Reflecting Back and Looking Forward

Tyler Cobb interviewed three HSE Master's students to hear their reflections on their time at HSE and their next steps after graduation.

Reflecting Back and Looking Forward

For many HSE students, including myself and my classmates, our time here is swiftly coming to a close. As we prepare our final papers for submission and slideshows for presentation, it is important that we also find some time to reflect back on our experiences as students. The world has changed immeasurably while we have been studying here, and the educational process has been right in the middle of some of the biggest changes. How we all have experienced these changes will go on to impact how we continue to carry on with our careers. I interviewed three of my fellow classmates - Emilien, Bashim, and Mustafa- to get their reflections about their time at HSE, what it means for them now, and what plans they have for the future.

Hello everyone! Tell us, please, about the topics that have been choosen for your final Master’s thesis.

Emilien M.: Two years ago, my original intention was to study the history of immigration between Russia and France. However, my topic has evolved significantly since then, and in some very unexpected ways. Now, I am studying food history, specifically the consumption of horse meat in France since 1950.

Bashim D.: My topic of research has developed into something that is very important to me, and is related to the 1930’s famine in Kazakhstan. It has been a challenge to write about something not only so personal but also so sensitive to many people, but I have been well advised and am confident in my materials.

Mustafa K.: My field of study got narrower and narrower as the semesters went on, and as I found more material to research. Now, I am writing about varying opinions in Turkish newspapers around the time of the beginning of the second World War.

How would you rate your overall experience at the Higher School of Economics?

Emilien M.: I had a really positive experience here. Unfortunately, some of my colleagues were unable to come to Saint Petersburg to study, but I was lucky enough to have that opportunity. I have been here for a few months now, and am very grateful to have the chance. It really is a beautiful city.

Bashim D.: The best way to describe my experience at HSE is as a journey. As with anything, there were good times and tough times, but I am glad to have been a part of the university, and will definitely recommend it to my friends.

Mustafa K.: It was a great experience. This is my second round as an HSE student, as I studied abroad here during my undergrad. Due to Covid-19, I was unable to return to HSE physically, but I am still happy that I got to study again at this great school and complete my Master’s degree here.

Internships are an important part of the Master’s degree curriculum. How was your internship experience?

Emilien M.: My experience with the internship process was pleasant. There was some stress involved, of course, with writing my thesis at the same time, but I believe the internship will prove to be useful later in my career.

Bashim D.: I am happy that we had the chance to participate in internships during the course of our degree. My internship did not go exactly as planned, primarily due to complications from Covid-19 restrictions and other bureaucratic issues. However, it was still an interesting experience and a good opportunity.

Mustafa K.: The internship period was just superb. I was given a lot of freedom with mine, and was able to work on the projects and topics of my choice. I also had the opportunity to make use of some fairly exclusive historical archives, making the internship not only important for my resume, but also helpful for writing my thesis now.

Over the last few years, we have had to experiment with online learning. How did this transition go for you, and what is your overall opinion about studying in an online format?

Emilien M.: As I was living in France for most of my time as a student at HSE, without online studying I would not have been able to study here at all. Overall, it was well planned and organised, and executed efficiently.

Bashim D.: Online learning took a lot of getting used to. I know that myself and probably many other people were really looking forward to studying in Saint-Petersburg. For me it was, and still is, a dream to come live there for a while. I think the online format became easier after coming to terms with the situation, and despite the occasional technical malfunction, it still worked quite well and did not impact my ability to study.

Mustafa K.: As I mentioned before, I was unable to come to Saint-Petersburg during this time, so online learning was a necessity for me. Over these last two years, I discovered that I might even prefer the online format.

After you have presented your thesis, do you have any plans for the upcoming summer?

Emilien M.: Now that I am in Russia, I would like to stay here for some more time. I am now looking for a job so that I can continue to live here through the summer.

Bashim D.: During the last two years of reading, writing, and interviews, I have become very invested in my research topic. Everything I learn seems to turn over new stones, or leave me with more questions than I had before. I know that my paper which I will soon defend will not be the end of my interest in this topic. In fact, over the summer I would like to continue with my research at my own pace. I will look for new perspectives and ways to interpret and discuss my topic as much as I can in preparation for more official research in the future.

Mustafa K.: It has been quite some time since I had a moment to genuinely relax. With Covid-19 hitting, and then this Master’s degree, it has been a stressful couple of years. Very productive and enjoyable, but stressful nonetheless. So, this summer, my priority is just to relax. I hope it will be a nice, nostalgic summer, with some trips to the seaside and some sunshine. Hopefully I’ll be able to recharge my batteries, and go into Autumn feeling refreshed and energised.

What do you think will be the next step you take to continue your career following graduation?

Emilien M.: I think for now I would like to take some time off from school. I want to try to find a job and work there for a while, before eventually continuing on to my PhD.

Bashim D.: As I said, my educational journey is far from finished. After the summer, I plan on applying for another Master’s degree to continue my academic career. Learning and writing about my topic is something I really enjoy, and I hope to be able to continue on it for many more years.

Mustafa K.: My plan eventually is to apply to a PhD. For right now, however, I want to take some time and improve my Russian-language skills. My time and experiences with Russia have been very influential on me, and my future PhD work will be heavily related to Russian history. After the summer I want to attend a Russian language school, so I can properly prepare myself for my further studies.

I hope that this has encouraged you to take some time for yourself to reflect on your experiences at HSE. There is nothing quite like a good school that can enrich one’s life not only with knowledge but also with amazing human connections. Best of luck to everyone in the upcoming exam season, and beyond!