From An Orientalist To A Doctor

“What am I doing here?” An interview with three students, who have radically changed their field of study.

From An Orientalist To A Doctor

People do make mistakes. Even students of HSE make mistakes. In case you feel like being absolutely disengaged, try to ask yourself “what am I doing here?” We talked to three HSE students who changed their study programs and even the university.

Lena, a 1st year student of Medical University in Tomsk, (entered HSE in 2017, Oriental Studies).

Lisa, 1st year student majoring in Philology at HSE (entered HSE in 2017, Media Communications).

Inessa, a 2nd year student of Advertising and Public Relations at HSE (entered HSE in 2017, International Relations).

1. When did you first get the idea of changing your study program or university? What was the reason for it?

Lena: I started to doubt my choice the month I entered the university. I liked learning Korean (it didn’t last long though) and I was indifferent to other subjects. Besides, I developed an interest in medicine long before I became a student, so I was constantly worried that I was making a wrong choice by choosing humanitarian sphere. Soon enough I started to think that I didn’t belong there and simply was wasting my time.

Liza: I got suspicious in the first year of my studies. The amount of study hours we got wasn’t enough for me. It was not what I expected from the university of such level and “prestige”. I tried to find an excuse for it and decided to wait, but time passed and nothing changed. I got the feeling that I didn’t belong there. I wasn’t developing, I was at a standstill. However, I took no action until I met one person. It was a girl who told me that she’d had a similar story. She’d decided to change her study program and didn’t have any regrets afterwards. Since then I started to gain this confidence that I also could find my own way.

Inessa: I decided to switch my study program to another one after the summer session in the 1st year. It just wasn’t working. I didn’t like my studies, I wasn’t interested. It became a sign for me – maybe I’ve made a mistake? Still, it wasn’t until I got the results of the summer session, that I made a final decision. I was leaving.

Was there anything that was holding you back? If yes, what was it and how did you overcome this obstacle?

Lena: There was a fear of making the same mistake once again. My interest in medicine grew, but I still wasn’t 100% certain that this was the sphere I wanted. I was afraid to lose my state-funded place in one of the “top” universities in Moscow for the idea I was never fully confident in. I didn’t manage to overcome this fear, but one day I just decided that things couldn’t stay the same any longer. I didn’t like what I was doing, so I was leaving.

Lisa: There were a few things that were stopping me. Firstly, the financial aspects – I studied on a paid basis. Secondly, at that time I thought that my parents wouldn’t support my decision. Thirdly, I didn’t want to go through the adaptation process once again (I had only found “my people” at my study program). I was afraid that I would repeat my mistake, so I had to carry on with my studies just in case I stayed there. However, soon enough I understood I couldn’t bear it anymore. I told my parents and, to my surprise, got their support.

Inessa: There was just one thing that was holding me back. I didn’t want to leave my friends. However, I soon realized that I could keep in touch with them without going to the same classes.

Did you ask for advice? What was the reaction of those people you asked?

Lena: I asked everyone from my mom and friends to a psychologist. My mom was worried about my future just as much as I was. She didn’t like the idea of me leaving the university. That’s why that time of my life when I tried to get her permission (to calm myself in the first place) was pretty tough. My friends supported me, tried to give me advice, but it was me who had to make a decision. And I wasn’t sure.

Lisa: Of course, I shared my thoughts on the matter with people closest to me: some of them supported me, others blamed me for just being disorganized. I was looking in different directions to find my way. Some people told me that my worldview was “strange”. They couldn’t get why wouldn’t I just decide already. But I saw my curiosity in it. In any way I didn’t seek their approval – at that moment I was sure that something had to be done.

Inessa: I asked my parents, grandparents and my boyfriend for advice. My parents were happy to know I was leaving, since they had already been alluding to this for a while. Others didn’t trust my decision. They advised me to stay and finish my studies, so then I could work wherever I wanted. Still I made my decision, and it was unchangeable.

What in your opinion can help to decide in a situation like that? How can one know that the decision is right?

Lena: Before leaving the university or changing your study program, especially if the change is rather dramatic, try to dive in in a thing, you think you want to do. You need to understand that you are really into it so you could risk everything you have. They also say “listen to your heart”. The advice is simple and banal, but it worked out well for me. In my opinion you won’t confuse the feeling of belonging with anything else. Unfortunately, such feeling may appear only after you make a step into the unknown. And before that there will be fear and doubts.

Lisa: If your life makes you sick and you want to spend the rest of your days in the mountains just so you could skip some classes, then maybe it’s the time to change something. Take a risk and maybe that will take you to a better place.

Inessa: In my opinion it is all about being interested in what you are studying. If it’s truly your thing – you’ll be thrilled to read lots of books on the topic, to stay awake all night doing your homework, to write your coursework even. But if it’s not working, if you don’t want it to work (my case), perhaps, it’s time to reconsider your life choices.

Were there any difficulties in a process of changing your study program or university (procedurally)?

Lena: The most difficult and unpleasant thing for me was my relocation from university dormitory. I had to get all my stuff out, and my home was 3000 km away from Moscow. And I had to deal with my documents during the winter session week, right before the New Year, which also was rather inconvenient. After that, though, everything was smooth – it’s all like you’ve just finished school once again, all the same. But do not forget to sign up for SAT, if you need to take new subjects for your exams.

Lisa: There were no difficulties – I guess, they wanted me gone as soon as possible.

Inessa:There were some problems with picking up my files from study office. Since it was mid-July, nobody was there. And even when they gave me my high school certificate back, no one told me about the follow-up procedure. I just had to go ahead on my own.

Do you have any regrets today about the decision you made?

Lena:  One thing I regret – I have to attend PE classes now… But honestly, I don’t regret anything, not even the fact that I spend two years to get here. And though it’s too soon to tell that I’ve finally found myself, these 3 months at the medical university were one million times better than a year and a half at Oriental studies.

Lisa: If I’d listened to everybody who told me I was going to end my life in misery and poverty after getting bachelor degree in philology, I would have never realized just how much I like this science. I would never know what I want from my life. So, no, I don’t regret anything.

Inessa: No, I have no regrets. I am happy I’ve done that.

Interview by
Valeria Lizumova