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.'