Ukraine’s strong reputation for medical courses and affordable tuition had attracted more than 70,000 international students to the country. But as they fled the country at the onset of Russia’s invasion, many say they faced segregation and racism at Ukraine’s borders
One African medical student told CNN at the time that she and other foreigners were ordered off a public transit bus at a border checkpoint between Ukraine and Poland and asked to stand aside as the bus drove off with only Ukrainian nationals on board. The Border Guard Service of Ukraine told CNN at the time that the claims were untrue.
One year on, some of the students tell CNN they are in limbo:
Facing deportation: While hundreds of students were evacuated from Ukraine by their own countries, some stayed in the bordering European nations to which they had fled. Many are yet to be granted refugee status, said Korrine Sky, 26, a British-Zimbabwean citizen, adding that she has been in contact with some foreign students.
“Some were given between six months to one-year visas. As of February and March, a lot of the visas that they were granted at the start of the war, will be running out. So, they’ll be facing deportation. A lot of them have decided to go back to Ukraine,” Sky told CNN in a phone call from her home in Leicester, England.
“There’s also a large portion of students who’ve now gone back to Ukraine because their universities weren’t offering transcripts unless they return,” she added.
CNN has contacted the Ministry of Education and the minister for comment.
Unable to continue education: After fleeing the conflict, Sky said she hoped to complete her education at other European universities that had offered a place to international students displaced by the Russian war. However, her hopes were soon dashed after she discovered the scholarship opportunities were reserved mainly for Ukrainian students.
“That’s the same sentiments we’d had when we were trying to get on the buses and the trains (while fleeing the war) … It was Ukrainians only. No one seems to even have a single bit of empathy that our lives have been completely disrupted,” she said. “There’s a lot going on in the world at the moment… so we are lower down in the list of priorities.”
Mandatory exams in Ukraine: Some Ukrainian universities are mandating that students return in March to complete exams in order to graduate.
Students are protesting, writing in a statement that organizers are aware of the risks of traveling to Ukraine, with no insurance or direct flights available. CNN reviewed a consent form issued by Kyiv Medical University to students, stating that students take responsibility for all risks involved in traveling to Ukraine. CNN has contacted Kyiv Medical University for comment.
The Dean of International Students Faculty at the Ternopil National Medical University said its exams for students is currently being organized by the health ministry, and that the university will arrange another round of exams for international students who are unable to come. No timeline was provided for facilitating the exam outside Ukraine. CNN has contacted Ukraine’s ministry of health for further comments.
Graduates are also facing issues: Nigerian student Adetomiwa Adeniyi, 25, only had a few months of studies remaining when the war broke out. So he says he was able to finish the education online and receive a degree. Now, Adeniyi is unable to practice as a doctor, because Nigeria’s medical council (MDCN) does not recognize medical degrees acquired digitally.
He says he might be forced to repeat his final year in a Nigerian university or find a country abroad that will allow him to practice.
Costs put everything on hold: For fourth-year medical student Oyindamola Morenikeji from Nigeria, “everything is just at a standstill,” as she told CNN of her failed attempts to transfer to another European school, after her family already had a tough time funding her $4,000 per year education in Ukraine.
Morenikeji says she is considering applying to a Nigerian nursing school and starting all over again but is worried about the financial toll on her family. “It feels like when they were close to the final point, everything came crashing,” she told CNN.