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'Dream Big': Journey from Bachelor's in Political Science to Master in Entrepreneurship

Ekaterina Shevyakova is a fourth-year student of the programme 'Political Science and World Politics', and she has been invited to a prestigious Master's programme in entrepreneurship at one of the world's leading universities. In this interview, Ekaterina talks about why she chose HSE Univesity — Saint Petersburg, what skills helped her enter a foreign university, and why a broad undergraduate education is beneficial.

'Dream Big': Journey from Bachelor's in Political Science to Master in Entrepreneurship

© Ekaterina Shevyakova's Archive

– Why did you choose the programme 'Political Science and World Politics'?

– In many ways, I did it because the programme is taught in English. I did not know what to choose up to a certain point. 'Political Science and World Politics' sounded interesting to me.  I believed that personal interest rather than practical implementation should be put in the first place when it comes to getting a bachelor's degree. I had much freedom of choice in this regard. I am from Saint Petersburg, and I was not thinking about moving to Moscow because both cities offer great education and career opportunities.

 – What did you like and remember the most during your undergraduate studies?

– This is a good question. It is hard to single out a thing. The learning experience was great, so my memories of the university are good. I made friends I keep in touch with, and I also became a part of the university's community. A community spirit, which is valuable in foreign universities, is built well at HSE. You would never think that lecturers look down on you. Here, you find yourself in a pleasant setting where you get useful knowledge. I was absorbed by learning things useful for my outlook. And I think that the most interesting subject would be game theory.

– Did you manage to do academic mobility during your studies?

– Yes, I studied at University College London, the UK. My expenses were small compared to education fees in British universities. I enjoyed my experience. The educational model there is quite interesting: while the workload is fairly small, much is discussed during seminars. However, acquiring new skills depends not only on diligent studying. First, I had never lived abroad before the exchange semester, so I had to integrate into a multicultural environment. This experience has expanded my horizons and made it clear that I was interested in studying abroad.

– What projects did you manage to participate in?

– I participated in the project 'Volnaya Redaktsia' [HSE News Service — Ed.], where I interviewed students and faculty for the University's portal. I appreciate community spirit, but, being a shy person, I often find it difficult to take part in any activities. But now it is getting easier. In general, you can try new things without any difficulty at HSE. If you are interested in something particular, then you just come and start doing it. You will not stand out like a sore thumb. I do not know where else students might have opportunities like these. I was also a teaching assistant for two years. I think such experience gives you a chance to try yourself in a slightly different field. The more activities like this a university offers, the easier it is for you to choose your future career. You can acquire a wide variety of skills that will help you get a good job.

– Please tell us about the university and the programme you applied for.

– I got into three American universities Into programmes in entrepreneurship and management: Stevens Institute of Technology, Babson College, and Duke University, which I finally selected. When I was studying in London, I took courses in economics and business. When they started, I realized that I had a head for it. I had been engaged in entrepreneurship for a while, but I realized that I did not have any specific knowledge which would help me break new ground. Now I understand what I want, where I am going, and what I need to do to reach it.

Duke University is the most prestigious university I have applied for. I passed through an incredibly tough multistage selection procedure, including a long-lasting interview and different entrance tests. But it worth it. I became a winner of a stiff contest (fourteen applicants per seat) and got a scholarship. Duke University ranks tenth in economics and business according to the THE World University Rankings. This indicates quality and shows your prospects after graduation. For me, this is the main factor when choosing a university. But team spirit – a feeling that not only you want to get into this university, but the university also wants you to become its student – is important. They have always met me halfway, helped me, advised something, and they made it clear that they cared. When I had so much attention before getting into this university, I will definitely get their help during my studies or work placement.

– How difficult was the admission process?

– Admission to American universities is a time-consuming procedure. As a general rule, you must get your motivation and recommendation letters ready along with other documents, but there are some features. For example, your academic merits have relatively little importance. GPA is important, but not as much as we are used to and would like it to be. Your life aspirations weigh more. My application is a logical subsequence of what I have been doing. I can elaborate on why I need it. Universities need to know how you will put this education into practice. The entire learning process is arranged around the idea that you are constantly proving your life goal is essential, and the university will help you achieve it.

Again, the process is time-consuming. I had to take two or three letters of recommendation, several motivation letters, and different tasks, and all these things do not actually relate to hard skills. You should enrol and attend various conferences held by universities to get into university. They must believe it is the programme and the university that contribute to fulfilment your ambition. Remember about deadlines and start submitting your documents as soon as possible. Another particularity is that you must take the international GMAT exam.

– In your opinion, what of your political science background might be applied to the new educational track?

– Actually, I would not say I am changing the track. And I think everything in my life has worked out really good. Firstly, political science and international relations are very similar fields. The knowledge I gained on the programme was useful when I was studying in London, and it is valuable for the admission process. You have to prove that you can study in an international environment and use public speaking skills well. This is exactly what I know or ever touched upon thanks to the programme. Secondly, this is about a foreign language. If my classes had not been delivered in English at HSE, studying abroad would have probably been a bit problematic for me. Maybe I will not be much connected with political science, but, I guess, the knowledge I have acquired will appear beneficial.

– What would you like to wish current and prospective students?

– The most relevant thing I can say – dream big! We often underestimate our abilities and skills and think that only special or wealthy people can study at the best programmes. Given the will, a human can do everything. This is hard work, but in the end, you come to where you need to be. We must remember that our possibilities have no limits. When we know it, we find the energy and strength to achieve our goals.