Ukrainian student gets new opportunity at Eastern Michigan University

YPSILANTI – When Lada Protcheva was in her hometown of Ukraine, she lived a full life as a college student studying computer science, an expert equestrian, and mentor to young children during the height of the pandemic.

On the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2022, Protcheva was excited to pack her bags for a trip to Kyiv to celebrate her birthday with friends. “I woke up at 3:30 am to pack and when I was packing my things, I saw bright lights. Seconds later, I heard an explosion,” said Protcheva. “I didn’t realize what was happening and woke up my mom, who said the war had started.”

Months before, Protcheva heard rumblings of a Russia-Ukraine war – this was the country’s reality on her birthday. Protcheva, the only English-speaking person in her family in Ukraine, kept a close eye on the news and shared information with her family to help keep them safe. She knew that her family had to eventually flee the country and leave behind a life she cherished.

The journey to the US

After Protcheva’s father informed her of a rocket sighting, her family packed up their things to head to her grandmother’s house in the country. “The first day (in a town near Kyiv) was hard,” said Protcheva. “We could hear explosions every day, so we stayed in the basement for five days without electricity.”

According to Protcheva, she and her family attempted to leave the region, but the fear of explosions on highways and Ukraine’s infrastructure kept them back. Protcheva stayed updated with news so she could eventually inform her family the next time they should leave. After a dangerous five days filled with alarms, bombs, and explosions, Protcheva insisted to her family it was time to leave Ukraine because it wasn’t safe. Unfortunately, her father wasn’t able to make the trip. He was required to stay in Ukraine because of the country’s military laws and the possibility of being drafted.

Protcheva left the country with her cousin’s children and with the help of the police, volunteers, and her sister. “My dad drove us to the Moldova border, and it was time to say goodbye to my family with the thought that I did not know when I would see them next,” she said. Protcheva made stops via car, train, and airplane to Romania, Turkey, and Chicago before reaching Michigan. Thanks to her sister, a graduate of Eastern Michigan University who helped with travel plans and connected her with EMU administrators, she was able to start a new life in Ypsilanti as a student.

New beginnings

Currently, Protcheva is a junior studying applied computer science. Although she misses her family and the distinct characteristics that make her country special, like the food, culture, and beauty, she is thankful for the scholarship support she’s received at Eastern.

Protcheva said she loves everything about the United States, including the supportive people. She appreciates the structure and flexibility EMU provides, including being able to make her schedule.

“EMU helped me in all areas of my life because I came here with nothing,” said Protcheva. “Without education, you have fewer opportunities. My family couldn’t afford to send me here, and EMU helped me with my future.”

Her long-term plan is to get an internship and then work and live in the US

About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 14,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University’s Colleges of Arts and Sciences; business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University’s website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

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