest university in Lublin and the first Catholic university in East-Central Europe. KUL is a private university at which foreign and Polish students can choose their major within a wide range of faculties and disciplines. Victoria studies European studies with a strong focus on the legal aspects of the process of the European political, economic, and legislative functioning. The study is conducted offline, which makes the term abroad much more academically effective and engaging.

The foreign university has provided her with a room in the dormitory and did not require any tuition fees. Victoria doesn’t receive any scholarship for living expenses, but she works at two companies, combining her professional practice with studying. She works at UCU Business School in Ukraine and the Rule of Law Institute Foundation in Poland. Victoria has been staying in Lublin for a month and arrived there by car. One of the very first things she did after her arrival was to start learning Polish. “It’s a manifestation of gratitude and respect to the hosting country. While travelling to any country, it feels like some sort of a duty to me to learn at least the basics of its language. Cultural exchange, especially among European states, boosts social development on the regional and global level,” she explains.

During her stay in Poland, she has met many people who support Ukraine through their actions: “My biggest pleasure during my semester abroad is to receive a huge amount of support from the international community. The civilized world is with us, which cannot fail to give hope for the quick renewal of Ukraine after the victory.” 

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