Alternative to emigration: How to turn students with European education back to Ukraine

Author : Serhiy Sydorenko

Source : 112 Ukraine

Erasmus gives a chance student from not wealthy families to study abroad, and some use this chance to move abroad
13:46, 14 March 2017

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These days, European students and scholars celebrate quite a specific anniversary - 30 years of the Erasmus program, which allows students to study in the foreign universities. Ukrainians have been enjoying this program during a decade.

Erasmus gives a chance student from not wealthy families to study abroad. Moreover, the can even save some money after turning back to Ukraine. EU covers for those who passed the competitive selection, training costs, relocation, even a tour of Europe, and provides on average 850 euros per month for accommodation. An interesting detail - students from partner countries, including Ukraine, have higher scholarship than EU citizens.

And it is only a small part of the opportunities for young people and for Ukrainian universities, which provide European program with a total budget of 14.7 billion euros for 6 years. For three decades, 9 million students took place in Erasmus, as citizens of the EU and partner countries. During the decade of the program in Ukraine it was attended by over 3,000 of our students and graduates.

Related: Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science to recognize certificates in higher clerical education

And, of course, the question is "for whom" Ukrainian youth is studying in European campuses?

Is not it just “the fatal brain drain”? Would students with European education ever return to Ukraine? We met with some Erasmus students in order to find the answers to these questions and hear ideas about what should change.

Without the comfort zone

This article was began by a meeting with the heroine of the recent news and Facebook-battles. Natalia Boiko, 27-year-old Deputy Minister of Energy, for some years studies in Germany.

As it turned out, the then Lviv student applied to the EU program, although did not really wanted.

"My friend literally forced me to apply. In 2011, I had a serious depression, because I was a student of Law Faculty, and after training in the courts, I did not longer see my future in this system. And at the same time, I have completed my sport career. I just won the karate European Championship, but realized that I do not want to do it professionally anymore. Erasmus was the rescue."

Natalia studied Energy law and did not originally plan to return home.

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"I felt that I could not work in the energy sector in Ukraine - too odious processes took place in this area. And the end of 2013, I still left for Kyiv. Shell was going to develop Yuzivsky area, and bought me for that period from the ERM company.

It was the end of November, the third day of the revolution. Of course, I came to Maidan and started live it...

So when in April Shell rolled its project, I told ERM about my resignation and turning back to Ukraine. Although I did not understand then, where would I work," she recalls.

Natalia Boyko admits that returning home meant coming out of their comfort zone, and it was a difficult step. But Ukraine is now giving a chance that cannot be wasted.

"Germany is a very comfortable country where you can always be middle class. But you would never become a German. And in Ukraine, these social lifts really work.

I do not know how long it would last, but now you have a chance to achieve much more in a shorter time," she explains.

When the profession is important

Olexander Ivanov, coordinator of the informal association of Ukrainian graduates of Erasmus Mundus, admits that most Ukrainian students remained in the Western countries after training. Someone leaves only for the graduate school. Someone, forever.

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"Economists, political scientists, lawyers in Ukraine have more space for self-realization, and therefore they would come back more likely. But almost all remain the engineers, physicists, chemists, biologists and so on remain in the EU", he said.

"I have a friend chemist who went to Germany to graduate school. She told me - you just cannot imagine the quality of this equipment, opportunities for scholars. And I understand her," recognizes Natalie Boyko.

Although there are some exceptions. The European Union is heterogeneous, so some level of university equipment is similar to Ukrainian one. Yelyzaveta Chorna, who studied at three universities Erasmus in Southern Europe, has faced it. Perhaps this was one reason why she chemist decided to return to Ukraine.

"Exemplary equipment? I did not see it! - She laughs, recalling their experience. – Perhaps everything is different in Germany or Sweden, but we had old computers that had been loading for half an hour. We were forced to save on reactants because they were expensive. Sometimes we did not even have gloves, so we had to work with chemicals with our bare hands - although the university was obtaining financing remedies."

Yelyzaveta returned to Ukraine with her husband, also a student of Erasmus, whom he met while studying. She recognizes that initially planned to stay in the EU, find work in Poland, but the feeling of "second home" there has not appeared.

Papers in other languages

Erasmus students who returned to Ukraine, most often go to work in international companies. And in recent years, after the revolution, increasingly there are those who choose to work for the state.

We met graduates of Erasmus in the office of "European deputy prime minister" and in the ministries.

Iryna Shyba is working under the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, she is involved in the Association4U project. At the same time, she is a volunteer in several community organizations, particularly in Reanimation Package of Reforms.

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Iryna has a Master's degree in economic law from the universities of three countries, and these were not some exclusive terms. Erasmus gives students the opportunity to change a few places while learning, absorbing some culture and scientific schools. All the institutions of this chain follow one program, so learning continues with moving - just with a different team.

And in Ukrainian reality, even one foreign diploma is too much.

Ministry of Education two years ago facilitating nostrification (recognition of diplomas), and the process still takes at least six months.

And this process still scares students educated abroad.

And in general, those who studied "there," are trying to avoid bureaucracy "here."

"I set to work in Ukraine, I see some possibilities and perspectives, but I want to defend my PhD thesis in the West, and now I am applying to different programs for this. Defending in Ukraine is too difficult... let's say, specific," the graduate of Erasmus Anastasia Prydius former student of Odesa Polytechnic Institute.

Changing minds

Erasmus graduates willingly share ideas on how to return to Ukraine more students. The most complex problems are those that require changing consciousness.

Anastasia Prydius said that from the beginning did not consider the possibility to stay in the EU and hoped that her diploma opens the door to the desired workplace in Ukraine. The reality was different: most employers do not care about foreign education. "When I was applying for a job, I have heard, you studied abroad? That's great, but for us it is nothing."

Related: Polish state universities lowered fees for Ukrainian students

And that was enough "soft" option.

"Western education even was a kind of disadvantage. I was often asked why I came back. And these questions came from Ukrainian companies and subsidiaries of European business in Kyiv," Yelyzaveta Chorna admits.

Olexander Ivanov confirms that students, who returned to Ukraine, are often seen as "losers."

"We always hear this questions: it did not work for you? You have failed? Why did you come back? I have heard it from friends, neighbors, other students; they perceive my as returning a step back," he said. Olexander tries to explain to students Erasmus, who have not yet made a choice, that coming back to Ukraine is great.

It is equally difficult to solve the problem, which is the reason why young Ukrainian scientists go abroad. Basic science is in a difficult state, and laboratories in Poltava would not soon be equipped just like it in similar sized German Mannheim.

But there is a barrier that would change very soon.

We have repeatedly heard: an important argument for leaving in the EU, is ... visa regime between Ukraine and the EU.

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"In Rotterdam, I buy a ticket on the Internet, go with my friends to the station, and in a couple of hours I am in another country. And in Ukraine, I have to schedule everything at least two weeks in advance; apply for a visa and so on," Iryna Shyba does not hide the irritation. "A year or two you live free, and then come back to Ukraine, like in a cage!" Said Olexander Ivanov.

Another idea for which came all the parties, no one can hold a person in Ukraine by force, so there is no sense to oblige them to return after graduation. By the way, 27% of the fellows during studies marry other Erasmus-students from another country. So they just cannot turn back.

So the desire to return must be sincere. And fortunately, many really have this desire.

None of those with whom we spoke, regrets that he decided to return, despite all problems and difficulties.

"After years of study and work "there," I learned to appreciate and love Ukraine. We also have picturesque mountains, sea, and interesting history, like Spain or other countries. But here I am at home. I am happy," says Yelyzaveta Chorna. "If you realize that you have prospects in Ukraine with your new knowledge and experience, you would come back. The main thing is to get to this understanding," Anastasia Prydius notes.

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