The Journey From A Student To A Staff Member

Violetta Kostuseva talks about her experience at HSE University.

The Journey From A Student To A Staff Member

Violetta Kostuseva is a teaching and learning of the Undergraduate Programmes Curriculum Support (Economics) in Saint Petersburg? a graduate student of Asian and African Studies Bachelor program.

Hello, Violetta! It is fascinating to know that you used to be an HSE student and now work at our university. Please, say some words about yourself.

Hi! My name is Violetta Kostuseva. It seems like this is the most difficult question... I grew up in a small town, at first I did not think to go far from my city, but somehow I found myself in Saint Petersburg, where I entered the university, and then in China, where I studied for a month, and finally in Vietnam, where I lived and studied for a year. And all of these became possible thanks to my parents and HSE. Now I am working in a study office. I love to read books and bake something in my oven. You know it is so nice to make food in your own kitchen, not in a dormitory one.

Why did you choose Oriental Studies in HSE? As an excellent alumnus, what kind of challenges did you face? How did you deal with them?

To be honest, it happened quite spontaneously. At the end of May, one month before the Unified State Exam (ЕГЭ), a friend of mine told me about Oriental studies at Moscow HSE, and I really liked what and how they were learning.

It's hard for me to bear the name «an excellent alumnus». The biggest challenge in my first year was learning Chinese as it was completely different language from European languages: I had to write out hieroglyphs, pronounce tones without having an excellent hearing, etc... In my first year, it seemed like I would never learn Chinese. Frankly, I still sometimes think so. But with experience and practice did this language became clear to me. And living was difficult without Alisa – my cat. For seven years she had slept near me, and then ... I could not cope with this problem. All I could do was try to spend as much time with her as possible during my short vacation. Things then went easier.

Do you have any advice for those who now study at your program?

I have three pieces of advice. 

First, please communicate more with native speakers! Teachers at the Faculty of Oriental studies (at least in St. Petersburg) will give you a pretty good language basis, but then you must learn a language by yourself. In class, you frequently spend one hour learning only one grammatical structure, while in an hour of speaking with native speakers face to face you learn and practice new words, improve your listening and speaking.

Secondly, take advantage of all the opportunities that HSE offers you! Apply for international mobility, internships, go to university clubs, do research. Gain experience!

Third, learn from Orientalists and other professors that have practical experience. I am not saying that you need to skip theoretical classes (they are also very useful). However, the theory is quite easy to find on your own, and besides, there is a good library in HSE. But understanding by yourself how to negotiate with the Chinese, submit a resume to a Chinese company, find an order for translation… is a lot harder, well, much more painful. So, even though the motto of HSE is «Non Scholae Sed Vitae Discimus» («not for school, but for life we ​​learn»), they will not tell you about many vital things. Look for practitioners and learn from their experience.

Have you ever had any ideas about working in the university after graduation while still studying?

Oh no, of course not. I didn't know at all who and where I would work after graduation.

Are you satisfied with this job? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an HSE staff?

There are things in my work that I like and dislike, so it's hard to say. But I'm interested in seeing how the system works from the inside.

I have already learned about many life hacks and tricks that students can use. If only I had known about them when I was a student...

Another advantage is to have a discount at the Greenbox cafe as I am a university staff. I have already tried plenty of new coffee flavours there. 

HSE also provides access to many scientific events, makes it possible to study interesting courses. For example, a course on how to overcome stress has started recently. By the way, many staff are taking this course. 

How often do you have to work with international students? What is the difference between working with them and Russian students?

Not so often, in fact, more with Russians. And many foreign students here know Russian. Oh, I remembered that once a Vietnamese student came to our office, and he was very surprised when I spoke to him in Vietnamese. I will never forget his facial expression at that time. About the differences, then, as for me, foreign students are ... nicer, or something. There was one time, after a month I took this job, a foreign student sent me an email. It began, “First of all, thank you”. I was pleasantly surprised. And I really wanted to help him from the bottom of my heart. Russian students have not sent such letters to me yet. But the Russians are in principle more restrained, I suppose.

First of all, thank you.

It is always nice to hear such words for everything you do for students and teachers.

Your work is not connected to what you had studied for four years. What do you think about it?

I take it as a little rest and a new adventure. I love the East, but I'm a little tired of it, and learning something new, developing completely different skills is always pleasant and useful. For example, I have already got rid of my eternal shyness to speak with strangers.

I will return to what I've studied in HSE, but only when I understand in which field I want to use them. And by the way, what I studied still helps me, just in other areas.

What are your future plans? Will you still want to receive a master’s degree or even go for post-graduate degree?

I am all for getting further education. However, I think that choosing a master's degree should be more reasonable. You know, many students choose a bachelor's degree not thinking about whether they really want to learn it. They may choose this bachelor's degree because of their parents or other external causes. And then a lot of them go with this educational flow “school – bachelor's degree – master degree” and get a master’s degree in order to get this degree. Just in case.

Unfortunately, to some degree, I wasn't an exception. That's why right now I want to think more about what I really want to learn.

Interview by
Nga Pham