War drives Ukrainian teenager towards Belgian future – Expat Guide to Belgium


Three months ago, Mykyta would never have thought that he hoped to study for an engineering degree at a Belgian university.

But, like so many other Ukrainians who left their homeland as it came under military assault from Russia, his dreams had to change.

Now, the 17-year-old is one of 22 Ukrainians attending a class for newcomers at Technov Technical High School in Vilvoorde, a Dutch-speaking suburb of Brussels.

While some of her classmates pin their hopes on a soon return to Ukraine, once the situation allows it, Mykyta intends to continue her university studies in Belgium.

“I want to go to university at the end of this year, I want to go to an engineering course, maybe in the direction of electricity,” he told AFP.

The degree would be in English, and to get there, Mykyta is already taking classes to improve her fluency, preparing for an English certificate required for admission.

“I think I can improve my English and get a good job,” he said.

Mykyta was vacationing in Egypt with her parents and sister when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Unable to return to their hometown of Kyiv, their father took the family to relatives in Belgium and then returned to Ukraine alone in March, Mykyta said.

Her mother and sister hope to return in the coming months, but Mykyta plans to find a part-time job to pay the rent and stay in Belgium.

“Most Ukrainians are here with their mothers (because) usually their fathers and brothers stayed,” said Technov college principal Marc Deldime.

For two decades, his Catholic high school has been running transition classes for foreigners newly arrived in Belgium who need intensive instruction in Dutch to integrate the education system.

Currently, of its 430 students, 60 are foreigners.

Before the Ukrainians arrived, the school hallways echoed with languages ​​from other war-torn countries, including Syria and Afghanistan.

Teachers are trained to spot signs of trauma in children and can bring in psychologists if needed, Deldime said.

But, so far, he said Ukrainian children are doing well and “school allows them to forget about the war a bit.”

Alongside Mykyta, 14-year-old Ukrainian Lisa said she too was on vacation when the war started and it was impossible for her to return to Ukraine. Her father called on friends in Belgium to help them.

Although she is still too young to chart a path to higher education, Lisa said she also plans to find casual work in Belgium.

“I think maybe as a waitress in a cafe making waffles or ice cream,” she said.


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