Ksenia Aronova had an interest in The Netherlands from an early stage and studied Dutch culture as part of a languages degree at St. Petersburg State University. After completing her undergraduate degree she went to Groningen University to study for an MA in Dutch Culture. She recently got married to a Dutch man in St. Petersburg, where they both live and work.
How did you first become interested in the Dutch Culture?
How? I can`t really say exactly! I just had this good feeling about the country and I thought it would be interesting to learn Dutch as it was a new language for me and something more unusual than English or German. When I entered the Faculty of Philology and Arts, a specialization in Dutch Culture and Language struck me as something really interesting to study.
Why did you decide to go to The Netherlands for further study?
My four years of studying at St. Petersburg State University were wonderful. I had three main reasons for wanting to study for an MA in the Netherlands after that: first I wanted to speak Dutch fluently and live in the country for a while, like a lot of people I had been dreaming of studying abroad for a while. Secondly I have a Dutch boyfriend (who is now my husband) and thirdly I knew that the quality of Dutch education is very high and that a Dutch masters would be one of the best in Europe.
And why did you choose to study in Groningen?
To improve my language skills I wanted to study in Dutch and not in English. Almost all the master programs in the Netherlands are taught in English, so firstly I had to choose a course that would be taught in Dutch. The Dutch Culture programme at Groningen was taught in Dutch and so was the perfect choice for me and it also sounded very interesting. The only downside of getting my masters abroad was the costs. They were extremely high: if you are not from the European Union you have to pay ten times more. That’s the same all over Western Europe and I do think it is very unfair, but it is how it is.
What differences did you notice in teaching style and the way the Dutch study?
The University itself is very modern with great computer facilities and fantastic library, which unfortunately we didn’t have at my university in Russia. The main thing you notice though is that in the Netherlands they don`t care what you are doing – I mean if you don`t want to study and respect the deadlines, that’s your problem. You study for yourself and not for anyone else – I think that’s a good way to describe how people study in The Netherlands. Having said that, if you are hard worker and you really want to study hard, the staff will really help you and do as much as they can for you. I think it is a great model. On the other hand for people who are not as ambitious and eager it can be a problem. A lot of Dutch students study for years and years and then only start working when they are 27-29 years old. That never happens in Russia. You could maybe sum up the differences like this: Russians work more and harder. Dutch people work better or more efficiently.
Groningen is a famous student city, how did you enjoy the student atmosphere?
Yes, for sure it’s crazy. But both in The Netherlands and Russia students are just students - they study, party and have fun. I was mostly friends with Dutch students and went out with them, although I did go to some of the events organized by the international students organization – they did a lot of cool stuff like organizing excursions, parties, different courses like for example salsa dancing etc. I have so many great memories from those days, new city and new friends, it’s difficult to describe it all but it was a very special place.
What did you enjoy most about your study experience and what things do you think you gained from the experience?
Working with a team and in a team – that was certainly the most enjoyable part. Living and studying abroad was an amazing experience and I love The Netherlands. I think probably the most important thing that I gained from studying there was learning how to take full responsibility for the things I have to do, being self-reliant. I also think I became more self-confident and now I can really survive so to speak in difficult situations.
Did you have any work experience whilst in The Netherlands?
Yes, I worked at an art gallery. I worked as the editor of the art journal which they published every three months. It was a fantastic job and the people that I worked with were brilliant.
Did you consider staying in The Netherlands after graduating?
No. After that period of my life I had enough for the moment and I was ready to come back to Russia. But who knows, maybe in the future I would go there to work.
Do you think studying in The Netherlands has helped you in your career?
Yes, of course I think it has. When people see in your CV that you have studied abroad, it always makes a good impression. I speak Dutch almost fluently now which was why I wanted to go abroad in the first place and now I work with my foreign languages in an international publishing company.
What advice would you have for other Russians considering studying in The Netherlands?
Don`t think, just go! It is a great country to study in, the education is very high quality and the people are very nice. You won`t regret it.