Olga Kustenko, a student on Trinity Business School’s MBA programme, discusses the humanitarian scholarship she received to support her return to Ireland to finish her studies via a Pathways to Business humanitarian scholarship, as well as her hopes of using her knowledge and skills to help her country heal from the damage caused by the Russian invasion.

Olga Kustenko initially came to the Trinity MBA programme on a merit scholarship that she was awarded in 2020. “For the last semester, I took an off-books period because I found out I was pregnant and I wanted to return to Ukraine,” she said.

She returned to her home city of Kyiv and had her child. “Then the pandemic hit and the programme was mostly online, and I found it a bit challenging to finish the programme. So, my goal was to come back to Ireland to complete it.”

As in-person learning began to resume in 2022, Olga made arrangements to return to her studies, even down to having booked a place in the Trinity on-campus nursery for her child. “Then, the war started.”

In the initial days of the invasion, Olga wrote to the college to say that she wasn’t sure she’d be able to come back as planned due to the extenuating circumstances. Olga’s classmates were sending her messages and checking in with her since the war started, asking how she was and whether she planned to come back to the course. She said that given how the war has made it difficult for her to access her bank account, she wasn’t sure how feasible it was. “Then I got a call directly from Professor Andrew Burke, the Dean of Trinity Business School, to tell me that the School had decided to award me with a humanitarian scholarship to cover my tuition fees, as well as an accommodation offer.”

She continued: “To be honest, that conversation was one of the crucial things that maintained my sanity during that period. The Dean asked me how I was doing and what the situation was like for my family. I explained that I was underground in a subway station with my family and my 10-month-old child.”

Soon after she learned of her scholarship, Olga left the city of Kyiv and moved with her family to the west of Ukraine. At the time of writing, her plan is to return to Ireland at the beginning of May to begin her classes.

Prior to the war breaking out, Olga had planned to return to her home country after her MBA and move into industry, ideally working in some area of business consulting with a sustainability focus. The situation in Ukraine has, understandably, caused her to reassess all aspects of her life. “It’s really hard to predict what the future will hold, but I think what I do will be connected with Ukraine because we will have to rebuild the country and I want to be a part of this process.”

“I see myself in the future serving as a bridge or connection between Irish and Ukrainian businesses in terms of investments or future projects that could be beneficial to both countries.”

Pathways to Business is a collaboration between the Trinity Business School and Trinity Access, focused on providing financial, academic and career supports to encourage students from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue business careers.

To learn more or support Pathways to Business, visit: https://www.tcd.ie/business/careers-and-community/alumni/pathways-to-business/ 

This article was first published by Trinity Alumni & Development, Summer Edition of Trinity Today