Published: 01-02-2023 15:32 | Updated: 03-03-2023 12:51

After fleeing Ukraine - Dariia continues to follow her dream of becoming a doctor

Dariia Chernovska was following her dream, studying medicine at Bogomolets National Medical University in Kyiv, when Russia invaded Ukraine and she was forced to flee. Now she is carrying out an internship at the department of physiology and pharmacology in Daniel Andersson's lab and has her sights set on studying medicine at Karolinska Institutet in the autumn.

Portrait of a student in lab envoronment.
Dariia Chernovska studied medicine in Kyiv, now she is doing av internship at KI at the department of physiology and pharmacology.

Dariia Chernovska comes from a small town in central Ukraine. Already at a young age she knew that she wanted to become a doctor.

“When I was 14, I received two biology books from school. I was very interested in the books and read them several times that summer. I decided that I wanted to become a doctor and from that time I was not interested in anything else,” Dariia Chernovska says.

After school, she got accepted to the education of her dreams: the medical program at the Kyiv Bogomolets National Medical University.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, Dariia left Kyiv to be with her family and together they travelled to the village where her grandparents live. But even in the small village they could hear the bombs and were forced to spend a lot of time in the underground cellar when the air raid sirens sounded.

“My parents told me to take my little sister and go to Sweden where our aunt lives. Our mother drove us to Romania where we crossed the border and then we travelled on to Sweden,” Dariia Chernovska says.

Learned Swedish on her own 

Once in Sweden, Dariia began to learn about what opportunities she had to continue her medical education. Soon she realised that she must speak Swedish to study medicine in Sweden. However, Ukrainian refugees do not have the right to SFI or other education via Komvux.
Dariia began to study Swedish on her own and at the same time learned more about the education at Karolinska Institutet. Suddenly, at the beginning of autumn, she received a message from her mother who had seen a post on Facebook with the information that KI offers internship opportunities for students from Ukraine.  

“I saw that it was the last day and the last hour to apply and panicked. But I made my application very quickly and wrote my motivation letter and collected all my documents and sent them at the last minute,” Dariia Chernovska says.

Opportunity for Ukrainian students to do an internship at KI

In September 2022, KI announced the possibility for students from Ukraine to carry out a funded internship through the Erasmus+ program at one of KI's research groups for at least two months. Daniel Andersson's research group at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology was one of the groups that registered their interest in receiving interns.

Person standing in Biomedicum.
Daniel Andersson's research group registered their interest in accepting Ukrainian students as interns within the Erasmus+ programme.

“I saw an advertisement from the central administration about that research groups could apply to accept Ukrainian students within the Erasmus+ programme. From my point of view, it was a certain thing to register our interest for,” says Daniel Andersson, lecturer and specialist physician at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital.

After registering interest, Daniel had to describe the research group's activities and indicate how many interns they were able to accept. The application process, matching of candidates to the research groups, was administered by the admissions unit in collaboration with the international office at KI.

“I received an email from the administration with the information that Dariia was interested in doing an internship with us. Based on Dariia's resume, she looked like a very good fit. It turned out to be absolutely true as Dariia quickly learned to handle the important experimental methods that we work with,” Daniel Andersson says.

In Daniel Andersson's lab, they research heart and skeletal muscle dysfunction in the context of inflammatory diseases. Within the research group, they often have students who carry out project work of various lengths.

“We are used to having students in the lab. It is rewarding and creates a good dynamic. In this case, it’s more important as it is critical to help medical students who have fled Ukraine to maintain contact with academic medicine. Dariia fits well into our group. It is great to see that she enjoys it here and that she has quickly developed skills so that she can perform certain research methods independently. Basic medical research, in general, needs more medical students who are interested in experimental research,” Daniel Andersson says.

Dariia Chernovska and Daniel Andersson in the lab in Biomedicum.
Daniel Andersson and Dariia Chernovska in the lab in Biomedicum.

Inspiring meeting

“Daniel invited me to Biomedicum and I was so surprised that he took the time to explain everything to me. He explained what they do and what kind of lab and research area it is. I was so inspired and happy and I felt that this is the right person that I want to work with,” Dariia Chernovska says.
Dariia's days usually starts at nine o’clock with a meeting with her supervisor about what will be done during the day. The rest of the day is spent carrying out various experiments.

“The first time I just watched. Then I carried out the experiments by myself but under observation and just now I have started doing them on my own,” Dariia Chernovska says.

Dariia has been with the research group for almost three months and the plan is to extend the internship until summer. 

Dreams of studying medicine and also do research

Dariia's Swedish is already very good, but the plan is to continue learning and to improve her English. Then, her goal is to apply to the medical program at KI in the autumn. 

“In the long perspective, I want to become a doctor and practice my profession in Sweden. That's why I'm studying Swedish right now. But I also want to help Ukraine and for my parents to have a good life there,” Dariia Chernovska says.

Previously, she had no plans on doing research after her studies. But after her internship at KI, her interest in research has grown.

“It was not my goal to work in a lab before. But after trying it, I changed my mind. When I enter my studies, maybe I can connect my education with research and do something similar to what I'm doing now,” Dariia Chernovska says.

Erasmus+ traineeship for Ukrainian students

Within the Erasmus+ traineeship programme, KI offered students from Ukraine the opportunity to carry out a funded internship (through a stipend) at one of the research groups for at least two months. The application period took place in September 2022 and was administered by KI:s admissions unit and the International Office at Karolinska Institutet.

Number of interns at KI: 8 students at 9 research groups