On the search for inspirational Kievans that take pride in helping others grow, Vladimir, the founder of the YES Center, seemed like a great place to start. Him and his team, based in Kiev, coordinate exchange and educational programmes throughout the world to enable Ukrainians to study or work abroad, gain valuable international experience and learn new languages. I visited their office and spoke to three members of the team to learn exactly how they help others achieve their ambitions far beyond the borders of Ukraine.
Hello there Vladimir! So, what exactly does your company do?
Our company organises and provides educational programmes abroad for Ukrainians. Our main destination countries are the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Europe. Almost all the world!
So mainly English-speaking countries?
No, not only English-speaking countries. Many choose the Czech Republic, Poland, France, Italy, Germany and Spain too!
Do you help just young people or do you see people of all ages?
We have a joke in the office that our clients are people from 7 to 70 years old- from children to grandparents. However in Ukraine many people think that after 35 you don’t need to study anymore and that you need to start work. Now we are starting to promote educational programmes to all people and our oldest client at the moment is 52.
Any what is that person going to do?
They’re going to study English in Canada.
Do you do everything from the beginning to the end?
Yes the main goal of our company is to find the correct programme for the individual and once they are accepted we prepare all documents to obtain visas, accommodation and flight tickets. Sometimes, it is also necessary to help find someone a job after the study placement or even during it. After this, people usually come back to Ukraine to use their newfound international experience. Sometimes, people go to study abroad as part of an emigration programme as educational programmes are the best first step to emigration. Our main ojective is to help people study abroad so that they can come back to Ukraine with international experience which will lead to better employment.
For you, I imagine this is satisfying as you see the person that they were before and the one they are when they come back. Do you notice a difference? For example, with their language skills.
Yes definitely I notice a difference in their language skills. The biggest difference, however, is that they come back more smiley. They’re more open-minded in the sense that they don’t just think about Ukraine, they nave become a citizen of the world!
And they’re now aware of what life is like in another country and have learnt about a different culture?
Students who come back to Ukraine from a placement think from a world perspective, not just specifically from the point of view France or Canada or the country they’ve been living in.
How does it work? Do you have partners and businesses that you always work with?
Mostly, we work only with our partners but sometimes we try to achieve certain goals without them. For example, one of our clients wants to be accepted into Harvard University. This is a big goal. Harvard University doesn’t work with agencies. They’re the best university in the world so they don’t need any agencies. In any case, we are attempting to reach this goal without the help of partners. However, most of the time we work with partners: language schools, colleges, universities, employers. Around 90% is achieved in collaboration with our networks.
Yes that’s how I imagined it to be. What is the most popular destination that everyone wants to go to? I think I know the answer to this! It must be the USA!
Yes, you’re right! However, at the moment Canada receives almost the same number of students from us… maybe because people in Canada are a little friendlier and studying in Canada is around 20% cheaper than studying in the USA.
Oh interesting! Obviously, it’s still possible to study in English there and it’s still the same part of the world.
Yes and also there’s a lot of Ukrainians that live in Canada, we have a large diaspora of Ukrainians that have moved there so they can help each other. This is also a factor.
Have you seen an increase in recent years in the numbers of people wanting to live abroad? Has it become more popular?
More and more every year!
Did you ever work or study abroad?
Oh my own experience! I was chief of a student government organisation and I tried to find educational or cultural programmes but I have never done anything like this. However, this September I will go to London because our partner is offering me a free one-week English course in Central London so i’ll be able to feel what it’s like to be an exchange student for myself.
Recently the visa policy between the EU Schengen Area and Ukraine have been relaxed meaning that Ukrainians can now enter without paperwork or visas. Do you think that will make people want to travel more? I saw on your website that you have a section called “celebrate visa free”…
Yes definitely. To celebrate, we are offering a gift to our clients. We are offering those who wish to study in Europe for no more than three months the possibility to do it for free. Of course, the client still has to pay tuition fees etc. however the process is free and we don’t take any commission. We just want Ukrainians to start travelling and not only to Turkey and Egypt but rather to achieve something useful- to study, to improve their languages or to take some short educational courses.
The numbers of people. How many people on average in your company decide to do this kind of programme?
Every year, around 500 students go abroad through us.
We think so! Also, we don’t just work with people in Kiev. We work with people all over Ukraine although our office is here in the capital.
Oh! So people come all the way from other cities and towns for this process?
Yes, however most of it is done online so we don’t see the client in our office. We just send all the necessary documents via e-mail.We chat through Skype and Facebook so for most of them there is no need to come to the office.
So you use social media a lot? That’s excellent.
Yes, it’s very helpful.
And my final question is: if you could study or work in any country in the world, where would it be? I would like to ask all three of you.
For me, the UK. I love the country and the British. I especially like the weather because it’s too hot in Kiev! No, seriously, I love the weather!
I have three answers to your question! I would say first Australia because I like the country’s beauty. The second one would be Canada because I like the people, they’re very friendly and open. Canadians are polite and always give compliments. My third one would be the Czech Republic as it’s very close to Ukraine and I would like a cultural experience which is similar to Ukraine. Also, it is not an expensive country to visit, live and have fun in.
I would also put the Czech Republic in my top three! I have never been but Prague seems like a fairy tale!
For me, it has to be the State of California in the USA because you have everything there. You have mountains, ocean and many national parks. For me, there really is no question as to where I want to go!
Thank you very much, this is all very inspiring to hear and you should be proud!
For more information, visit www.yescenter.com.ua