May 27, 2024

From UWC in the Netherlands to the University of Richmond in the US on a Full Scholarship as an Ukrainian Student

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Olena from Ukraine 🇺🇦

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From UWC in the Netherlands to the University of Richmond in the US on a Full Scholarship as an Ukrainian Student

Hello, my name is Olena and I’m from Ukraine. I got into the University of Richmond Early Decision this year. 

My background 

I'm from the central part of Ukraine, quite a rural place. I went to a Ukrainian high school, which I graduated from, and then attended UWC Maastricht. I was involved in youth activism, and I guess it's something that motivated me and something that drove my development. I was always involved in the student council and local youth organizations, had an internship in the regional Department of Youth and Social Policies, and always tried to support youth and youth initiatives. The peak came when COVID started, and the majority of organizations just moved toward remote work. I was worried about everything being so globally targeted, so I tried to promote something more local, not as massive as huge events or forums but something targeted toward my local community. When Russia invaded Ukraine, most of the organizations switched to more humanitarian and military action, which is understandable, but I was worried about how the major organizations just stopped providing whatever they were providing for village youth across the country and how many people of my age lost the opportunity to do something. It all just sparked my desire to promote youth engagement and projects that young people and students would participate in.


I scored 140 on the DET, but Richmond didn’t ask me to provide this test. I also applied SAT-optional. At UWC Maastricht I’m studying in the IB system. My HL subjects are: English B, Economics, and Global Politics and my SLs are Ukrainian Self-taught, Math AA, and Physics. The IB score I applied with is 36/42. 


I put my CAS part of IB as my extracurriculars. I started an earrings club last year at UWC Maastricht. I took over and reformatted the jewelry-making club. 

My service is Serve the City, which is the organization realizing many projects from refugee centers, farms, and child care. It's basically providing the space for people who are locals or who just want to help the city by volunteering. Last year, I just joined this project, and this year, I took a little bit of the organizational role and promoted this among the schools in the city. Usually, volunteers were university students or older people who were just lonely and who wanted to help something somehow during the weekend, and now it's more open for high school students as well.

My first activity was hiking. Once a month we would go on a weekend for a hike somewhere in the Netherlands or Belgium. This inspired me to join the Duke of Edinburgh award, and I just got the golden award for this program. 

This year my activity is the self-defense club that I also started. We made a contract with the school in the city and this kind of external CAS now with over 40 regular participants. 

I also wrote about working for the Ukraine UWC National Committee where I am having the position of a Junior Student Support Coordinator, working on the orientation for new incoming students. 

I'm a part of WiTech Ukraine promoting technology and STEM for young girls in the schools and universities in Ukraine. I am working on the Partnerships and Communications there.

I was a part of and then the head of the student council back home. We merged a lot of student councils from different schools in my region to one student council of the region and then we worked on expanding the network of schools participating in it. 

In order to give back to my community, I created a project called “Youth Academy of Leadership. Makhnivka” with the help of the Student Initiative Fund at UWC Maastricht in the size of 1,000 euros. To continue it this year I won the 2000 euro Go Make a Difference grant for the next two years. I did it for the local community back home in my village and it was the youth academy of leadership Makhnivka in the place where I was born and where I come from. It was a two-week project promoting youth activism and showing some skills that I gained at UWC to those who were just studying in school because I felt like there was a four-year gap between people who had some experience in activism and project leadership and people who were just 14 years old. Because there were not enough tools for them in the country in the state of war to start something, I felt there was a need for that.


Why Richmond?

In my school, there is a big culture of applying to US universities due to the Davis scholarship program providing additional financial aid for US universities. I immediately liked the liberal arts program and thought that it would be interesting for me. First, since my whole life I was interested in logistics supply chain management, I started looking for the places with the logistics of supply chain management majors but I didn't like the vibe of the places. I know it may sound really silly but I was just chasing people on LinkedIn studying in the schools I was interested in and asking them about the university looking for something that would fit me. Based on their answers and the vibe they were giving I was evaluating how fitting the place would be for me. 

The more I progressed the more I got interested in politics and economics which are my higher-level subjects in UWC. So I started looking for majors that would unite those two subjects and I found philosophy, politics, and economics. It sounded like a perfect match for me and I started looking for places that were offering this major. 

The University of Richmond was one of them and I found some people from there and I really liked the vibe, the location and it was the match according to my grades and my achievements and what they provide. I am studying in the Netherlands now and we are biking a lot here. Since I loved biking during these two years so I wanted to be in a city where the culture of biking is somehow present Richmond is one of the cities in the US with the biggest amount of biking paths per person so it sounded like an additional reason to apply. 

Later they offered me (combined with the Davis Scholarship) a full-ride scholarship based on my merit and need. Everything is covered and I have an unconditional offer.

My essays 

I mentioned that I'm making earrings, and in general, I love jewelry making. I described how I set up my club in UWC Maastricht and how I noticed some cute stuff that people were wearing. I was writing my common app essay about how I started with my childhood when I was using plasticine to make earrings as decorations and some other jewelry pieces from plasticine for my friends and me in primary school and kindergarten.

I described how this passion went over the years and how I would buy fishing hooks because I didn't have proper materials and formed them into wires in the process of making earrings and jewelry. Afterward, I could afford some better material. When I came to UWC Maastricht, I got funding from the school to start the club and gain more skills and better tools.

My essay was about this journey and how I learned about alternative ways of self-presentation and how we should pay more attention not just to those that are socially recognized. A big part of my essay was the analysis of alternative ways of self-expression and how we also should normalize accepting those. I also told about how I sometimes see people's earrings and the stories behind those pieces of jewelry.

My second essay was answering the prompt "if you had a chance to provide some policy or some project or some renovation on any level what would it be". Since I have a big passion for transportation and logistics, I wrote about how a well-organized transportation system would change the look at poverty and social injustices. For example, back home, in the small village I was born in, the ambulance wouldn't even come on time because of the absence of centralized roads. I told one of the stories when I had a high fever, and even the ambulance could not get on time because of the absence of proper transportation routes. This was an important aspect of how we don't have to provide resources to every single community, but rather we have to provide the routes and ways for people to reach the resources from those communities.

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from Ukraine 🇺🇦

Duration of Study

Aug 2023 — May 2027


Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)

Learn more ->
University of Richmond

University of Richmond

Richmond, US🇺🇸


✍️ Interview by


Patryk from Poland 🇵🇱

UWC Dilijan student & politics passionate

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