Studying During War: How It Feels To Write the Thesis From Kyiv

Alex, student of Munich Business School, in the basement during an air raid alert and some missile strikes and barricades in Kyiv

The war in Ukraine is unfortunately also part of the reality at Munich Business School. The MBS student body is international and many Ukrainian MBS students (and not only these) are currently fearing for their families, friends and homeland from afar or are even experiencing the horror on site themselves. Oleksiy (Alex) Levenko, a student in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship master’s program, wrote and defended his thesis from Kyiv in the past months. In the blog article, he talks about his experience studying during the war.

Let’s be honest, writing a thesis is not the most pleasant experience ;-). You need to read through dozens of articles, spend days and nights rewriting chapters, adding scientific value to your findings, analyzing data… how about doing all of these under the sounds of distant machine-gun fire and air raid sirens? Let me craft some new experiences for you. Google “Air raid siren sound”. Open it, increase the volume, put it in the background and carry on reading (not the same as writing and hearing it in real life, but this should give you at least an impression).

So, at the final stage of my thesis, I had quite some difficulties to face: air raid alerts every two-three hours, very loud Air Defence Systems’ work and intermittent machine-gun fire somewhere not that far while knowing the Russian troops have their positions 15-20 km away from my house. Yet, this is not it. In addition, imagine seven family members around, all with a different level of anxiety, among which there are my grandparents, my 7-years old brother, and a 3-months old dog (yeap, bought it just a week before the war), practically living in a basement of our house for two months (fortunately, heated and with electricity). Definitely not the life I imagined.

A burnt tram in Kiyv

Why have I decided to continue writing a thesis? Well, I had a deadline. Of course, I could have asked for an extension, I don’t think I would be refused. However, I don’t like asking and I wasn’t sure I will be able to complete it afterwards. When you know the Russian tanks have already destroyed the towns around Kyiv, you realize your time might be very limited, and limited-time should be utilized effectively. MA degree does not save you from bullets, but at least gives a feeling of an achieved milestone.

The scariest thing is not the shelling or bombs, or air raid sirens (switch those off already, they are annoying), the scariest is getting used to them. Already after several weeks I continued having video calls with my supervisor Prof. Weilage, discussing thesis-related topics and silently rejoicing the fact Munich is still safe and life is going as usual there. First, I was asking for a break, when the new air raid alert was coming to my phone, and then just ignoring those – I am a lucky guy anyhow, rockets should land somewhere else (don’t do it, air raid alerts are meant to save your life).

All in all, my thesis is done, I am officially graduated, still alive, and in one piece! What an achievement! I have already taken quite some time from you, so let me finish with one piece of advice from my side: do not postpone things till tomorrow. If you want to get a ticket to that music festival you always dreamed of, go and get one today. If you want to visit Rome for years, but there has never been the right time, buy tickets today. Really. You are young, you will make enough money to cover these expenses. Money will go anyhow, experiences will last. Good luck!

With best wishes from Kyiv,