We are happy to bring back our lovely series of blog posts about the people of ESN Kyiv! Today, we will talk with the person behind most of the blog entries, Anastasiia Mykytenko. Anastasiia studies German philology and spent her last semester as an Erasmus+ student at the University of Leipzig, Germany. Apart from that, she is a member of the Communication Committee of ESN. Let's hear the story of this bright member of our community!

Q: How long have you been a part of ESN Kyiv? Why and how did you join it?
A: I have been a part of ESN Kyiv since its very beginning, autumn 2018. I was just trying to find how I can make my student life brighter - I wanted university experience to be more than just studying. My friend told me about a new organisation that was somehow connected to international students. I just went for it. ESN meant that I could practice my English and try something new, but to be honest, my number one reason was to get out of my shell. I was afraid of meeting new people and being noticed for too long. Fighting all the introverted sides of my personality and inner fears, I went to the first meeting “just to see how it is, probably I won't come there ever again”. Well, look how it turned out. 

Q: Tell us 3 things you have learned during almost 2 years of volunteering at ESN Kyiv.
A: 1. Even if it is volunteering, you still have to put effort into it. If you sometimes do something just to show that you are kind of active, it won't get you anywhere.
2. People can become whoever they want. If you don't like something about your way of life or personality, or you always wanted to be more than who you are, nothing is impossible. Fears turn into strengths, your voice becomes louder, goals don't seem unreachable anymore.
3. Working with people is cool. I always thought that I will do translations at home and hardly ever leave my apartment. Now I can't imagine not meeting new people every week or working without a team. It all seems meaningless without interaction with human beings. 

Q: Describe ESN in 3 words.
A: Oh, I am bad at short answers. Let it be a feeling of unity. Being a part of such a big organisation which connects 41 country is huge. When you talk to all these people, borders between countries and cultures seem to disappear and there are just two of you. You are not a Ukrainian and a Portuguese, you are just two university students, volunteers, human beings working on something great. 

Q: What do you think is one special feature of ESN Kyiv?
A: It feels like a family. I saw everyone growing with me. I saw people gaining their experience and confidence, finding what they actually like to do, starting to think bigger. We were going through all of that together, and it created a strong bond.  ESNers are not just people I meet to discuss work. They are people who I always can call when I'm down and they will organise lighting-up-my-mood coffee. They are people who share their passions, secrets, and things that make them happy with me. They are the ones I will write if I find cheap tickets to a cool destination. We also know every Erasmus student which is quite rare in big sections but which influences that feeling of the family so drastically. 

Q: What do you like the most about student life in Kyiv?
A: Diversity. You have so many options here! You can be all studying and rocking science articles, you can join non-formal education events and learn to code while being a philologist, you can go volunteering on absolutely different levels from an animal shelter to being a project manager of NGOs, you can go to the crazy parties and to the cosy dorm evenings. Moreover, you can do it all at once! 

Q: We know you have spent your last semester as an exchange student in Germany, What did you miss the most about Kyiv or Ukraine during this time?
A: People. I missed my family, friends, ESN family, roommate, musicians in Podil, old men playing chess in Shevchenko park,  my favourite barista at the coffee shop in front of the Opera, a girl who plays the piano in the hall of my dorm. It is always about people. 

Q: If you had to eat one Ukrainian meal until the end of your life, what would it be?
A: Varenyky. I mean, they all taste heavenly and I can have a variety of fillings which means eating different things every time. 

Interviewer: Kateryna Kubrak
Photos: Anastasiia Mykytenko's personal archive