'Studies at HSE — St. Petersburg Shaped Me as a Person'
This year, Victoria Kulkova graduated from the HSE — St. Petersburg with a bachelor's degree in International Business and Management. She enrolled in the master's program of the French business school EDHEC and received a joint scholarship from EDHEC and the French Embassy in Russia with full tuition coverage. This scholarship is awarded annually to only one candidate. In her interview, Victoria shared her experience of studying at HSE, told about the process of entering the master's program and her plans for the future.
To find out more about the number of seats and entrance tests visit the page of the 'International Business and Management Studies' programme. Information about admission can be found in the section for undergraduate applicants.
— Tell us about your studies at the Higher School of Economics. What programme did you study in? What year did you graduate?
— I completed the educational programme 'International Business and Management' at HSE — St. Petersburg in 2020 and received an honours degree. It is safe to say that four years of my bachelor's studies were very eventful. I was proactively involved in university’s educational and extra-curricular life: being a member of the School of Economics and Management student body, 'SDS' student event organization, working closely with the Career Centre, participating in research conferences and case championships. I believe that HSE gave me a great start and an opportunity to determine what I would like to do in the future. During my time at HSE, I studied marketing, corporate finance, analytics and even the basics of entrepreneurship, which ultimately influenced my master's programme choice. The abundance of opportunities for various activities within the university allows you to develop useful soft skills. HSE teaches us not to be afraid to take responsibility, to constantly develop and move forward.
— Many people think about studying abroad, but few get around to applying. What inspired you to enroll in a university abroad?
— I have always been drawn to multicultural environments. Even at school, I took part in international music festivals and went to England to take English courses several times. It was at that time when I realized that communicating with people from different countries inspires me a lot. While studying at HSE — St. Petersburg, I often had to communicate with international students and professors; besides, the classes were held in English. During my first year at the university, I started taking interest in HSE student exchange programmes, but, unfortunately, I was not able to participate. Since I was a fee-paying student, I set the goal of getting a 100% tuition fee waiver, and going for an exchange programme was definitely risky. I got the waiver and decided to save my ambition to study abroad for my master's degree.
In my 4th year, I was lucky to represent the HSE team at the BBABusiness Challenge international case championship in Madrid. At the championship, I found myself in a very inspiring environment, met students from top business schools around the world — from Canada to Australia. I was impressed by the level of knowledge and experience other participants possessed. After that, my conviction that I want to study at a university abroad was strengthened.
— Which EDHEC programme did you apply to? Why did you choose this programme?
— I entered the one-year master's programme in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. To be honest, choosing the programme wasn't easy. Since studies in 'International Business and Management' provide basic knowledge in many areas related to business and form broad-based experts, I decided to go for a master's programme in order to narrow my area of expertise. I considered several educational tracks. For example, I participated in the selection for the double degree programme of HSE and the French business school ESSCA in Finance. As a result, I became one of the nominees, and if I entered the Finance programme, I could also study in France.
In addition, I considered other educational institutions. EDHEC Business School attracted me with its innovative approach, highly professional teaching staff and close collaboration with businesses. The Entrepreneurship and Innovation programme seemed to me a very logical continuation of my education path. I hope to gain practical knowledge and skills in entrepreneurship studying in this track. The courses curriculum is formed in such a way that students in this programme will have to get acquainted with all stages of a startup creation - from finding a team and generating ideas to registering the project and presenting it to investors. One part of the programme is a compulsory internship at some company, which is a great advantage for me.
— How did you find out about the EDHEC - French Embassy Scholarship?
— When I was just choosing the master's programmes to apply for, I was contacted by Yulia Dubina, EDHEC representative in Russia. She told me about the scholarship programmes and sent me a detailed letter which also mentioned EDHEC excellence scholarship and Co-finance scholarship. The application deadline for the EDHEC excellence scholarship covering 30% of the tuition fees was at the end of March. I submitted the documents the day before the deadline, as I was very worried and double-checked whether all the necessary documents were in place and the motivation letter was perfect a hundred times. A week later, I received a response from the admissions committee that I was enrolled in the programme with a 30% scholarship. I was very happy about that. A few days after I submitted the first tuition fee payment, thereby confirming my intention to study on the programme, I received a letter stating that I could apply for a joint scholarship from the EDHEC business school and the French Embassy in Russia. This scholarship is awarded once a year to only one student from Russia and covers 100% of the tuition fees. In addition, the scholarship provides social insurance and assistance in obtaining housing at the CROUS student residence, as well as exempts from consular fees when applying for a visa.
— What was required to receive the scholarship?
— First of all, I had to apply for a 1-year master's programme and the EDHEC excellence scholarship programme. To enroll in 'Entrepreneurship and Innovation', a standard package of documents was required: a certificate of academic performance, a certificate confirming my level in English, a motivation letter, two letters of recommendation and a CV. I passed an IELTS exam in February, reached out to people to get recommendation letters from in advance, tweaked my CV and requested a transcript of records from HSE. The hardest part was writing a motivation letter, as it needed to briefly reflect all my relevant experience, my goals and expectations from the programme. In general, it was necessary to convince the admissions committee that my choice was deliberate and that I'm worthy to study in this programme. In the process of writing my motivation letter, I became even more convinced that I had made the right choice. I realised that all my previous experience provided me with the knowledge and skills necessary to work on entrepreneurial projects, and this master's programme will help me to consolidate and apply them in practice.
To participate in the scholarship programme, I needed to describe the estimated costs of studying in France and state the reasons why I should receive this scholarship in another motivation letter. After that, when I was enrolled in EDHEC with EDHEC excellence scholarship, I could apply for a broader Co-finance scholarship. To participate in the selection process I had to undergo three interviews. The first interview was with the EDHEC representative in Russia, the second one - with the EDHEC's French office manager and the third - with representatives of the French Embassy. The interview questions were standard: the representatives asked about my motivation and goals for the future, previous experience of participating in projects outside of educational activities.
Speaking about the secret of success in obtaining this scholarship, I think that what really helped me is that I had a clear understanding of why I was going to grad school and what I wanted to get from it. I did not prepare for any of the interviews, because everything I said was what I really believed in. I was honest with the interviewers and myself. The results of my educational and extracurricular activities, my experience of participating in various projects helped me prove that I made a certain contribution to the life of the university, and perhaps I can be useful to another educational institution (and beyond, I hope).
— In your opinion, did your experience of studying at HSE - St. Petersburg help you in getting this scholarship? If so, how exactly?
— Without a doubt, in part, my studies at the HSE - St. Petersburg shaped me as a person, allowed me to try my hand in various fields, taught me not to be afraid to take responsibility and not to be afraid to implement even the craziest ideas. Thanks to HSE, and to the Entrepreneurship course in particular, I have identified my further career path and gained useful knowledge and skills. At HSE, you can always feel the support of friends, colleagues and teachers. My HSE friends supported me on my way to enroll in a master's programme, in passing exams, and the teachers were incredibly sympathetic and supportive in helping me with recommendation letters. This is very motivating, and it really inspires one to move forward.
— What character traits have helped you in obtaining the scholarship?
— I think first and foremost it is determination. If I have set a goal or a task, I always try to give my best to complete it. I believe that it is better to not take on a task at all than end up doing a bad job. Secondly, it is honesty with myself and the people I interact with. If you assess yourself, your capabilities and desires honestly and objectively, this simplifies the process of finding yourself and your life purpose immensely. And the people around you always feel it when you are glowing with enthusiasm towards something, when you assess your successes and failures sensibly, when you can be trusted. Thirdly, I would say, it is ambition, in the best sense of the word. The desire to constantly move, develop, reach new heights. I am very motivated by Charles Kettering's quote: 'High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.' I even mentioned it in my motivation letter. So filing documents with EDHEC was quite a high expectation for me. I was honestly worried that I would not be able to enroll in such a prestigious business school, but I decided to take a chance, and now I am in. And for free!
— What do you feel about the upcoming studies?
— This year, the entire process of preparing for master's studies is quite nervous due to the current situation with the pandemic. I am really looking forward to the beginning of the school year. For me, this is the beginning of a new life. A new environment, a new educational institution all over again, and now even a new country. I have a lot to expect from studying at EDHEC: working with new large-scale projects, immersion in a motivating environment, new practical knowledge and meeting new people. And therefore I am a little afraid that expectations may not come true, in part because of the security measures taken. I know for sure that a year of study in France will not be the easiest. I think that such an experience will make me even stronger and 'shake me up'.
— What are your plans after finishing your Master's degree in France?
— My programme involves a mandatory internship in partner companies of the business school. Therefore, to begin with, I would like to gain experience of working in an international company, expand my practical knowledge and acquire useful connections. I hope that this opportunity, as well as studying at EDHEC in general, will allow me to find a team to start working on my own project.
— What advice would you give to students who are considering continuing their studies abroad?
— The first tip is not to be afraid to just do it. If you are sure that you need this and you want to get this experience, then do not be afraid to apply even to the top educational institutions in the world. Try to listen to your gut and understand which field will help you develop your strengths and don't hesitate to apply.
Second, start your opportunities research and application process early. This way you will have more time to monitor educational institutions, prepare in advance and pass the necessary exams, prepare your documents, and the likelihood of getting a study scholarship is greater if you apply earlier.