The Erasmus experience in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, continues.

Being a university student in Chernivtsi reminds me of my days in primary school. Monday is my main day. I take the matrushka bus number 5 from student dorm number 3 to Cathedral Square. The mint-green building hosts the Faculty of History, Politics and International Relations and is right next to Chernivtsi’s hot pink orthodox cathedral. When a lecturer enters the classroom students stand up until he or she tells them to sit down again. I feel so awkward doing that. During lectures teachers would write on the blackboards with actual chalk and students take notes in their tiny A5 notebooks. Power Point presentations and free university WiFi are almost unheard of. Not only the treatment at the university, also staying at a student dorm feels a bit like living with your parents again. The ladies who guard the place are called wachtjorshki. Since many university students in Ukraine are very young they have an exceptional task to look after those “children” and they treat them accordingly. University lecturers also have dorm duty and come by regularly to check upon students. The university even has parent evenings where lecturers and parents discuss the progress a student has made – just like in primary school. Some things are everything but familiar, however. In Chernivtsi one has to get used to studying alongside military students who visit classes in camouflage uniform.  Ukraine has compulsory military service and some of the guys chose to follow a military university education, thereby avoiding conscription after graduation.

But it’s not all about work and studying. Ukrainians love to celebrate. And presents are kind of a big thing here. Also, Ukrainians don’t waste a single opportunity to dress up. Apart from the obvious occasions there’s Valentine’s Day, Women’s Day, Men’s Day, Soviet Army Day, just to name a few. I couldn’t believe it when they told me on 7th March that there wouldn’t be any class the next day. I hadn’t heard of international women’s day until then, not to mention that it was an official public holiday here. The day turned into flower-mania.  Flower markets appeared out of thin air and hectic husbands and boyfriends went on their mission to find the nicest bunch of flowers for their lady – always an odd number.

Two months into my Erasmus adventure, I have started to explore other parts of Ukraine. My first trip was a long weekend in L’viv (formerly Lemberg), the cultural capital of Western Ukraine. Travelling by train within Ukraine is an experience in its own right and pleasantly cheap. While Chernivtsi is a provincial town, L’viv definitely has a more of a metropolitan flair to it. The city’s Austro-Hungarian legacy gives it a certain charm that is definitely worth experiencing. Tasting Galician coffee, chocolate and beer is a definite must and I recommend anyone to visit this beautiful city.

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