ZBARAZH, Ukraine — At this time of year, celebrating and studying go hand in hand in Ukraine.
Exams at Ukrainian colleges and universities usually last for two weeks after the semester ends and some students even end up cramming and Christmas-tree shopping at the same time.
Diana Boliukh, a third-year management student at Ternopil Ivan Puluj National Technical University, is worried that her exam might fall on Dec. 31 — as some other classes have this year — and she may be ringing in the New Year wrung out from studying.
Ukrainian students usually start classes on Sept. 1 no matter what day of the week it is, and their semesters are longer than in Canada, up to 18 weeks at some schools. This year, however, COVID-19 forced a later start.
At Boliukh’s school, every program has at least four exams, though students scoring higher than 75 per cent in course work over the semester can get exemptions.
For those obliged to sit exams, the pressure of doing so amid all the pleasures, distractions and family responsibilities of the holiday season can sometimes lead to desperate measures, Boliukh said.
She recalled one second-year business class in which a classmate named Viktor was not fond of studying.
“He brought with him a small pack of paper,” she said. “He came to the exam, sat at the last table, and answered all the questions with the help of this paper.”
When Viktor handed in the fraudulent work, the professor checked one passage and, as happens from time to time, asked him to explain it.
“He couldn’t even read what he wrote,” Boliukh said.
Those who don’t pass must exams must rewrite them if time permits before school resumes or risk expulsion.
The exam season is also stressful for professors and faculty.
Miroslava Hudyk, who teaches philosophy and politics at Ternopil National Economic University, taught 13 classes this semester and has only three days after exams end to grade them and submit marks.
That’s why on her politology, or political science, exam, she favours practical questions over theoretical. They are quicker to mark.
Lidiia Kobyl, a first-year student in the post-graduate Global Business Management program at Humber College, had previously graduated from a four-year journalism program at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.
“There is a big difference,” Kobyl said. “In my opinion, the Ukrainian system is easier. Because here you study, you have some assignments. But they are not big and hard, as you currently do in the Canadian semester.”
In Ukraine, she said, it’s possible to miss a lot of classes, cram for a week or two before the exams and pass with decent marks. In Canada, the course demands are usually heavier and the cost of falling behind far larger.
“I feel like I pass exams every week or two in Canada,” Kobyl said. “I mean, it is very different from the Ukrainian system.”