Valeriia’s graduate success story | From Ukraine to a career in London

Valeriia, a Ukrainian student, in Durham

Supporting our students to succeed is central to everything we do at Study Group, and we aim to promote deep and long-term relationships with our partner universities. So it is particularly rewarding when a student starts their international student career at one of our International Study Centres, and then progresses through undergraduate and postgraduate life at the same university, ultimately resulting in employment. 

We caught up with Valeriia, from Ukraine, who did just that.  

Valeriia started her studies in the UK at Durham International Study Centre (ISC), which is run by Study Group in partnership with Durham University. The high calibre of international students and academic standards at the centre see 83% of our International Foundation Year graduates offered a place at Durham University, a member of the prestigious Russell Group*. Upon completion of her foundation programme at Durham ISC, Valeriia progressed to Durham University for her BA and Master’s degrees. She now lives in London where she is working in marketing. 

Can you tell us about your first experiences at Durham ISC? 

We were the first year of students at Durham ISC. It was quite fun because we used to travel and live together. I made a lot of new friends, and it was a good introduction to the university. 

The ISC was very supportive. When I arrived, they offered me transport from the airport to the place where I was living. They emailed me with all the information I needed, and the accommodation people guided me on where I should go for groceries and things like that. When we had our first day on campus at the ISC, we had a welcome lecture and people were nice, telling us all the rules of living in the UK and everything we needed to know. So it made it easier for us to adapt to living in the UK. 

What was it like progressing from the ISC to Durham University? How was life at the University different? 

Progressing was quite exciting, but I kind of expected that. I applied only to Durham, so it was like destiny, if you can call it that!  

In my first year [at Durham University], I was living in Hatfield College. I had an en suite room, and I had a lot of flatmates. We had a shared living room and other facilities. It was a catered college, so you socialised with everyone when you go for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, so it was a nice experience.  

Studies were a bit harder, I would say, than in the ISC. There was a bit more pressure at certain times. During the first year there were a lot of assignments in a short period of time. Even in the second year, I had deadlines three, four days apart for quite long essays. I was constantly doing something, working in the library. All that was tiring, but once that was past, it was fine. Everyone has fun in the first two months and then the essays start coming in during December and January, and the pace picks up. 

There is plenty to do at university. There are sport teams and you can participate in college life. You can have fun with your friends, go to the bar. You meet so many people just in the city, if you go hang out with your friends.  

I also enjoyed going to formal dinners. They were fun. There are so many small traditions within the formal dinner that you have to know. When you go the first time, you kind of feel clueless, everyone's doing something, and you just have to keep up!  

You went on to do a Master’s Degree. Can you tell us about that? 

I always wanted to do a Master's degree. I felt I should do it straight after my BA, rather than start a career, and then contemplate going for studying again, because it's a different lifestyle.  

I studied Marketing for my Bachelor’s degree. But I wanted to do something more like a science-based behavioural psychology degree for my Master’s, to have a bit more knowledge from the psychology standpoint. One of my lecturers offered to look for a university that offered Master’s degrees in behavioural science but in the end I felt like Durham was better than my other options and I stayed. I know everything around here and it's a nice student life. It feels a bit homey, in a sense, you get used to living here. I think Durham is one of the best student environments. 

Do you have any advice for future international students?  

My advice would be, don't be scared to try new things. It's university life, you can try different sports, different activities, maybe you want to try some music lessons, discover yourself a bit more. 

And don't be scared to make mistakes in the first place. University is a learning experience, it opens the way to new experiences. 

Stay true to yourself, know what you want, and keep going to where you want to get to. 

What are your plans for the future? 

I'm planning to stay in the UK to work. After graduation I got an offer from Mott MacDonald, an engineering, construction, and consulting company in London. I'm now working in the product marketing department for the company. 

Your Durham experience in a few words…? 

“Inspirational. Exciting. Discovering new cultures!” 

Study Group supports thousands of international students from 120 countries into international higher education. To discuss how we can help grow your international student community on campus please contact us

* Based on data from 2022, when 83% of students who completed the programme and achieved the required grades in 2022 were offered degree study places with Durham University.