Ekaterina Demidchenko: “At HSE I value corporate culture, professional relations between students and teachers, practice-oriented approach to education”.
Interview with Ekaterina Demidchenko, a first-year student of Master program Socioeconomic and Political Development of Modern Asia.
My name is Ekaterina Demidchenko, I love contemporary art, art-house and independent films, I know Hindi and Urdu, and I am a first-year student of the Master program Socioeconomic and Political Development of Modern Asia.
I would like to share my observations about the program.
Tell us about your experience and education before entering the HSE Master's program?
I graduated from MGIMO University, School of International Relations, majoring in Area Studies with Hindi and Urdu. At MGIMO I focused mainly on South Asia, including historical aspects, as well as issues of the domestic and foreign policy of the countries of the region.
I can say that I had a fairly active student life, I participated in various student clubs of the MGIMO Scientific Student Society (Indo-Iranian, Anglo-Saxon clubs, and I also collaborated with the Chinese and African clubs), international forums, summits, and scientific conferences. As well as that, I organized exhibitions in MGIMO, the Embassy of India, and the American Center in Moscow at the US Embassy. I think my most vivid memories during the years of my bachelor's degree were trips to international forums in India and Pakistan and studying at the American University in Washington on an exchange program, where I studied US politics, security in Asia, and contemporary art.
In Pakistan, I participated in the 3rd International Youth Summit in Lahore, dedicated to sustainable development goals and their implementation in different countries. For me, this summit became an important and valuable experience in terms of scientific and academic goals (since at that time I was preparing materials on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and its impact on the socio-economic situation of the population of Balochistan as part of my internship at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington), and in terms of diplomacy. So, I was able to talk with Pakistani senators, representatives of the Balochistan administration, scientists from Lahore University, journalists from Pakistan Politico and Voice of Balochistan, and Pakistani students. I felt the specifics of the country, I visited Islamabad, Lahore (Punjab province), Quetta (Balochistan province), saw what Pakistan is "from the inside": rebuilding, strengthening national security, and creating a new image of a stable, open and friendly state. The most revealing for me was the ceremony (the so-called bugle call ceremony) on the Indian-Pakistani border in Wagah, during which a parade of Pakistani rangers and fighters of the Indian border troops takes place, exchanging greetings and lowering the flags of countries. This ceremony is the manifestation, on the one hand, of incessant competition and rivalry, on the other, an attempt at rapprochement and reconciliation. For me what was happening was an amazing embodiment of nationalism: Indians and Pakistanis, who watched the parade, were in two different stadiums separated by a border, and tried to shout down each other with slogans "Long live India" and "Long live Pakistan." I was very impressed by this event, especially in the context of the Indo-Pakistani conflict and the situation in Kashmir.
Student trips to India were no less curious and significant. I have been to India twice, participated in the Indian-Russian Youth Forum in New Delhi, which is held jointly by MGIMO and the Indian NGO Global Youth India, it was interesting to talk with diplomats from the Russian Embassy in New Delhi about Russian-Indian relations and find out their opinion on Indian domestic politics.
What can you say about the models of education in the USA and at HSE?
It is worth mentioning that at American University, Washington D.C. I spent only one term as a bachelor student, and at HSE I am studying at a Master's program amidst the pandemic and the rise of online education, so the comparison may not be entirely correct. Nevertheless, I will try to highlight the key similarities.
First, according to my observations, the two systems are based on common values and an identical understanding of corporate culture: ideas about human dignity, respectful non-toxic attitude are equally significant and inherent in the two systems, professional relations between students and teachers are established, which seems to me undoubtedly important.
Second, speaking about education itself, I can say that both the American University and HSE emphasize the development of critical thinking, rather than mindless memorization of facts, encouraging discussion and free expression of one's thoughts and views. It should be noted that both at the American University and HSE, students are not limited in their choice of topics and research interests.
Third, another common feature is the flexibility of curricula, which makes it possible to choose additional courses that do not directly correlate with the major, so, to expand my competencies I am currently taking a course in technological marketing.
Overall, I can say that studying at HSE is very similar to a semester at the American University, Washington D.C.
What impressed you most about India when you were there?
India is a very beautiful and controversial country. I think it is often simplified because of the “Incredible India” program, popular culture, yoga, and meditation practices. However, India is not so deceptively simple, it is surprisingly rich in culture, and I was greatly impressed by the mixture of Mughal, Hindu, and Dravidian heritage. During my stay in India, I visited New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, and each time I was impressed by India. My trips had both practical (participation in the Russian-Indian youth forum) and tourist purposes, so I was able to see "another India". I think this diversity impressed me the most, the Indians themselves call this phenomenon "विभिन्नता में एकता", which in Hindi means "unity in diversity."
Why did you choose HSE and this particular program?
The main reason for choosing the program for me was that I wanted to continue concentrating on Area Studies and Asia studies, but with a greater focus on East and Southeast Asia. Since one of my scientific interests is the research on India-China relations and India-China rivalry, I decided to consider this issue through the prism of Chinese interests and Chinese specifics. Moreover, I wanted to combine science and practice, and the program perfectly combines both theoretical and practice-oriented courses. Another determining factor was the corporate culture and environment of the HSE, which I wanted to be a part of.
What do you like most about this program?
The program allows me to expand my knowledge, a lot of attention is paid to writing research, posing a research question, hypotheses, choosing the right methods and research design, which seems quite useful and interesting because it makes the process of writing a scientific paper more academic and not so intuitive. Besides, for the first few lessons within the framework of a scientific research seminar with Olga V. Volosyuk, I identified for myself some inaccuracies and mistakes that I made in my bachelor thesis. I like that the program provides an opportunity to maintain the perfect balance between study, work, and life, it is important for me to avoid "development imbalances". Moreover, there are many interesting projects at HSE, for example, as part of the Business and Entrepreneurship in Asia course with Sergey V. Shaposhnikov, I took part in a project to analyze the Russian and EU markets for the Japanese company.
The times we are living can be extremely stressful, combined with the online study and deadlines, how do you deal with this situation being a student at HSE?
Now I am not only studying at HSE but also working in a company where I research international security practices related to monitoring and responding to crises and incidents, so the issue of time management is quite acute.
Typically, the inability to establish proper time management is associated with stress and anxiety. I felt this when there was a hybrid education format this fall: I was on quarantine and, like foreign students, I could not attend off-line classes, even though I joined online classes via Zoom, I had a feeling of missing out. Fortunately, with the full transition to online learning, these feelings passed, and our teachers quickly adapted to the new conditions and made the learning process even more productive and interactive.
The pandemic and online learning, despite all objective advantages, have a rather negative effect on my time management, and self-discipline and multitasking require more internal resources, attention, and concentration than in the usual rhythm of life. I use a variety of task manager and concentration apps that help me stay focused during my studies and work and get things done on time. Like everyone else, I try to take breaks for music, film, podcasts, meditation, etc. In the fight against stress and fatigue, creativity and art help me. I love watching films by Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrei Tarkovsky, Peter Greenaway, David Lynch, Wes Anderson, Pedro Almodovar - this is what supports me and gives me strength.