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HAW Hamburg and the war in Ukraine

'I'm in a game that won't end.'

Mykhailo Boiko from Ukraine has been a visiting student in the international Information Engineering degree course in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science since March 2022. He fled Ukraine shortly after the war began and applied for a place at HAW Hamburg. Because he is only 17, he was allowed to leave the country. His brother and father had to stay.

Mykhailo Boiko, 17, has been a visiting student in the English-language Information Engineering degree course since March 2022. Before that he studied at the renowned Taras Schevchenko National University of Kyiv.

Mykhailo Boiko, 17, has been a visiting student in the English-language Information Engineering degree course since March 2022. Before that he studied at the renowned Taras Schevchenko National University of Kyiv.

In the busy main building at HAW Hamburg's Berliner Tor campus, Mykhailo Boiko seems a bit shy. Called Myko for short, he is only 17 years old. 'I'm lucky,' he says. 'If I were 18 I wouldn't have been allowed to leave the country. My brother is 23 and he had to stay, together with my father. That really makes me worry.' In the mornings and evenings he follows the news about the situation in Ukraine; during the day he tries to avoid it: 'The battles, the missiles and the dying – I don't want to think about what could happen to them,' says Myko.

Shortly after the war began, Myko was able to flee Kyiv with his mother, a psychologist. 'I come from a wealthier neighbourhood. In the evenings we would sit in the dark at home because of the curfew and we'd hear shooting in the street. It was clear that we couldn't stay there.' They fled to his aunt in Bad Bramstedt. 'I like playing video games,' he says. 'Sometimes I think I'm in a game that won't end.'

His aunt immediately started looking for a place for Myko to study. 'I was studying math and physics at university in Kyiv and was in my second semester. Taras Shevchenko University, where I was studying, is quite prestigious, and I wanted to build on that.' They found the right English-language degree course on the HAW Hamburg website. 'I only like technology and math, anything else was out of the question. And the degree course had to be taught in English.'

I like playing video games. Sometimes I think I'm in a game that won't end.

Mykhailo Boiko is only 17 years old. He has been a visiting student in the Information Engineering degree course at HAW Hamburg since March 2022.

Following an initial meeting with the head of the International Office, Martina Schulze, and the head of the Information Engineering degree course, Prof. Dr. Martin Lapke from the Department of Information and Electrical Engineering, it was clear to Myko that he wanted to study at HAW Hamburg. He had photos of his certificates and transcripts on his phone which he used as part of the enrolment process. 'Myko's English skills were at the necessary level, and he completed an official language test to prove this. He was also required to provide copies of his high-school graduation certificate and his transcripts in German,' says Martina Schulze.

'After our meeting, Myko and I developed a plan for how he could study here with us. He can attend several courses here at HAW Hamburg now, to get a sense of the degree course, and he can continue his studies in Kyiv,' says Prof. Martin Lapke.

'In the summer I will finish my second semester at the university in Kyiv. The double workload is very heavy at the moment and I don't have much free time. I'm also living with my mother in a 17-square-metre space. That's all pretty challenging,' he says, smiling. 'At home I had my own room and I wasn't with my parents all day.' He still hasn't made any friends at HAW Hamburg. 'I just came from the lab, where I was working with a student from Nigeria. It doesn't matter to me where we all come from. I'm interested in the subject.'

And what are his plans? In winter semester Myko wants to formally enrol at HAW Hamburg in order to be a regular student at the university. 'I don't want to be seen as a refugee,' he says. 'That's important to me.'

'If he successfully applies and enrols as a regular student, Myko can get credit for the courses he has completed up until then,' adds Prof. Lapke. 'He should be able to do that!'

Interview: Katharina Jeorgakopulos

Additional information

More information, contact people, and offers for people fleeing Ukraine are listed on HAW Hamburg's Ukraine information and assistance page.

More information about the degree course is available on the Information Engineering page.