A sixth-year medical student at Ternopil National Medical University in Ukraine, Dominic Oru, a Nigerian, was two months from completing his medical degree when Russian forces invaded the country on Feb. 24.
Oru woke up that day to news about explosions in many Ukrainian cities. And, like hundreds of other students in Ternopil, he fled to Romania. From there, he took a government-chartered flight to Nigeria in early March.
This week, however, Oru and his colleagues resumed their classes online. He says it's been more like a reunion.
"Our major conversation was about how we didn't get to have a proper goodbye to each other because we were thinking we still had time. There was going to be the graduation ceremony, where we'll have pictures and everything."
Oru says that amid the uncertainties, he is keeping his hopes high, even though he worries about his teacher in Ukraine, who is also doubling as a frontline responder.
"He looks really stressed. He looked like he had had very little . . . sleep. I could see the eye bags around his eyes.”
Nigerian authorities said about 8,000 nationals were living in Ukraine when the invasion began. About 5,600 of them were students.
Sixteen-year-old freshman medical student Fatima Baffah also returned to Nigeria weeks ago and has started virtual learning as well. But for her, it's not the same. She said she misses seeing her friends and teachers, and longs to take class in person.
Baffah started her medical training in September. Now her mother, Sallah Baffah, says she must stay out of Ukraine and needs a place to study peacefully.
Dominic Oru and his colleagues were planning a big dinner party to celebrate their graduation. But now he fears he may never see some of his classmates again.