Irish medical students hope to continue courses after leaving Ukraine

At least 37 students in ‘academic limbo’ seek Government help to complete studies

A group of Irish medical students who cannot return to Ukraine are seeking assistance from the Government and Irish universities to continue their studies, preferably in Ireland.

At least 37 Irish citizens studying medicine in the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Sumy and Ternopil have had to leave their universities but want to continue their studies.

The group has written to Government Ministers and TDs saying they have been left in “academic limbo” due to the war in Ukraine, with most of them well advanced in their courses.

Many of the students had already started clinical placements in Ukrainian hospitals or were due to start them later this year.

The students have also written to HSE chief executive Paul Reid to discuss the possibility of providing hospital placements for the medical students.

“We want to continue our medical education. Unfortunately, given everything that’s happened it’s very unlikely any of us will be able to return to Ukraine,” said Seána Valentine, a third-year medical student from Navan, Co Meath, who was studying at a university in Dnipro.

“We have heard of hospitals being bombed, some of our lecturers in bomb shelters, others are actively assisting civilians on the ground, and others had to flee. We would just like some practical support in order to continue our studies and preferably at home, if that was possible.”

Considerably cheaper fees

Medicine courses in Ukraine are considerably cheaper for students entering at graduate level, with tuition fees for a full degree costing the same as one year’s worth of fees in Ireland.

Glen Shire, who is from Limerick and a third-year student in Dnipro, said he worked three jobs last year to fund his medical school tuition fees in Ukraine.

“I got about €10,000 for my studies but it’s all in vain; now that’s all gone and I have nothing to show for it,” he said. “The unthinkable has happened. This has left us in a severe state of limbo with a very bleak future.”

Christiana Olaide-Kolapo, a fifth-year medical student from Navan, Co Meath, who was also studying in Dnipro, said students have been traumatised by Russia’s invasion.

Restarting her studies in Ireland was “pretty much my only choice right now” because of her parents’ reluctance to let her return even if the war ended, she said.

“Even if the universities open by September, personally I am too scared to go back,” she said.

Most of the students were either outside of Ukraine or had left before Russia’s invasion began on February 24th, 12 days after Irish citizens were advised to leave by the Department of Foreign Affairs.*

‘Disheartening’

Timi Ogunjimi, who is from Duleek, Co Meath, and a fourth-year medical student in Ternopil, said he decided to leave on February 26th after the nearby city of Ivano-Frankivsk was bombed.

He, like other students, abandoned most of their belongings in Ukraine when they left. He said it was “disheartening” to see people “loaded in buses, like sardines” trying to cross the border.

“I am not sure what will happen next because I can’t go back to school. The reality is Ukraine is a war zone,” he said.

Cinaria Albadri, who is from Dublin and a fifth-year medical student in Dnipro, said she had hoped to return to work as a doctor in Ireland after qualifying as a doctor in Ukraine.

“I don’t know what will truly happen now,” she said.

*This article was amended on March 9th to clarify that Irish citizens were advised to leave Ukraine on February 12th