It was a surprise. The 23-year-old had just fled Ukraine, where he studied at the Ivano-Frankivsk National Medical University.
“I was feeling weak for a few days when I got home. Now, we have been told that online classes may resume from March 12, “Chowdhury said.” The university is strict and demands 100% attendance, but in this case, we do not know if our teachers are around. Have they fled elsewhere? The countries? Where will you teach us? How many are still alive? “
Chowdhury, a fourth-year medical student, flew to Romania after Russia fired missiles at Ukrainian cities. Before being deported, he spent several days in a Romanian asylum for immigrants from Ukraine — a special flight took him to New Delhi, from where he flew to his hometown of Hanskhali in West Bengal.
“Universities are trying to reassure us that Ukraine will return to normal soon, but we cannot go back now,” Chowdhury said. “My mother is very emotional, and my father asks me every morning if the Indians have any updates. The government has plans for all of us who have left Ukraine. What will happen to our education?”
India has evacuated about 18,000 people since Russia began its war with Ukraine on February 24. There were about 20,000 Indian students in Ukraine, most of them pursuing degrees in medicine.
Medical students mostly go to Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Poland because the courses are cheaper. Costs can be as high as six years in a medical course in Ukraine 315 lakhs and 320 lakhs. In comparison, the charge in a private college in India 380 lakhs and 31 crore for a five-year program in medicine.
Many students have financed their education abroad with loans. They are now worried about what the banks will do with the collateral attached to the loan. Some parents, like Chowdhury, used retirement funds to support their children’s education.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian universities want students not to pay their course fees. A university sent out a text: “The university plans to resume online tuition from Monday, March 14th. In this regard, remind students about tuition fees. Borrowers will be denied access to teams (Microsoft’s communications platform). The university’s accounting department reports that all banks operate and accept payments … “
While parents are now relieved that their children are safe and at home, they are also concerned about their future with the promise of online education. Of course, doctors can’t just do that with online tuition.
Anxiety and stress are evident when you talk to both students and their parents. Every day, Chowdhury and other students scan multiple WhatsApp and Messenger groups as they hope to nugget information around their degrees.
Stay in India
I want to stay in India. If my credits could be transferred to a medical college in India, I would not give up, “announced Sarthak Singh, a third-year student at Danilo Halitsky Lviv National Medical University.” But if that doesn’t happen, I can look to Hungary. As an alternative. “
A course is usually measured by the number of credit hours required to complete it. Ukraine uses the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), equivalent to 60 ECTS credits per academic year. The system helps European students transfer their educational qualifications to recognized countries.
Singh wants to return to India for a reason. He has had a difficult and long journey back home. It will take time for her to recover from this kind of shock.
Singh and his friends traveled 40 kilometers in a cab from Lviv and then walked another 30 kilometers to reach the Polish border at 2.30am on 27 February. He was unable to cross into Poland, where Polish border guards initially said Indian students would be allowed to enter. “But we realized there was isolation, and most Asians and Africans were not allowed to cross,” Singh said.
After that, he left for Budapest (Hungary) with a cab and then two trains. Fate helped him this time. He was able to enter Hungary from where he was brought to New Delhi.
The day he returned to his home in Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh), his father, a doctor, was at his clinic. His mother was sleeping at home. “When he woke up and saw me standing, he was touching me to see if it was real or he was dreaming,” said Singh, 23, who wants to be a radiologist.
On March 6, Singh decided to give a surprise to his mother to celebrate Women’s Day with his brother. “I cooked for her — vegetables, pulses — the simple fare she enjoys. We bought ice cream because he likes it. “Cooking that meal was a kind of catharsis for Singh.” I used to cook at my hostel. We used to make potatoes in different styles, ”he said on the phone.
Singh hopes his college will start online classes soon. When the war started, they were given two weeks leave.
Anuj Goel, who owns a sanitary shop in Budhana in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district, never wanted his son to go abroad. Harsh Goel, 20, did not listen to his father.
“There are 10-15 students from Muzaffarnagar and surrounding areas who were stranded in Ukraine. Their parents created a WhatsApp group to give each other hope. I will not send him (Harsh) back again, ”said Anuj Goel.
Harsh’s twin brother works for a Pune-based technology company; Her older sister also works in an IT firm.
“Every day, we would follow the news together for hours. We were very tense. There was a sense of relief when he crossed the border. We hope all the other children return home safe and sound, “said Dad.
Goel has spent 3So far 18-20 lakh rupees for the son’s education. “She wants to be a cardiologist. We had high hopes. Let’s see what happens next, “he said.
Repentance and a reality test
A team of agents linked Indian students to many colleges in Ukraine. They sell these universities to families, help fill out admission forms, arrange flights, and even run hostel messes for Ukrainian students. They charge a hefty commission for their services – as much as possible 38-10 lakhs.
Many students talked to Mint that all these agents disappear when they need them the most. The students dropped bombs around them and ran to Helter Skelter to plot their own escape.
The hasty departure from Ukraine was especially difficult for first-year and second-year students who had just attended classes offline because universities had been closed for months due to the epidemic. With the introduction of online classes, it is back in Square One.
“I am sorry I did not go to Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan to study. Courses in these countries are cheaper than in India. Now, I hear they are better than in Ukraine (courses), “says Yash Deepak Srivastava, a first-year student at Danilo Halitsky Lviv National Medical University and joined in November 2021.
Many students end up in Ukraine because agents package proposed ‘European education’ from Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Sometimes, students aspire to experience Europe because it promises quality of life. The website of Danilo Halitsky Lviv National Medical University states: “With rich agricultural land, a well-developed industrial base, highly trained labor and a good education system, Ukraine has the potential to become a major European economy. Personal income is increasing. “The macro economy is stable, while economic growth continues.”
The war has tested some of these assumptions.
Srivastava’s college is close to the Polish border and he was one of the few people to handle flight bookings on February 21, just days before Russia invaded Ukraine. Now, her parents want her to finish her first year at the university before exploring whether the credits can be transferred to other universities in Europe. Even when Srivastava was able to return to Ukraine and attend physical classes, his parents worried that he might face racism.
Indian students described growing anti-apartheid and racist behavior with them on social media. Video of the violence at the border checkpoint has been broadcast.
Indian students are requesting universities in Ukraine to send pictures of their documents which were submitted during the admission process. These documents will be required for possible credit transfers to other universities in Europe. Students also want proof of marksheet submitted there.
“Our documents are in the bunker and the college said it would send us pictures,” said Srivastava. Students were told to take shelter in bunkers during the bombings, often in the basement of their hostel.
Meanwhile, many students are appealing to various state governments and courts in India to grant them some relief. Like a credit transfer or a seat in a medical college in India.
‘Steam will fly soon’
Ukraine could get very cold. Exactly how cold? Recently, a defense expert said that a 40-mile-long convoy of Russian tanks could be headed for Kiev. Eastern Europe is expected to experience a cold snap this week, with temperatures dropping to minus 20 degrees Celsius at this time.
Harsh Goel, during his escape journey, called home to describe the climate. He said cold gusts of wind and snow were often the real enemy.
“I spent three days at the Romanian border with an NGO that provides us with food. It wasn’t enough. Everyone was trying their best but we stood for 30 hours before crossing the border, ”he recalled.
Undoubtedly, psychologists are hoping for a spike in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when students return to their routine in India.
“The war came two years after the Covid-19 epidemic and led to some unexpected pressures. In addition, the students went to the normal body clock toss for hours without food or clean water. They were kept in their bunkers for several days,” said Ginny. K. Gopinath, Chief Psychology Officer, YourDOST, is a mental wellness platform.
Psychologists hope that the first symptoms of this stress will be reflected in the form of psychological disorders such as neck pain, headaches, back pain and extreme fatigue. Symptoms of PTSD will later come in the form of anxiety, anger and fear.
Sarthak Singh has already had a nightmare নিয়ে he has returned to the Polish border. “I cry when I’m on the porch (of his house). I have nightmares. My parents are encouraging me to talk and if need be, I will ask for help soon, “he told Mint.
Living European dreams or even finishing their education will now depend on multiple factors. It will depend on what the Indian government decides, what the universities in Ukraine want, and even on the welfare of neighboring European countries. That’s a long and winding road.
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