Medical training is not the only reason students from Punjab travel to Ukraine for higher education. Many – around 400 each month by some estimates – also reach this distant land to take a course in Ukrainian. Although it may seem like an unlikely choice, but for in-state students, the course offers an easy ticket to other European countries. Additionally, admission to language courses does not require passing the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam, a major problem for many Punjabis seeking to move abroad.
Manpreet Singh (name changed), 32, from Jalandhar, who had traveled to Ukraine in November last year for Ukrainian lessons and is currently in Poland, said: “My agent in Punjab m I promised that he has contacts with local agents in Ukraine who will manage my entry into Poland and from there to Portugal once my course is over here.
He revealed that for Ukrainian language courses, the upper age limit for admission is a generous 38 years, and even a gap of 10 years between this course and the last taken by the student is allowed.
According to the 32-year-old, a large number of students choose Ukrainian language studies because admission to this course guarantees a 100% visa guarantee to travel to Ukraine.
“There are 15 other students from Punjab taking the language course with me at the same university in Kyiv. Also, no one comes here to learn the Ukrainian language, but they come to earn money and then to enter other peaceful European countries with good chances of finding work… Until the time they study here they also work and earn around Rs 1-1.5 lakh per month,” he said, adding that most of these students either work as taxi drivers or in hotels.
A student from Kapurthala studying Ukrainian at Kyiv International University said that some of their “seniors after finishing their language course from here went to Portugal with a valid visa which they managed to get with the ‘help from certain officers’. In Portugal, he added, they managed to obtain a one-year work permit making them eligible to work anywhere in 24 Schengen countries.
This student from Kapurthala has now been forced to return to Punjab due to the war. He claims to have made “a lot of money” there in six months and regrets that the war had damaged his plans to enter another European country as he had to return without completing his 10-month course.
Another reason this course sucks is the cost. A student from Bathinda, who is also studying Ukrainian there, said that the cost of the whole course is not more than Rs 2.50 lakh to Rs 3 lakh including accommodation and agent fees. Some agents, he said, charged Rs 5-8 lakh for aspirants with a promise of 100% visa guarantee. “Aspirants also pay this amount because they are going there to enter better European countries and it is a good offer for those who cannot pass IELTS,” he said, adding that they recover this amount in 5-6 months if they get a regular job in Ukraine. .
An education consultant from Jalandhar, which sends students to Ukraine, said that over the past year, students who were unable to travel to Canada, Australia, UK, etc. after failing the IELTS preferred Ukraine because it is a gateway to other European countries.
“A large number of students have gone to Ukraine over the past year to take a language course. But who goes there to learn the language? he joked.
Kapurthala i-Can consultancy owner Gurpreet Singh said that although they are not in the business of sending students to Ukraine but during the Covid period a new trend of sending students to Ukraine for language lessons has become popular in the state.
“I have seen students spend Rs 10 lakh to go to Ukraine for such language courses while the total expenses of such courses including air tickets, three months living expenses are not more than Rs 3 lakh,” he said, adding that even students with a gap of 10 years after graduation were eligible to take the course there. “Previously, only MBBS students and engineering students went there, but this trend of language courses is the newest,” Singh said.
“They want to go and work abroad without worrying about the course. They take this option after being informed that it can help them to enter other European countries,” said another consultant based in Amritsar, adding that the agents were also misleading them without telling them that he was not not so easy to enter the Schengen countries.
“Even a lot of reputable consultancies were engaging in such immigration practices during Covid when companies were in bad shape. They sent several aspirants to Ukraine for language lessons after charging 2-3 times the actual expenses,” he added.
This consultant, however, accused the Delhi-based immigration consultants of offering this “language course method as it guaranteed visas for Ukraine”.
About 300 to 400 students from Punjab had been visiting Ukraine every month for several months, the consultant from Amritsar said, adding that some students from other states were also opting for the courses.