How Ukrainians affected by war can continue their studies in Europe: University of Zurich expressing solidarity by accepting Ukrainian students
April 18, 2022

How Ukrainians affected by war can continue their studies in Europe: University of Zurich expressing solidarity by accepting Ukrainian students

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 the blog, we met Vitalina Shevchenko and learnt about 100 places for Ukrainian students at universities in Castilla y León region in Spain.

Now, meet the second heroine of these blog stories – Bohdana Batsko. She is a third-year student from Odesa majoring in International Relations at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Bohdana said that the only thing that kept her afloat when the war began was the daily news from friends and relatives that they were fine. Her studies at the university were suspended, which meant she had more free time. “Then, the main task for me was to remain relatively calm and not to allow my feelings to control me and cause me severe pain. I was with my grandmother in Kryvyi Rih. It was easier for us to be together. We supported each other, spent more time together than usual,” Bohdana said. Additionally, she got addicted to the news and during her breaks from reading the news, Bohdana volunteered for the Ukrainian Cyber Army and rode a bike. Both of the activities were helpful. 

“At first, I did not think about going abroad, because I felt relatively safe compared to the hot spots of Ukraine, and I did not want to leave my family,” she said. Then, after a few weeks of the war, Bohdana’s father suggested that she should leave Kryvyi Rih as soon as possible. After talking with her parents and with their support, Bohdana started thinking about further steps. “As I had enough uncertainty in my life, I really did not want to go without knowing where, so I began to look for opportunities to study abroad,” she explained. 

The process was rather easy. She searched ‘opportunities for Ukrainian students’ on the internet and saw many universities expressing their solidarity by accepting Ukrainian students in their institutions. “In one of the articles, I saw the support page for refugees and affected members of Ukrainian universities of the University of Zurich and wrote directly to their mobility office about the possibility of studying,” Bohdana recalled. She received an email either the same day or the next with an offer for a call to discuss further steps. 

“There was no selection process as such, I just filled out the form on their website and received a confirmation letter in a few days,” she said. The only required document for completing the form was any document that could prove that she was, in fact, a student of the Ukrainian university. The confirmation could be in a form of a student ID. If it was possible, the staff also asked for a transcript, a CV, and a photo for a new student ID. 

“The University of Zurich offered to be just a ‘student listener’ and not to pass exams, or to take any number of courses in political science that I would like and pass exams at the end of the semester,” Bohdana explained. She travelled from Ukraine to Zurich at her own expense and on her arrival, was met by a host family that provided her with a home. The university accepted her free of charge for this semester, offered a one-time scholarship (600 Swiss francs), and helped her to find a host family. Bohdana is currently waiting to obtain a status S (the S permit is an identity document authorising temporary residence in Switzerland), after which she will be able to receive financial help from the Swiss government. 

Bohdana’s journey to Switzerland took four days. “The first challenge for me was to get by evacuation train from Kryvyi Rih to Lutsk,” she said. There were hundreds of Ukrainians who wanted to board the trains at the railway station in Kryvyi Rih every day and because of that, Bohdana was not able to leave the city at the first attempt. “The next day I had to stand in line from six in the morning, so in the afternoon I was sitting in a compartment with ten other people (including children), but we were not so much crowded as sad about what was happening to our country,” she continued. After 15 hours, she reached Ternopil. From there, her acquaintances took her by car to Lutsk. Her budget was limited, so she looked for the cheapest ways to get to Zurich: “I first took a bus from Lutsk to Warsaw, then, thanks to Wizzair, a free flight from Warsaw to Milan (you only had to pay for the luggage), and then a bus from Milan to Zurich. In total, the trip cost about $100.” 

Bohdana’s message is about the Swiss people and how delightful they are: “Let them hate the Russians less than we do, but they are people who are ready to forget about their centuries-old neutral status and do everything in their power to help Ukrainians.” 

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