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Students from Ukraine making most of their Alfred University experience

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Four students from Ukraine have settled in at Alfred University

Bozhena Snizkho, Alina Zabihailo, and Yuliia Koreiba, and Artem Kolisnychenko at the FIAT LUX

ALFRED, NY – Alfred University students Yuliia Koreiba, Artem Kolisnychenko, Bozhena Snizkho, and Alina Zabihailo are like most any teenager in their first year of college. They find themselves outside their comfort zone as they acclimate themselves to living away from home for the first time while adjusting to rigors of their classwork.

But these four are anything but ordinary. Citizens of Ukraine, they arrived on the Alfred campus less than two months ago, each of them recipients of academic scholarships approved by the Board of Trustees shortly after war broke out in their homeland in February. More than 4,700 miles from their homes and families, they face uncertainties that most college students couldn’t begin to comprehend.

The four are immersed in a new culture, and the differences between rural, small-town Alfred and a large city like Kyiv aren’t insignificant. Yet despite the whirlwind nature of their lives these last few months, Yuliia, Artem, Bozhena, and Alina have adjusted quite well. They are excelling in their studies, making new friends, and exploring the many extracurricular activities Alfred University has to offer.

Yuliia Koreiba, Alina Zabihailo, Bozhena Snizkho, and Artem Kolisnychenko chat outside the Alfred University College of Business Olin Building.

Yuliia Koreiba was living with her family in Kyiv in February, finishing her final weeks of high school and looking forward to late summer, when she would begin her first year of studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Then, on February 24, the day before Yuliia was to sign her contract to enroll at UIC majoring in business, the Russian military invaded Ukraine, touching off a war that is now in its ninth month. Soon after, Yuliia and her family made the difficult decision to give the money they had saved for her education to the Ukrainian military to aid in the war effort.

“At that point, I wasn’t really thinking about my studies. I felt like I had no future, so I decided to change my goals. I wanted to help others and felt it would be more beneficial to send the money to the military,” Yuliia says. “These are people who volunteered, without any experience. We wanted to do something to help them. My father has three children, so he couldn’t join the military. But he thought if he couldn’t fight, he would keep his business going and help (with the war effort).”

Through their donations, her family purchased and delivered several vehicles, as well as ammunition and night vision glasses for the Ukrainian Army. Yuliia’s dream of attending school in the States was put on indefinite hold.

In March, Yuliia says, she “heard there was a university (in the U.S.) setting aside funds to help Ukrainian students. I said I’d like to try that.” A business analytics major, with a minor in marketing, Yuliia’s decision to attend Alfred was made largely in part because of the programs offered in the university’s College of Business.

“My parents are both entrepreneurs, so business is in my blood,” Yullia says. “I knew from early childhood that I wanted to study business.”

Artem Kolisnychenko, like Yuliia, hails from Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv. A business administration major, he hopes to someday become an entrepreneur. He says he had always wanted to attend college in the United States, “because the education system here is better than in other places.”

Artem enlisted an agency in Ukraine to help him find colleges in the U.S. and one school the agency suggested was Alfred University. “They had scholarships available for students from Ukraine, so I decided to come here.”

Bozhena Snizkho is from Ivano Frankivsk, a city of 230,000 located about 370 miles west of Kyiv. A business administration major, she knew about Alfred University’s business programs and applied to the university in early February, later learning on social media about the scholarship opportunity offered by Alfred to Ukrainian students.

“I was also considering attending college in the UK or Spain, but I decided on pursuing Alfred when I learned about the scholarship,” says Bozhena, who aspires to someday own an office building housing health- and personal care-related businesses. “A full scholarship is a great opportunity.”

Alina Zabihailo, a business administration major from Kyiv, applied in January to several colleges in the United States, including Alfred University. She was accepted to Alfred in March and offered a scholarship the same day. She says in addition to the scholarship, the tennis program played a key role in her decision to enroll at Alfred. Like her compatriots, she envisions herself becoming an entrepreneur after college.

“It was difficult to decide (on a college), but I chose Alfred based on the communication with the tennis coach (Jordan Crouch),” says Alina. A key member of a Saxons’ women’s tennis team that enjoyed its best season in more than a decade, Alina was recently named the Empire 8 Conference All-Star and Rookie of the Year. “I was offered a scholarship to a couple other colleges, but the crucial part of my decision to come here was the communication from the University. They were so accepting.”

Only 15 minutes from Alfred!

Shortly after the Russian invasion began, Alfred University President Mark Zupan began spearheading an effort to bring awareness to the struggles faced by the Ukrainian people. He ultimately convinced fellow presidents at 28 colleges and universities in six states to jointly award honorary degrees to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in recognition of his courage and leadership in the face of the Russian invasion. Not long after, Zupan and Jonathan Kent, vice president for Enrollment Management, began discussing offering scholarship aid to students from Ukraine.

“We wanted to do something beyond just presenting the Honorary Degree for President Zelenskyy to help the people of Ukraine and address their challenging circumstances,” Zupan said. “Offering the scholarships was the perfect way to do that. These young people have been through so much. We are honored to be able to help them.”

“Once the war broke out in the Ukraine, we wanted to see if we had any Ukrainian students that had applied,” Kent explained. “Once we saw we had a few students, I reached out to them to see how they were doing and if they were still considering attending college in the United States. They all had said yes, but they needed support in order to attend because their families were affected by the war.”

Yuliia, Artem, Bozhena, and Alina are enjoying their experiences at Alfred University, both in the classroom and through involvement in clubs and other extracurricular activities. All four have joined the International Student Association, through which Alina and Yuliia has organized an on-campus event, “Ukraine As It Is.” The event, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 27, will engage attendees in discussions of Ukrainian history and culture. The campus and local communities are invited to the event, which aims to educate people on Ukraine, beyond what has been shown on news broadcasts.

“Not everyone knows about Ukraine,” Alina says. “We have a long history and valuable culture.”

Yuliia, who describes herself as a workaholic, has immersed herself in all Alfred has to offer. In addition to the International Student Association, she is a member of the Marketing Club and the Speech and Debate Society. She and Alina also formed a new student organization, the Global Studies Club, for which they serve as co-presidents.

“I’m trying my best to take advantage of the opportunities I have here. It was a great opportunity to come to Alfred and I want to make the most of it,” says Yuliia, who stays active in her parents’ business by doing marketing work remotely.

Bozhena is secretary and treasurer for the International Student Association, vice president for the Speech and Debate Society, and is a member of the Marketing Club. Artem hopes to pursue entrepreneurship activities in the College of Business.

The students’ transition from their homes in Ukraine to life on a rural American college campus has not been difficult.

“I really love this University. I’m from a big, busy city. Here, it is like a breath of fresh air. It’s like spending time in the small village where my grandmother lives. Everyone knows everyone; everyone says hello to each other,” Yuliia says. “This University really works for the students. That’s what I love about it here. President Zupan is so engaged with the students and wants to make sure we enjoy our time here.”

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Bozhena agrees. “I really like Alfred and enjoy all my classes. Everyone is so kind and friendly here. Everyone knows each other,” she says.

“It has been great,” Alina adds. “I love all my classes. I’m taking 20 credits, but it doesn’t feel difficult. I can still find time to play tennis and socialize.”

“It is good, but you can’t really go anywhere because there is no public transportation,” says Artem, who admits it has taken time to adjust to Alfred’s rural location. Kyiv, with a population of nearly 2.9 million, is larger than all but two cities in the U.S. “In Europe, there is public transportation everywhere. Here, it’s hard to make it to the city.”

The students say that language barriers have not presented a problem, as they learned English from an early age at their Ukrainian schools. “Everyone learns English beginning in the first grade,” Alina says.

While attending high school in Kyiv, Yuliia received online instruction through Keystone National High School, a private correspondence and distance high school based in Bloomsburg, PA. She was able to take other classes not offered at her high school—like international business, government, and environmental studies—and says it helped prepare her for the transition to college in the United States.

The students face challenges, but they aren’t at all daunting.

Artem, who spent the last two years of high school in Kyiv learning remotely, said the biggest obstacle he has faced has been re-acclimating himself to a schedule of in-person instruction.

“It’s not difficult, but I had not been doing my studies in person,” he explains. “Before, I was able to study at home, and make my own schedule. I could go anywhere at any time.”

“My time management is good, so I have no problems with my classwork. I thought the language barrier could be a challenge, but it hasn’t been,” Alina says. “Everyone here has been so supportive.”

“I was mentally preparing myself for a few years that I was going to study abroad, so that helped me,” Yuliia adds. “There are a few cultural differences, which are the biggest challenge. And my family is still helping the military, providing supplies to the battlefield. I wish I could help.”

Bozhena says there are some cultural differences between her home country and the United States, noting that people here are different in the way they approach each other. “People here are so friendly. They come up to you as strangers and say ‘hi.’ That would never happen in Ukraine; people would think you’re weird.”

Alina agrees. “The culture here is different, but I like it,” she says, explaining that it took some time to get used to what she calls “small talk.”

“We don’t have that in Ukraine. But here, it helps you make friends.”

Yuliia says the differences in people at Alfred bring them together, which has helped her adjust to her new life as a college student and helped her make new friends. “The diversity here makes it easy to learn about other cultures. The diversity of the students, their different experiences, is what brings people together and makes this University such a unique place.”

Kent says Yuliia, Artem, Bozhena, and Alina have been wonderful additions to the campus.

“These four students have adjusted super well to the Alfred University community and have been open to discussing what’s happening in the Ukraine in addition to sharing their culture beyond the war,” Kent said. “They want everyone to know Ukraine is friendly, entrepreneurial, and growing country. They have been an amazing addition to the university community.”

The students do miss home—the food, the activities and convenience of living in the city, their friends, and their families.

“I think about my family, of course,” says Artem, when asked what he misses most. His parents and older brother, Andrii, are living in Prague, Czech Republic, where Andrii is studying journalism and communication at Anglo-American University. “I do miss my life back home, in the city. It’s so much different than here.”

“I miss my family. My cat. I really miss our food.” says Yuliia, the oldest of three siblings. “I miss people of my culture. Having other people from Ukraine here has made it easier because we share our culture and our experiences.”

“I miss everything from home—my family and friends. I miss the city; there’s so much more to do there,” says Alina, who has one sibling, a 5-year-old brother. “And the food…the food is so much better in Ukraine.”

“I miss my family, and my dog. I miss the city. There is so much more to do at home,” says Bozhena, who has a twin brother and a younger sister. “Sometimes I feel bad that I’m not more homesick. But I am so busy here.”

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