“Come back with the state-of-the-art knowledge and with willingness to live and build an independent Ukraine,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Ukrainian students in Canada in a nationwide video address Wednesday.
It’s the latest in Zelenskyy’s series of worldwide, virtual speaking tours to deliver his country’s message to the international community and appeal for continued support as his country continues to fend off Russian aggression.
Thanking Canadian universities for making their exchange programs available to Ukrainian students, Zelenskyy said he is proud of his country’s youth who are “improving themselves with new knowledge and experiences.”
Western students, including current Ukrainian international students and recently arrived exchange students attending Ivey’s MBA program, gathered on campus to hear Zelenskyy’s video address hosted by the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy.
In his address, the Ukrainian president highlighted the importance of protecting Ukrainian security and its economic institutions.
“We need to stand strong for our universities and our cities. We need to start developing when peace comes to our land,” he said. “That’s the most important precondition that we can put in place for our future generation.
“But without our young people, who are getting this (educational) experience overseas, it would be very complicated to make it happen; the process will be very slow.”
Far from home
Oksana Kosendiak and Sofiia Shulga are among six Ukrainian students who arrived at Western recently through the Ivey Business School’s MBA Academic Shelter exchange program. Heeding Zelenskyy’s call, they both recognize the importance of bringing back the knowledge they gain here to help rebuild their home country.
Although their arrival in Canada was filled with mixed emotions – excited about the program but worried about their loved ones at home at the same time – they know the significance of what they are accomplishing here.
“It was a tough month for me at first,” Shulga told Western News after hearing Zelenskyy’s address. “I was really homesick, and then I started to understand I need to go back to Ukraine and bring this knowledge to Ukraine and help rebuild the nation.”
Kosendiak was inspired by Zelenskyy’s message for Ukrainian youth studying abroad.
She said it can seem difficult for exchange students like her to figure out how they can help from the outside, but “we are doing our role here as much as we can.”
“I was really flattered that he has said to students, ‘We’re waiting for you to come back,’ because that is what we want to do: come back and rebuild our economy, rebuild our country, and make it even better than it was before.”
Both Shulga and Kosendiak are enjoying the MBA program and have felt very welcomed by the Western community.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the chance to come to the best business school in Canada and one of the best in the world,” said Kosendiak. “When we came here, the people were so helpful, we felt really welcomed and everything we needed was provided for us – we don’t even have to ask.”
Kosendiak is especially enjoying the case studies through the courses, where she gets to study real companies and their business concepts.
“We are studying cases from Twitter, Crocs, Under Armour, and those are real cases, dealing with real challenges and making decisions. The program is really interesting,” she said.
In his address, Zelenskyy urged Ukrainian youth to help engage and inform the international community about the war in Ukraine. “Do not allow anyone to forget about what’s happening in Ukraine.”
And Kosendiak, whose husband and parents are back in Ukraine, is determined to heed Zelenskyy’s call.
“In the beginning (when the war started) everybody was really engaged and really interested and now the interest is fading. The thing that everybody can do is to read and to know what is happening, read the news and share information. That is how we don’t forget the war in Ukraine, how we can keep the interest of people and not to make it go away and become a permanent situation there,” she said.