An Excellent Opportunity to Study, Work and Live
Claire Lucien, a student from France, has been graduated from HSE in 2010. She is an alumna of a double degree master programme “International Relations in Eurasia”, a joint project with University of Kent. Our student Bogdan Druzhniy met Claire and asked her to tell about her experience and the results she reached in two years after graduation.
Bogdan (B.). Claire, when did you decide to get a Master`s degree?
Claire (C.) It wasn`t really a decision. In France, I had to get a Master`s and I only had a choice in Master`s degree I want to do. But I didn`t have a choice to do Master`s or not to do Master`s.
B. Ok, and what actually were the aims to get a Master`s degree?
C. Looking backwards, I would say that the Master`s is really good when you want to specialize on one aspect of your undergraduate studies. I think, a Master`s should be more or less adapted to the specific job you`re interested in. You can`t study everything on the Master`s - you really have to focus on one aspect.
B. Why have you chosen this double-degree program?
C. Actually, I studied Russian in high school and during all my undergraduate studies, whenever possible, I tried to focus on Russia and CIS region. Before graduating I figured: “well, I`ve never actually been to Russia, if I want to become a specialist on Russian issues, it`s useful to spend time in the country, and it`s the best opportunity I have…so, why not.”
B. Well, that makes sense. And why were you interested in these universities?
C. To be honest, I had no idea that HSE existed before I got in the Master`s. But I knew all about the university in Britain as I did part of my undergraduate program there.
B. And what did you specialize in?
C. I specialized in security studies in Russia and CIS states.
B. Oh, that sounds great!
C. Well, I actually don`t work in this area any more, but that`s what I`ve been studying.
B. And are there any courses or professors you memorized most of all?
C. For good or for bad?
B. For any..if there are awful things about them, we can just skip them later.
C. Let me think..well, I remember Maksim Bratersky. He focused on what I liked to study – security issues, and he was also my dissertation supervisor, that’s hard to forget! He was always very helpful and was always opened for any questions and that was actually really good. Sometimes you have to push him because he is always thinking…but, yes, he is a good teacher.
B. Ok, let`s move to the next point. Was the program more theoretically or practically oriented?
C. Of course, the classes were theoretical. I think it was a good thing, that we had to do an internship..I wouldn`t mind if it could be longer, but this combination – yes, it was good.
B. And are there any differences in evaluation system in education between Russia and Great Britain?
C.- I think, that from the point of view of a Russian student it would be completely different.. but for me, the program in Russia and England are more or less the same thing: classes, essays, no exams – just essays instead of them. So, the general part of the program is more or less the same.
B. And what about the evaluation of students` level?
C. It was the same, but what was actually nice is that the program gave us a new point of view on the issues. Well, I studied in England and France, so I`ve already studied under French and English professors, it wasn`t the same thing as the Russian professors. It`s actually really interesting to see the other side of the world – how they think about the same problems.
B. That`s great. Can you say anything about your classmates?
C. Well, we were a small group (10-odd people) and spent two years together. In Russia, we lived together in “obshegitie” and studied the same classes, so we were together 24/7. The good thing is that in classes we met with other people – maybe not enough Russian students though!
B. Did you have any difficulties in cross-cultural communication?
C. All my friends in Russia had already lived abroad. We were opened-minded enough when we got to Russia to accept life here as it was and not try to impose our vision. We managed to adapt to the Russian way of life. But that doesn’t mean that some aspects of life here were very strange and very new to us at first. But as for communication in general, it was the problem – all our program was in English, so we didn`t need a good level of Russian language, but actually it would be better to have a better to study Russian before, maybe, in England already. I spoke Russian, so I was more or less okay, but some people of our program came to Russia, not speaking a word of Russian – and that made it more difficult for them for the first couple of months. In the university everybody spoke English, but to go shopping, get some tickets or anything else – that was the problem.
B. I hope, you don`t have such problems today?
C. No, I `m working in Russia, so, there are no such problems.
B. What about your household conditions in the campus?
C. Well, it`s very different, actually, from England because in English or American campus everything is just next to you. And “studencheskoe obshegitie” was a little bit rustic, but you get used to it. You say “It`s a new country, not with the same infrastructure as in Europe, but it`s okay”. Besides, we had rooms for just one of us and didn’t have to share them – so, that was actually nice.
B. All right. And did you have an opportunity to travel? In Russia for instance?
C. Yeah, actually, I travelled a lot – although more during my Master than now. I had more free time and could adapt my schedule when needed. I went to St. Petersburg, then I visited Kazan, Yaroslavl, Vladimir, and with the couple of friends from the program we went on the Transmongolian – we spent a week on Baikal, then by the train went to Ulan-Bator, saw Gobi desert, them moved to Beijing and spent a week there. Then flew back to Moscow.
B. I see you`ve travelled a lot. Personally, I haven`t been on Baikal…neither many Russians. So, and what impressed you most of all during the travel?
C. well…the size of the country. Yeah, the size of the country. And once you get over the language barrier, Russians are actually very welcoming. When you manage to communicate with them, it`s nice. It’s not the same with English, and even more French people!
C. They (Russians) are cold in the outside, they are serious, but when you see them in their home, they are completely different. They are really helpful, nice and eager to share anything with you.
B. So, it was really pleasant to you?
C. Yeah, a great experience!
B. And what career plans do you have?
C. Well, I have a 2 year contract now with the French company BNP Paribas. I`m working in Investment Banking. I signed my contract the summer after I finished my program. Next September, my contract comes to an end and, honestly, after three years in Russia, I’ll be happy to go back home. Unless, of course, I’m offered a non opportunity here! These last two years have been a great experience and a huge boost in my career (I hope!) as I now have a pretty good level of Russian. Hopefully, I`ll find an opportunity that keeps me in touch with Russia, and of course, I’ll come back to visit what I didn’t have time to see!
B. You`re going back to France?
C. Maybe not France, maybe I`ll find the next job in London or Brussels – depending on what opportunities I`ll find – because going to France is not the country to look for a job right now.
B. You are planning to work for business companies, don`t you?
C. Yes, I`d like to continue what I`m doing now – I`m working in Export Finance, at the Russia desk. It is completely different from what I`ve studied, so it is really challenging but I love it, so I`ll continue it.
B. Great. Well, do you have any recommendations concerning this education program…Maybe, how in your opinion it`s better to develop this program?
C. Well…I would recommend that you know, what you`re getting into because not everybody likes Russia…harsh country to live in. I mean, you love it or you hate it – there`s no middle ground. So, I would advise to make sure that you want it before getting into the program because it would be stupid not to be able to finish it and have a crappy year just because you haven`t adopted Russia.
B. So, can you tell anything to those people, who do want to go into this program?
C. It`s a excellent program. I did it some time ago, now I’m sure it`s even better. My advice would be – to live this experience 100% and try to hang out not only with other international student but to go out and make Russian friends. It`s the best way to get to know the country.
B. Thank you very much, Claire
C. You`re welcome.
B. Well, that`s all. Thank you