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The war does not stop them from fulfilling their dreams of becoming English teachers


They don't want to get used to the war in their home country Ukraine. While the war is still going on, those who remain there are trying to make the best possible life for themselves, say students Anastasiia Mykhtoniuk and Olesia Hoban. When they got the chance to go on an exchange semester to Gävle, they didn't hesitate for a second.

Anastasiia Mykhtoniuk and Olesia Hoban. Photo: Anna Sällberg

Anastasiia Mykhtoniuk and Olesia Hoban. Photo: Anna Sällberg

We meet in the University Library on a crisp autumn day when the leaves are glowing red outside the windows. Both Anastasiia Mykhtoniuk, 20, and Olesia Hoban, 21, love autumn and they enjoy being outside.

– The landscapes are so beautiful here and the atmosphere is relaxed and peaceful. I really appreciate the forest and the fact that there are no high buildings in Gävle. For example, we have rented bikes through Sportoteket and cycled around to discover the surroundings, says Anastasiia.

"We have met very helpful people"

They arrived in Gävle in August and travelling to Sweden was not easy. The airspace over Ukraine was closed and air traffic was not functioning due to the ongoing war. They had to travel by bus to Poland and then wait a long time before they could fly to Sweden.

Once they arrived in Sweden, they experienced a warm welcome.

– We had read that Swedes are not very approachable, that they are reserved and not very talkative. But we have met very helpful people and our stay here in Sweden has been very pleasant so far, says Anastasiia.

They live on Campus Sätra and travel by bus to the University for their studies in English for Teachers, where they study together with Swedish students. Their university in Ukraine usually offers exchange studies in neighbouring countries like Poland or Romania, but with a new Erasmus+ programme within the European University EU GREEN, which the University is part of, they were now offered the opportunity to study in Sweden.

– It felt like a fantastic opportunity to experience student life and studies abroad. Especially for a longer period of time, a whole semester, as we usually can only go on short exchanges, says Olesia Hoban.

Olesia Hoban and Anastasiia Mykhtoniuk. Photo: Anna Sällberg

Olesia Hoban and Anastasiia Mykhtoniuk. Photo: Anna Sällberg

They enjoy their studies at the University and have experienced some differences from their studies in their home country.

– The teaching is very different compared to Ukraine. Here we are divided into groups more and we sit down to discuss together. Here, students are also expected to be more questioning, and we should be able to assess the work of fellow students, for example, says Anastasiia.

They appreciate student life here and the work that is done by Gefle Studentkår and the student unions.

– When we came here and didn't know anyone, we were given the opportunity to join in when they organized barbecues and other activities, which was great because we otherwise found it a bit difficult to adapt to everything new when we came here, says Olesia.

Their studies were paused

Both Anastasiia and Olesia come from the western part of Ukraine and their university is about three kilometers from the border with Slovakia. They are in regular contact with their families who still live there, and they follow the news.

– Our region has felt "safe enough" and there have been no missile attacks there. There are still some refugees left in our region and when the war broke out, our studies were paused because everything became very complicated. The air raids are terrible, and you know that there are missile attacks in other places, says Olesia.

They struggle with different feelings about the situation in their home country.

– On the one hand, you're grateful that the missiles didn't reach us, but on the other hand, it's hard to say that you're somehow "getting used" to the war, because then you feel guilty. It's not something you want to get used to. You want to be able to help and it's easy to compare yourself to others who are suffering more. This creates mental difficulties, says Anastasiia.

Had power certain hours

They fear that this winter will be similar to the last winter season.

– There were blackouts and the power stopped working. The lights could go out at any time, your mobile phone didn't work, you couldn't connect with the outside world and there was no Wi-Fi. We had power for maybe two hours a day. In the beginning we did not know when we would have power and when not. But then it became more organized; some streets had power at certain hours and other streets at other hours. We try to be optimistic. Our parents talk about positive things and try to live as well as possible, says Olesia.

Works as an online teacher

When they finish their studies at the University of Gävle in January, they plan to continue their studies in their home country and work as teachers. Anastasiia has already been working as an online teacher for three years. She teaches English remotely online and has taught people between 8 and 50 years old.

– It is a useful experience. In Sweden, most people are good at English, but not in Ukraine. We wanted to know what the secret is behind why Swedes are so good at English and Sweden seemed like a good choice for studying English, and we have noticed that there is a lot of communication in English in the classroom. I chose to become a teacher because I want to help people gain new knowledge and learn English, says Anastasiia.

Text: Anna Sällberg

Published by: Anna Sällberg Page responsible: Anders Munck Updated: 2023-11-16
Högskolan i Gävle
Box 801 76 GÄVLE
026-64 85 00 (växel)