Kateryna Nadtochiy never imagined being able to complete her MBA completely free of cost. That is, until Russia invaded her country on February 24 this year.
This made Nadtochiy a refugee, one of the millions of Ukrainians displaced, the largest since World War II.
By this stroke of tragedy, she became eligible for the BMW Group Fellowships for Ukraine. BMW and ESMT Berlin partnered to offer up to 10 women displaced from Ukraine an opportunity to join the Global Online MBA. The goal is for fellowship recipients to develop the skills and competences needed to contribute to Ukraine’s economic redevelopment.
Nadtochiy is one of the 10 recipients. Previously, over the last 16 years, she built a career within the communications field as a PR assistant and was most recently employed as a Chief Reputation Officer for the #1 broadcasting company in Ukraine – StarLightMedia.
She then went on to complete her pre-MBA at MIM-Kyiv (International Institute of Business). This course inspired her to take on a full MBA programme. “I had an idea of what an MBA is – but I always wanted a full MBA degree from a European school,” she says.
Thankfully, through the BMW Group’s initiative, she is able to do so. “I never expected to have such an opportunity to study at ESMT Berlin. I hope this will help me to be a better professional and also build and broaden my career in Europe,” she shares.
We caught up with Nadtochiy to learn more about how she received a full scholarship and fulfilled her “destiny” of completing an MBA:
Why did you choose to pursue your studies at ESMT Berlin? Why Germany?
All my friends were here and we were running an exhibition of Ukrainian artists. I came to Germany and decided to stay on. I was given the opportunity to get into ESMT through their scholarship with BMW Group, which was like destiny.
I consider the school to have chosen me – my ex-boss suggested I apply for this special scholarship for Ukrainian female leaders. I applied, and out of 200 people, I was chosen alongside nine other women!
What has been your most memorable class so far? Why?
I just finished module zero, which was on management in the connected world. I recently started module one, which is on decision-making.
I love the business school’s approach to all its educational programmes. Learning about management in the connected world is important since we all work more behind screens. The most important thing is that a course changes the way you think.
It’s also great how they have presented materials on the course. It’s not just a professor giving a talk to students. It’s real and practical, and they go deeper into the topics.
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
I hope that this education will help me in my life and career. I don’t know in which way specifically because I am unsure where to go for the first time in my life. I know this education will give me the key to follow many different paths, and it’s my responsibility to choose which path.
Being an international student can be challenging. What obstacles have you faced related to being an international student, and how did you overcome them?
As this is an international and online programme, there are probably fewer obstacles and challenges.
What I can say is that all international students have different levels of knowledge when it comes to language skills. It’s not something you can learn during your studies – you should learn and prepare language skills before and then polish them while studying.
For example, I have good English language skills, but not necessarily when it comes to maths topics. I would say having these English language skills will make your studies easier.
You also have to be well-structured, cautious and conscious about organising your study schedule.
Could you share more details about the ESMT scholarship you received?
I am a recipient of the BMW Group Fellowship for Ukraine, where the BMW Group and ESMT Berlin offered 10 female Ukrainians the opportunity to study their Global Online MBA at no cost.
I think ESMT Berlin and BMW Group have created an incredibly important scholarship — they are changing people’s lives. Eastern Europe is quite blocked off from Western Europe, so what they have done is change the mentality of people and give them an opportunity to build their life and open Europe to them.
It’s not just giving charity; it’s supporting them for the future.
What are some of the biggest differences you have noticed between living in Berlin and your home country?
Not much, to be honest – I have always worked in international companies and environments, so it’s not a huge deal for me.
The only thing is language – I decided that no matter how much time I spend in Germany, I must learn German. A colleague of mine told me that English is no longer a “foreign” language – many people around the world just learn it, as it is a global language and is often used in international workplaces. That’s why you might need to learn another language.
If you could give just one piece of advice to students who want to study in Germany, what would it be and why?
I advise undergraduate students to learn English, German, or both.
For MBA students, the German educational system should be promoted more. From my perspective, many people know of good schools in Spain and Britain, but I never thought of Germany as an educational hub before. Germany is a great country with great industrial business, and they need a lot of workers at different levels.
What do you like and dislike most about Berlin?
I love Berlin! It was my reason for staying in Germany. I live two hours from Berlin, near Magdeburg, but I visit a lot. It is a city that is arty and alive.
It accepts everyone. It can be quite superficial and shallow, but everyone can find a place for themselves, at least for some period of time. It is a hub where people come, answer their questions, and move on.
It is quite similar to Eastern Europe, which is why I feel so at home. It is very international.