August 24, 2023 | Matt Kucinski

This week, Liza Skrypak stepped onto campus for the first time as a Calvin student. Skrypak begins her time at Calvin alongside students from dozens of countries around the world. In fact, the incoming class includes 1,150 students, 160 of the first-year students are international.

“It’s been nice to hear people’s stories and to see what they see in America, in their countries, and just being new to something with someone else. It’s nice to start this new life together.”

An unexpected move

Skrypak has quite the story of her own to share. From Ukraine, in early March of 2022, just 10 days after Russia invaded her home country, Skrypak and her family fled to the United States as refugees.

“We never planned to move, we wanted to stay at our church, help my dad, be with our church,” said Skrypak, “but then Russian soldiers were in the city with all the tanks and all the bombing, so my parents decided it would be better for me, my mom, and siblings to be away from that.”

Skrypak’s family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, to stay with an old friend of her mom’s. She would complete her high school education there. Her dad, a pastor in Ukraine, stayed with the church and continues to work and serve in ministries during the ongoing war.

“He started visiting every four months or so, so he goes back and forth,” said Skrypak.

Pursuing a calling

While her dad continues ministering to the people of Ukraine, Skrypak has dreams of doing her part too.

“I really want more people to know about what’s happening [in Ukraine],” said Skrypak. “What’s happening right now, how churches are working, how God’s working with people, and I have a lot of testimonies from our church that I really want to include too.”

It's why she chose Calvin University this fall. “My dream is to make a documentary about Ukraine.”

Intending on declaring film and media production as her major, Skrypak is excited for the opportunities she’ll have to make that dream a reality.

Opportunities abound

“At the beginning of this summer I had a great opportunity to meet with a professor in the film & media department and he was very welcoming and talked about the program and he was giving us a tour around the film building,” said Skrypak. “So first of all, I saw a lot of opportunities with cameras and equipment, but I can also see it will be a quality education, and I also really like how the professor gives freedom to students to film movies about what they want to talk about, what they want to show audiences, and that he’s really into helping students learning from experience.”

Beyond having award-winning filmmakers as her professors, she and her family appreciate the institution and leaders’ deep commitment to Christian faith.

“The leaders of the university have a goal to put Christ and God in the program, and they are also very welcoming to people that are not really close to God,” said Skrypak. “I see a lot of good opportunities in how to be in more community with them.”

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