Why did you choose the Erasmus-Mundus programme?
After finishing my undergraduate degree at HSE, I took a job in IT consultancy at a company in Moscow. I worked there for two years, all the time thinking about going abroad somewhere to get some international experience. My education was good enough to do a good job in consultancy, but what I wanted for myself was the cross-cultural experience of studying abroad. Studying in another language, working with students from across the world, developing my communication networks and adapting to new environments, it was all part of the personal development that I was hoping for. Erasmus-Mundus is an ideal programme for personal development and cultural understanding as you study and work in three different countries in a class of international students.
How did you choose where you wanted to study?
It depended on the course. There was only one course doing what I was most interested in and it was split between a business school in Aix-en-Provence in France, the University of Turku in Finland and the University of Tilburg in The Netherlands. I was really interested in studying in The Netherlands especially so it was the perfect combination.
How did your time in France and Finland compare to The Netherlands?
All three places were completely different and contrasting. I found it difficult at first when I arrived in France. Things were not so well organised for the international students and of course it’s difficult starting off when you don’t know anyone. Aix-en-Provence is a wonderful place to be a student though. The second semester I spent studying more IT in Turku, and it was a great contrast to France. Very efficient and clean and everyone there is very environmentally conscious, but maybe not so open and friendly at first.
So Holland was again another contrast...
Well, The Netherlands I can honestly say was somewhere in-between. Efficient but friendly and the course was a mixture of IT and business. The laidback Dutch lifestyle and their black humour perfectly matched me, and as a tall woman I was happy to be amongst lots of people much taller than me for once!
What was your accommodation like in Tilburg?
When I was in Turku, myself and some other Erasmus-Mundus students decided that for our final semester together in Tilburg we would try and rent a house rather than live in the university accommodation. We found one of those beautiful tall traditional Dutch houses, and moved in together. We used to invite all our friends over for dinner parties and spent long evenings debating all kinds of topics. It was a true cultural mix and I still really miss that atmosphere.
How did you find the lessons in the university in Tilburg?
The most exciting part for me about the course was the huge selection of books and journals that were available. There was no need to join a waiting list or order the books from Amazon. All the materials were there and what’s more the authors of the books were often there too. Being able to approach professors in your university who are researching the things you are studying was a real privilege.
Was it easy to find a job after graduating?
To be honest I think if I had stayed in my job and not gone on an exchange programme I would have been able to reach the position I have now anyway after some more years working. However, being a student for the period of the economic crisis turned out to be a blessing in disguise as a lot of people lost their job during that period in Russia and I also could have been unemployed. When I came back I had a chance meeting with an old school friend who was working for Accenture in Moscow. He told me about some job openings coming up and encouraged me to apply and happily I got a consulting job there.
How do you think Russian employers view the Erasmus-Mundus programme?
It can be frustrating that some people see a study exchange as a bit of a holiday – they forget it is actually very hard work. Studying abroad does add great depth to your CV and international employers definitely value the experience both in academic and personal development terms. It gives you the extra edge as you have proven language skills and the cross-cultural skills of having studied together with people from around the world.
Would you consider studying further?
I would perhaps like to do a PhD one day, probably in something that links social studies with the business and technology side of things. I am sure though that if I did some further study The Netherlands would be my first choice of place to do it. I have so many friends still working there and it’s a country that really fits with my mentality as well as having a lot of courses and research in the areas that interest me.