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Elena Onegina about her graduate study admission, unique atmosphere in the laboratory and field research experience

Good news from graduates of the master's program "Modern social analysis". Elena Onegina was enrolled in graduate studies in the field of "Social structure, social institutes and processes" at the Moscow campus of HSE.

Elena Onegina about her graduate study admission, unique atmosphere in the laboratory and field research experience

Elena is research intern at the Center for Youth Studies since the summer of 2012. We asked her about the experience of admission to graduate school, teaching in the master's degree and working in the laboratory of the St. Petersburg campus.

First of all, congratulations on your enrollment! Tell me, please, was it difficult to decide on admission to graduate school?

I was very worried, because the graduate is already a super responsible and deliberate step. This is not the bachelor, directed often by parents, not the magistracy considered as a natural continuation of learning, but completely different way. It should not be accidental, but deliberate and meaningful step to each person. I thought, sometimes doubt, but I want to improve in qualitative research and go to a new level.

Of course, I am also worried before the exams. It's like in school, despite the fact that you're an adult, going into the audience getting very worried. I was afraid for English, but everything went well.

Your training within the master's program helped you to go to graduate school?

I think the masters definitely helped me a lot as I feel more confident in what I do and how I answer questions. Because I knew that even if I can't remember any exact theoretical moments, I can imagine how it works in practice. For example, I have a question, about how to create a sample in a quantitative study, if you have a task to do an emergency survey about metro and what kind of limitations such research have. I told everything about the limitations of this method and about how to do a representative sample. I did not use a special terminology, but I used the specific example. We provided qualitative and quantitative researches in CMR, and I understand what the advantages and disadvantage both of them. And of course the experience of participating in a huge number of educational applied projects really helped me feel more confident on the exam.

How did you get to the Center for Youth Studies?

During my bachelor's studies, I enrolled in RTG (research training group) "Body". I met there with the teachers working in the youth center. I was interested in this line of research, and after 1 year of study I came to the Center for Youth Studies.

What projects do you do in CMR? What was the most surprised, interested, remember?

Very exciting was the preparation for a field grant of RSF (Russian Science Foundation). It was my first big trip in the field. Our team was almost a month in Makhachkala. I prepared very long for this trip, choosing what clothes to take, thought about removing my piercings.

Of course, it is incredibly interesting to talk with the Dagestanis, because I have had a lot of different stereotypes. For example, I was very interested in the issue of security; it was in the guide of the interview. And sometimes the first reaction was: "Security? It is all good. Like everywhere." People start to make excuses, knowing that the media reproduces a discourse of danger; they begin to build it differently. But then I said, "Yeah, maybe we have high seismic activity." This is what you do not expect, in the question about the danger or safety in the region.

I prepared a very long time before interviewing the girls in hijabs, because know absolutely nothing about this religious tradition. I chose a strategy of the unawared researcher, asked dumb questions like: "Why the hijab? What is it about? Why? When? Who teaches?" It was interesting to learn that girls have two wardrobes: the one that they prefer to wear at home, with her husband and close relatives, and one for out of home. And for me it certainly was unbelievable and very surprising: 2 wardrobes in the physical space. They differ in colors, form of clothing, by the details that you reveal or conceal.

The reasons why you need to walk in a hijab in the street was interesting: a sense of security (no other men look on you), and that you feel better, more comfortable. But the best gift is to buy a new scarf. I learned that the hijab consists of several parts. One hides the hair and the other - shawl, which is wound on top in different ways. There are many options to tie it beautiful. I never thought that there is a the whole culture of wearing scarves.

Why did you choose the Centre for Youth Studies?

I can't say that I chose the Center. I knew that there are labs which deal largely with quantitative research. CYS provided quantitative researches, but was focuses on qualitative methodology that is closer to me. On the 1 course (bachelor), I realized that it something I'd like to do.

I've known colleagues and future teachers. People worked in the youth center taught the courses and they have attracted me with their professionalism, charisma. I wanted to be around these people, somehow closer to their work and communicate with them.

Why did you decide to enroll in the master's program of HSE on "Modern social analysis " 2 years ago?

I continued to work in the Youth Center. I wanted to do scientific work and, in fact, the graduate program allows you to continue to write a thesis and research on the topic that you want. You're free to choose what your heart and imagination desires. In the magistracy of other universities you are sandwiched by some formal requirements. As far as I can tell the stories of their friends.

And of course I was incredibly attracted to the style of teaching, interaction between students and teachers,  to which  I was already accustomed during my bachelor. And to this atmosphere: lively, interested student and healthy competition. Everyone have very interesting researches. I didn't want to leave this space, this environment. Moreover, I wanted to continue to engage in qualitative research and gender themes, I didn't want to change my supervisor, because, in my opinion, is quite a productive interaction. We understand each other, which actually happens infrequently.

I like the program itself, because there is a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. You can obtain the skills to conduct surveys and develop them in the framework of quantitative research. You can take advanced courses associated with conducting qualitative research, the methodology, some narrow courses, for example, biopolitics or ethics of conducting research. And I knew that it would make me more professional in what I want to develop.

What area of research you plan to do in graduate school?

Since I chose the field of "Social structure, social institutes and processes", I need to expand the subject of the master thesis "The LGBT scene in St. Petersburg, practices of resistance and group identity", add Moscow to it or to increase the geography of the study to the whole of Russia, but LGBT people will remain in the framework of gender identities and sexual orientations. While I did not pass the approval of the topic, so while this is only my wishes. But it was preapproved already.

I basically wrote that in my thesis I will use only qualitative methods: participant observation, in-depth interviews, analysis of documents, but without statistics. I'm very glad that nobody insisted on the presence of quantitative methods,. And then, in graduate school, I will continue to do just qualitative methods, because I think it's important to understand what trying to say every group of people or an individual. In my opinion, individual communication and struggle to understand the causes, observation of the practices  is the basis, meaning and value of investigation. I communicate with people, participate in research and plan to pursue further on a more serious level.