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“Let's not learn to count at all and see the numbers!” Interview with Ella Chromova.

Ella has been teaching at the parallel degree program in International relations since 2016. She started teaching the course of economic theory with the lecturer Yuri Vladimirovich Avtonomov and for the last two years has been teaching two courses for the third-year students. One of them is "International Finance" and another is "Introduction to corporate Finance". Read our interview to learn more about the utility and applicabilaty of her subjects and International Relations in general.

1) What is the value of studying international relations? 

As for me, this question is quite difficult, since I teach particularly the financial aspect of their education. However, I can say for sure that those 3 years and the subjects they study on international relations allow students to look fully at the picture happening in the macroeconomics of the whole world. In General, we can see that students have a very developed outlook, they read a lot of news. In addition, they are aware of what is happening with the political, economic situation in the world, which gives them an incredible value of their knowledge, which can be applied in many areas thanks to a broad view. Since the scope of their studies is quite wide, international relations, as I have already said, can be subsequently applied in absolutely any areas, because international relations can be perceived as relations between countries, global-political aspects, relations at the micro level, within a particular company, which can also be really different international branches and communication between them. The establishment of the order of work of the company also cannot exist without the aspect of international relations. 

2) What are the advantages of studying at the parallel degree programs? 

Here, from my experience, I can say for sure that the parallel degree program gives the best education in Russia that can be obtained. The fact is that students of the parallel degree program are trained in two languages. This allows them to keep themselves in a good shape, develop their soft skills, their ability to communicate in a foreign language and overcome communication barriers. However, in addition to just maintaining the language in tone, that in principle could be done not only at a parallel degree program, the really big advantage is the international standards and comparing views in different countries. The fact is that if we consider this from the point of view of the Russian economy and even some accounting in Russia and foreign countries, we see a fundamental difference and, in my purely personal opinion, every person, even if he/she is going to stay in Russia and be a specialist in this country, should familiarize him/herself with all the rules. As practice shows, after studying at the parallel degree program, many students understand that in some cases some aspects of international systems that work somewhere in America or London are often more standardized, even seem easier and more correct. And looking at the experience of studying these international systems, it will be easier to understand even some Russian systems, which will then have to face absolutely any student if he/she decides to stay and work in Russia. It will be really useful for him/her to learn all the subtleties of the work both in Russia and abroad. Of course, if you look from another point of view, the advantages of studying now at the parallel degree program are that students have the opportunity to leave and get some experience abroad. This applies to both academic careers in various top graduate schools around the world and careers in their chosen field of work. It is easier to develop your career here too, if you've graduated from a parallel degree program. This allows you to already use all the terminology and all the standards that you already know in the country and in the field that you will find yourself in, so the students of parallel degree programs have certain advantages.

3) What skills and personal qualities, in your opinion, does the program bring up in students?

In fact, the first time I was very clearly able to encounter this happened when the students of my course “International Finance”, being in the third year of studies, passed a group project, which involved creating a diversified portfolio of securities for each of the group’s clients. This project is quite intuitive and very vital, that is, the project looks so that students are divided into groups of 5 people, each of them is given a specific client with their requests for profitability and risk, which he/she wants to receive from his/her money. Thus, students in the group should choose the most suitable investment portfolio for the client, including bonds, stocks and any other investment instruments. What struck me and why am I talking about this project in such a detailed way? Students of international relations were able to provide an explanation of these portfolios very clearly, not only from the perspective of raw financial mathematics, explaining that taking this paper, we will get the best percentage of profitability that we can get. No. In addition, I do not deny at all that their maths was quite appropriate and well done, but except for it, students were very well aware of what kind of tools they used. They were able to explain in simple language to their client, in whose role I specifically played, why they make this choice, what it will be agreed upon, what risks this choice has and, again, it was all accessible only thanks to its broad outlook. Thus, these are incredibly developed soft skills, that is, the ability to clearly, accurately and beautifully present your thoughts, the ability to talk with the audience, not to get lost on the number of people in the audience and analytically substantiate your answer. And as I already said, knowing what is happening in the world at the moment allows them to simply 100% convince any client that they are really good specialists, because it’s one thing when your analyst comes to you and says that you need to buy this security because it has a 5% return, and it’s completely different if the analyst passes to you, tells about the history of this company, what problems it currently has, reveals the political risks of this organization, since it is located in one or to another country and all this reinforces the final reports, which were also successfully completed by my students.

4) How can an international student build a successful career?

This is a truly difficult question, since this is the first graduation from this program, which will happen in 2020. My personal belief is that the students of this program have the widest possible choice of their career and this does not mean at all that students should connect their lives exclusively with politics, journalism and some more macro-perspectives of their further work. I am convinced that an international student can build his career at the micro level in companies, working in absolutely any international company, since all companies need analysts. In general, the parallel degree program allows students to learn quickly and accurately analyze the information given to them. Not a single program or university will give a clear understanding and clear knowledge of what a student will do at work. It is much more important if, during his/her studies, a student simply learns one of the most important skills. This is to analyze the information given to him. I believe that the parallel degree program allows you to do this and, together with their interest in broadening their horizons, in what is happening in the world, they can go into absolutely any field. In particular, I believe that international students can also build their careers in consulting, in some bank departments, and in financial departments of companies, since even the minimal knowledge that they received in finance will ideally add to those soft skills that they have already acquired from all other subjects of the parallel degree program and any company will be happy to work with them, since it is much easier and faster to train a person, as two specific columns are considered in Excel than to teach a person to speak and understand that you are not ashamed to let the man in front of a client, and in this I am confident in students of the parallel degree programs.

5) How can a student use the knowledge gained during your course?

In general, I have already answered to this in the previous questions. I believe that my course gives them a basic fundamental knowledge on finance, both at the macro level (at various stock markets, that is, at the securities, stocks and bonds markets) and at the micro level (assessment of specific investment projects and companies).  This knowledge is enough for the student to be able to further understand some of the intricacies of financial accounting if he or she is interested in it and, most importantly, this base is enough for students to apply for internships in any financial company and then use their experience of studying these courses and all other courses of the two diploma program at their work.

 6) What difficulties do students most often encounter during this course and what needs to be done to deal with these difficulties?

First, there are difficulties that students expect to have while studying my subjects, but as practice shows, simply by conducting the course itself and asking the students themselves after the course as well as seeing their exam results, which I check at the end of the course, and here it is important to say that the predominant number of students cope with these difficulties without any problems. So, the main difficulty of my subject is usually related to mathematical calculations, which they (students) immediately call higher mathematics and believe that as they entered the program of humanities in International Relations they do not need and will not use it at all, “let's not learn to count at all, and we do not want to see the numbers”.  Unfortunately, this does not happen and, probably, there is no job in the world that at least indirectly has never been connected with calculations and analysis of data. Again, at whatever level the students are going to continue their education/work, they will always be facing the analysis of various numbers. For example, politicians always communicate with each other and use terms such as “issuing government bonds with a specific yield of 5%”, and in practice if you are a journalist who heard this phrase or if you are a participant of this dialogue, you must understand the term precisely, analyze it and be able to answer it. But from the good news - there is nothing globally complicated and computational in financial mathematics, it all comes to calculating any interest and investment attractiveness of projects, which also come to any calculations that can be done with a calculator or, as a last resort, in Excel. The most important thing here is not to make these calculations, but to be able to analyze them and that is what we do in our seminars and this is with what the students cope very well and this allows them to encounter all the fears of this ‘number of numbers’, as when they see their result and that they were able to draw conclusions from this result, all the figures at once become not so scary. Moreover, when you present the same answer in verbal-written form, it seems to you that it was not so difficult. So, I am more than sure that all students of the parallel degree program will have no difficulties in the financial field and that everything depends only on their own persistence and desire to change, to improve themselves and to move on. And they have everything to do that! Thank you very much for the interview!