Thompson Rivers University

Scholarship helps Ukrainian student focus on studies, family

September 28, 2022

When 21-year-old Kateryna (Kate) Tretiakova left her home in Kyiv, Ukraine, to attend TRU four years ago, she thought she’d never look back. She said goodbye to family and friends and embraced her new culture.

“My mom went to Canada years ago and when she came home she told me, ‘That country is made for you,’” says Kate. “She was right. Everything here makes sense to me — the society, how people behave and talk, the work structure, everything.”

A math lover since the age of nine, Kate threw herself into pursuing a Bachelor of Science in honours mathematics while volunteering with the TRUSU Math Club and working two part-time jobs. She organized math contests while pursuing research opportunities and attending conferences. Life was hectic, but Kate was managing.

Then, in an instant, everything changed.Peer mentor Kateryna Tretiakova

“I was so busy and then the war happened. No one expected it. No one was prepared for it,” she says.

Kate’s concern immediately pivoted from student life to the safety of her mother Olena and brother Oleh, 16, living in Kyiv.

“To get them from the capital was hard — stressful,” she says.

The duo safely arrived in Poland, but processing Oleh’s passport took more time than expected. It wasn’t until June that mother and son arrived in Kamloops. For Kate, getting them settled comes with many stressors and adjustments, but at least they are safe.

“Now I can focus back on my math,” she says, adding that after she receives her degree, she plans to pursue graduate studies with a goal of becoming a university or high school teacher.

Scholarship allows more focus on studies

At the same time Kate was worrying about her family’s safety in Ukraine, she also faced financial woes. As an international student with no financial support from family, she’s always relied on hard work and a solid plan. Receiving the Dr. Sherman Jen Scholarship for Science came at exactly the right time.

“The scholarship helped a lot,” she says. “At that moment I was trying to make a plan and figure out how to pay my fees and attend conferences. It was close and I don’t like (my budget) to be that close.”

Thanks to the generosity of donors, Kate was able to pay her tuition, attend multiple conferences in her field of study and greatly reduce her mental strain. Now in the final year of her bachelor’s degree, Kate’s excitement about math is stronger than ever and she’s committed to sharing her passion with all who will listen.

“It’s not just numbers. It’s not just memorization,” she says, adding that as a math tutor she tries to help students find the beauty in math along with the answers to their equations. “I find it very useful to talk about how things are connected. Math is everywhere in the world.”

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