PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Exhausted by the tense and arduous journey that took him from Ukraine to Providence, first-year Brown undergraduate Hlib Burtsev is nonetheless brimming with curiosity and excitement about the possibilities his arrival at the University has opened up for him.
The 18-year-old is plunging himself into studies in biology and ecology, and pursuing other interests such as visual arts and photography. But he’s also channeling his love and concern for his homeland into education for others, looking for opportunities help the campus community learn about Ukraine, its culture and language.
When the war in his country began last February, Burtsev fled the threatened capital city of Kyiv with his mother and sister, settling in the western part of the country. Admitted to Brown’s Class of 2026, he left Ukraine in May, crossing the border into Hungary on foot.
“It was quite an adventure, and I was very tense and anxious,” Burtsev said. “I had problems with crossing the border. I didn’t cross the first time. They declined me, despite having all the documents.”
He eventually made it through on foot and traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, to apply for his student visa. A month later, after extensively preparing for and finally obtaining his visa, he flew to Boston, rode the train to Providence and began a new chapter in his life at Brown.
“It was a difficult, and now I’m feeling a bit better,” Burtsev said. “Brown is the best fit in terms of everything: location, size — just everything. It’s exceeded all the expectations I had. I’m really, really grateful and happy that I got here.”
A quest for “freedom in education”
Well before the war’s start, Burtsev had applied to Brown with support from the Ukraine Global Scholars organization, which serves Ukrainian high school students from low- and moderate-income families through intensive college application process support and scholarships. In exchange, students commit to return to Ukraine and work there for five years, according to the organization, which aims to “drive the critical mass of well-educated Ukrainians.”