Study in Ukraine
Guide for International Students


Studying in a foreign country is a great opportunity to advance in your career, make a lot of new friends and become familiar with a new language and culture. But it’s no secret that there are many difficulties associated with the study-abroad experience. To provide foreigners who are currently considering or have just started studying in Ukraine a better idea of what it’s like and some useful tips and frank advice on how to make this step easier from the beginning, we invited six foreign students from various Ukrainian universities to tell us what you need to know about life as an international student in Ukraine, including immigration matters, tuition fees, specifics of the Ukrainian study process and student culture. The Kiev Check-in team wishes you a wonderful experience of studying and living as a foreign student in Ukraine.

Introduction


Oliwia Schildt

From Germany, studied at Karazin Kharkiv National University 2013–2014

I moved to Ukraine in September 2013. I was very interested in Ukraine as a country, because it is located between the European Union and Russia. Since I really wanted to improve my Russian skills, I decided to move to the eastern part of Ukraine, to Kharkiv. However, I did not know at that time that so many drastic changes would happen in this country, and I came in the middle of a very happening time! On the one hand that was very interesting for me, but I was of course facing a lot of things that were making me very upset.


James Brown

From Ghana, studied at the Kyiv National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine, 2015–2018

I came to Donetsk, Ukraine, in 2014. As my brother was in Ukraine already, it wasn’t a difficult thing to decide. I studied the Russian language in the preparatory faculty. However, due to the war I flew back to Ghana and returned in August 2015, this time around to Kyiv National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine, where I studied agrobiology and completed my university education. My experience with socializing in Ukraine was amazing. Thanks to God I met good guys. Ukrainian people are very friendly but shy, so one has to make the approach.


Selaze Lotsu

From Ghana, studies at National Technical University of Ukraine 2012—current

I came to Ukraine to study for my bachelor’s degree in telecommunications at the Kyiv National Technical University of Ukraine. This I have successfully accomplished, and now I’m pursuingmy master’s degree. The university has highly qualified tutors and offers great opportunities forstudents who are serious about learning. My experience in Ukraine has been interesting. There is always that element of culture shock when a foreigner arrives in the country for the first time, which I have experienced. On my arrival in 2012, most of the people I met didn’t speak or understand English, which made communication very frustrating. However, it played a key role in motivating me to learn the Ukrainian language. Now I can boldly speak, read, write and communicate effectively in Ukrainian. My social life has progressed significantly.


Stefanie Kowal

From Australia, studied at National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

Having been born in Australia with Ukrainian heritage, I was surrounded by all things Ukrainian, and thus from an early age I felt inextricably connected with my Ukrainian roots. Ukrainian dance, Ukrainian Saturday school and scouting were an integral part of my youth, and these activities ensured I was an active member of the Ukrainian diaspora in Sydney. I was fortunate enough to travel with my family to Kyiv in 2009 and again in 2013, where I danced with the Virsky Dance Company, after which I knew I simply had to return to the glorious city. I would do everything in my power to make my dream become a reality.
Such an opportunity arrived when I applied for a scholarship to study at Kyiv Mohyla Academy (KMA), offered by our diaspora. Having applied during a tumultuous time after the events of Maidan, there were few applicants, and I was successful in my application. My first impressions of Kyiv were everything I had imagined and more. The mixture of old and modern architecture, the cobblestoned streets of old Podil, along with a patriotic spirit among the people, would provide a perfect backdrop for my year of studies at the Academy. I felt very much at home. To my surprise, the people were warm, open and incredibly hospitable.


Mary Beatrice

From Brazil, studies at Kyiv National University of Technology and Design

I moved to Ukraine about three years ago. At first I came as a tourist. and for personal reasons decided to stay and pursue a degree here, which has been quite a journey so far.
I study now at the National University of Technology and Design (KNUTD), pursuing a degree in fashion design and construction. Socializing in Ukraine is definitely different than in my homeland; the people here are a little more reserved, but after a while you get used to it.


Osman Abbas

From Sudan, studied at Poltava State Medical and Dental University 2012–2018

I traveled to Ukraine in 2012 to study at Poltava Medical University in general medicine and finally graduated in 2018.

What are the benefits of choosing Ukraine for higher studies?

  • Oliwia Schildt

    I really wanted to improve my Russian language skills and also see how sociology and public relations are taught in a Ukrainian university. I think one of the biggest benefits to studying in Kharkiv is that it is a very happening city, and young people especially can do so many things there! The nightlife is great and not so expensive, and generally Ukraine is a country with many traditions and tasty food, and one can travel very nicely there! People are happy to help out and, especially right now, the young generation is very active and creative.

    Mary Beatrice

    The price of tuition is definitely more affordable in Ukraine, and in general you can pursue a master’s degree straight after you complete your (undergraduate) studies, which is always great for one’s career.

    Osman Abbas

    I was impressed by how I was treated by Ukrainian society, with all communities residing in Ukraine showing respect and appreciation for students and others. I chose Ukraine to study because of its good doctors and outstanding science in medicine.

  • James Brown

    There are a lot of benefits studying in Ukraine away from home. It made me more responsible and independent. To live without parental guidance and not mess up — it was a great life-molding process for me. Aside from that, the professors and lecturers give extra attention to students here; they kind of have a very close relationship, and I find this very beautiful.

    Stefanie Kowal

    My desire to study in Ukraine and apply for a scholarship at KMA stemmed from my strong desire to improve my level of spoken Ukrainian. In my first year, I chose a variety of different cultural and historical courses. In addition to this, I enrolled in an intensive Ukrainian language course to supplement my speaking skills and thereby assist me with my other courses, which were all taught in Ukrainian.

How easy was it to get your student visa?

Oliwia Schildt

I have to admit that at the time I applied for my visa (this was almost five years ago!) it was not very easy. In the consulate in Germany they were not very informed about which documents exactly I would need for my student visa, and I had to wait a long time. Later on I had registration issues at the university (that took five months!) until got registered. This means that I did not have my passport for almost six months. So, frankly speaking, I have had very bad experience with that — but I am sure that things have changed over time…

James Brown

Getting my student visa took me approximately a month or so, thanks to my ever hard-working mum, who was in Senegal to get it for me. Ghana doesn’t have a Ukrainian embassy, so we always have to travel to Nigeria or Senegal to get a visa. This is one major problem we have.

Stefanie Kowal

Attaining a student visa wasn’t the simplest of tasks. The process itself took a number of months, as all documents required translation into Ukrainian, including medical certificates, past university transcripts, and my birth certificate and passport.

What are the tuition fees and accomodation options for international students at Ukrainian universities?

  • James Brown

    The tuition fees in Ukraine are between USD 1,200 and USD 5,500 across all fields.

    Mary Beatrice

    The fees are at around USD 1,200 per year. And you can either rent a house our live in the dorms for affordable prices.

    Selaze Lotsu

    In comparison to other European countries, Ukraine has a relatively low cost of living with
    respect to basic things such as groceries, transportation etc. However, in big cities like Kyiv,
    accommodation is quite expensive.

  • Osman Abbas

    I was living in a flat, and rent and the cost of living were not expensive. A student can live on a minimum of USD 200 per month and, if you’re living in university housing, $150.

    Oliwia Schildt

    I lived in a dorm of the university (Kharkiv) and paid EUR 25 per month. I do not know how much this has changed by now.

    Stefanie Kowal

    Tuition at the university was reasonably priced, and I was able to study a variety of different courses throughout the year. Despite being in small groups, the tuition fee was substantially cheaper than university courses in Australia. As I had previously studied and graduated from Sydney University in Australia, I didn’t feel a strong need to live in the student dormitories the Academy provided. In Kyiv, I was happy to and capable of renting my own small flat within close proximity to the Academy: approx. UAH 10,000 per month. This was slightly more expensive than I was hoping to pay, however I was living in a very central part of the city and it was convenient for me to get around and experience true city living.

What can students expect in terms of social life?

  • Stefanie Kowal

    From my own experience, student life at Kyiv Mohyla Academy was very active. Students were generally very helpful and personable with foreign students. Societies and clubs often held social events that were advertised on Facebook. I encourage foreign students to participate in such social gatherings and events in order to meet Ukrainian students who are able to familiarise them both with the university and the city of Kyiv. Had I had chosen to live in the student dormitories, I’m sure I’d have had a number of interesting stories to tell.

    James Brown

    A typical atmosphere in a Ukrainian university is a busy life. Everyone goes about doing whatever they are up to. Occasionally I see soccer teammates and I say hi, and then life goes on.

  • Oliwia Schildt

    I was mostly involved in a lot of projects outside of university, so actually I was hanging out more with people from the NGO MultiKultiUA (multikulti.org.ua/en/). Also, I was working for and with people from the German-Ukrainian Center and volunteering at the Deutsches Zentrum Kharkiv (dzentrum.com.ua/o-nas/de). However, the university offers a lot of events, too, so that it never gets boring 🙂

    Mary Beatrice

    To be blunt, the social life is not as exciting for me as in Brazil, where our university life was filled with more parties and stronger connections. However, things are relative, and in cities more filled with international students most likely the social life is better.

How did you deal with language barriers when studying in Ukraine?

  • Oliwia Schildt

    My language of study was Ukrainian and Russian. I was using my dictionary a lot 🙂 I think most of the study programs offer introductory classes in the Russian language. It would be good for students if they would do a course for learning Russian/Ukrainian before they start studying. I know an amazing teacher at the University of Kharkiv who is teaching Russian and is doing wonderful work with exchange students. I would love to connect you with her — she could tell you a lot 🙂 (You can find me on LinkedIn as Oliwia Schildt).

    Selaze Lotsu

    My language of study was Ukrainian. Initially it was very frustrating, simply because I wasn’t
    conversant with the language. It made the learning process difficult, but that was overcome as I
    gained mastery over the language. I took special Ukrainian language courses that were offered by the university for foreign nationals, which helped to improve my language skills.

  • James Brown

    I studied in three languages, English, Russian and Ukrainian, but most of my exams were in Ukrainian. I studied the language and practiced it a lot with my group mates, and I gained confidence in it. One option for those who have just arrived should be studying the local language for a whole academy year (preparatory course).

    Mary Beatrice

    My language of study is Russian, but some teachers prefer speaking only in Ukrainian, so mostly there are both languages. One of the significant barriers I see is clearly the language. Ukrainian universities mostly provide studies in the official language, while most foreigners learn Russian, and it can be difficult to adapt.

Did you notice any difference in the educational process in Ukraine compared with your native country? What could be improved to attract more international students to Ukraine?

  • Stefanie Kowal

    A key difference in Ukrainian universities, in contrast to my own university experience, relates to the use of technology. Assignments, projects and assessments were all done manually at KMA. In Australia, many universities use computer-based operations in the submission of assignments and exams. Online resources are freely available. I felt KMA was lacking in this area. From my own experience, university courses in Ukraine more closely resembled classes at a high school, there being a smaller number of students per class for lectures and tutorials. However, with smaller numbers comes a more personalized overall experience. For example, stronger student-teacher relationships are possible in Ukrainian universities than in larger foreign universities.

    Enrolling in KMA was a fairly straightforward process. However i did experience some delays in communication with university staff. Communication between the university and the student is incredibly important in ensuring a smooth enrollment process.

    Oliwia Schildt

    Yes, of course. I would say that it is a totally different education system, which makes it of course very interesting. In Germany you are more flexible choosing your classes, etc., and the exams contain more open questions and essays. I think that the key challenges are all the bureaucratic issues. Over the time in which I was studying there, I needed a lot of different documents, etc.

  • James Brown

    There are a lot of differences. In Ghana, attendance is not checked in the university, but in Ukraine, it’s checked daily from class to class, and if you miss more than three from a subject you have to do rework—and in the medical university you pay before doing the rework.
    The key challenge in Ukraine is the language barrier. If non-medical universities had more English-speaking professors and lecturers it would greatly help.

    Selaze Lotsu

    For me, the challenges of studying in Ukraine were the hash cold winter conditions and, most of all, the initial language barrier. In a nutshell, I think more studies in the medium of English should be introduced to open the way to admission of more foreign students. I also think the accommodation conditions should be improved, with modern facilities and general upgrades to make students comfortable while they study.

Can one work while studying in Ukraine?

  • James Brown

    Work and study in Ukraine is possible but very difficult and not allowed for foreign students. There are a lot of job opportunities, but the pay is minimal, and that is not encouraging. Living in Ukraine as a student is extremely comfortable, but to live there and work with family is tough, in my opinion.

    Stefanie Kowal

    During my time at Mohyla Academy, I was enrolled both as a full-time and as a part-time student. Studying part time allowed me to explore what Kyiv as a city had to offer, as well as take on individual tutoring jobs and work as a teacher in different countries.

  • Selaze Lotsu

    Ukraine has very strict policies concerning immigration and working as a foreigner. It’s officially
    not permitted to work in Ukraine as a foreign student. You can only work if you have a work
    permit.

    Osman Abbas

    I have thought about working during my studies but did not find I had enough time. It’s difficult in medicine to study and work at the same time like in other specialties.

What would be your frank advice for foreigners who wish to explore educational opportunities in Ukraine?

  • Oliwia Schildt

    I think that research and checking out the universities and study programs is very important. Besides, it is very good to have a partner you can contact who can support you with different things. I am sure that in recent years a lot of new study programs have been created — so it is definitely worth trying it out!
    In general I can say that my time in Ukraine was amazing. I met great people and tried out a lot of different things. I faced a politically very difficult time there and attended the first Maidan without really knowing what was going on. I am still keeping in touch with most of my friends there and even visited some of them last year when I went traveling back to see everybody. 🙂

    Mary Beatrice

    Contact the university you want to apply for directly and not through agencies. The process of applying is not hard, and an intermediary is unnecessary. Also, try to learn at least the basics of the language beforehand, as English is not widespread enough here yet.

  • James Brown

    My sincerest advice to anyone seeking to explore educational opportunities in Ukraine would be to just go ahead, see it as a challenge that you can take on. The people are friendly, so choose friends wisely and you will win.

    Stefanie Kowal

    Studying in Ukraine is undoubtedly an exhilarating, rewarding opportunity. Not only can a student be enriched by the country’s history and culture, it is a financially cheaper alternative to many international universities. I firmly believe it is necessary for Ukraine’s universities to follow in the footsteps of their western counterparts by adopting online methods and simple enrolment processes for foreign students. Perhaps incorporating more courses taught in the English language would attract foreign students.