Nadezhda Kuchma: «I’ve bet my higher education»
Interview with Nadezhda Kuchma, graduate of the master’s program «Socio-economic and Political Development of Modern Asia».
Where did you study for your bachelor's degree and why did you choose our master's program?
I finished my bachelor's degree at Novosibirsk State Technical University in the field of Regional Studies, and I enroll in HSE absolutely by accident – I took a third place at the HSE Olympiad for university graduates, for which, to be honest, I did not prepare at all.
My choice of direction of studying is a very strange story. I was engaged in martial arts while I was at school in Khabarovsk. At that time in addition to English, the Chinese language was introduced in our school. Then my good friend, a student of the Far Eastern State University for the Humanities (now the Pedagogical Institute of TOGU) and a part-time teacher of Chinese at our school, was very worried that "such talent as me is disappearing". He tried to convince me that I should go to Oriental studies. In 2011, we had one of the stages of selection for the Russian Judo Championship, and I argued with a friend that if I managed to win, I would go to study wherever I want, and if not, I would go in the direction of Oriental studies with Chinese.
What is your level of Chinese language?
In general, if we talk about my relationship with Chinese, I can say that I learned it very easily, better than English, but I did not really want to learn languages. To be honest, I did not know what I wanted to do at all, I thought about the profession of a pathologist, but rather from the romanticized image of doctors.
And how did you find out about HSE and our program?
Already in the 3rd year of NSTU, I met a very good girl who was studying a year older than I in the Korean direction on our master program. Her name is Veronika Nepomnyashchaya. She told me about our master's program at HSE.
When I was in the 4th year at university, I was very bored. All students probably experience an identity crisis in the fourth year of studying: there is no job. The most that you can do with Chinese after the bachelor's degree is to teach Chinese to schoolchildren. I wasn't interested in it at all. And in December 2015, Veronika talked about the HSE Winter School. I applied, and my application was accepted.
The first day in HSE Winter School was my birthday. On that day, some teachers of the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics were introduced to us: Olga Volosyuk, Mikhail Karpov, Fyodor Lukyanov, and others. One of the lectures was red by Mikhail Vladimirovich Karpov and he just swept me off his feet. Later, I wrote all my term papers and my master's thesis with him.
Here it is worth noting the following. It is important to understand that the style of teaching at regional universities and at HSE is different – different methods of keeping the audience's attention, different understanding of world science and what it should be, different opportunities to show the vector of development. We have amazing teachers at NSTU, who really care about their level of teaching, and have built a significant foundation for my further development. And the HSE Winter School became to be a fundamentally different experience. And that's what win over me. Before this trip, I did not even look in the direction of Moscow universities because of a wrong stereotype - if you study in the region and are not a Great Olympian, then the road to Moscow universities is closed to you – the capital of knowledge is not on the needed level.
«I did not even look in the direction of Moscow universities because of a wrong stereotype - if you study in the region and are not a Great Olympian, then the road to Moscow universities is closed to you»
At the Winter School, I got to know about the HSE Olympiad for graduates (https://olymp.hse.ru/ma/). I signed up for this Olympiad. There were a lot of students in the room where Olympiad is held. They all wanted to study Oriental studies at HSE. This, of course, did not inspire optimism. But at the end of the Olympiad, we passed the work and I forgot about the Olympiad at all: pre-graduate practices, preparation for state exams and diploma defense piled up at once. Some of our classmates were preparing to leave for China to continue their studies, were preparing for HSK, we all were in worry. I didn't want to go to China at all. At that time, I still did not understand why I needed all this, the vector of development was not visible for me.
«The vector of development was not visible for me»
And what happened next?
On June 1, we intensively prepared for the defense of the diploma – we were told that there would be a very strict commission. And Veronika wrote to me that the results of the Olympiad were posted. I open the lists and see that I took third place. I didn't even know what it meant at first. The mysterious words about out-of-competition enrollment were very confusing. Then I called my mother and said: "Mom, I'm going to move to Moscow...". But understanding came to me only on July 4, when I brought the needed documents to the HSE Admissions Office and asked the staff: "Are you sure you don't need anything else from me?" The answer came: "We don't need anything for sure. See you in September".
How did it happen that you started teaching?
I just finished my first year of master's degree and for half a year already worked as an analyst at the HSE Institute of Education under the direction of Isak Davidovich Frumin. I got there on the recommendation of Aleksey Aleksandrovich Maslov, the ex-head of the HSE School of Oriental Studies. It is important that at that moment I already began to feel more and more confident that I was on the right path. I came to Alexey Alexandrovich with the question "Is there anything I can do to help in any project related to China or Southeast Asia?" Alexey Alexandrovich spoke to me very warmly, promised to keep in mind if any project starts.
After a while, he called me and asked if I would like to teach undergraduate courses. I agreed. And since September, I have been teaching the discipline "Integration processes in Asian countries" in the 4th year of my bachelor's degree. This is a completely my developed discipline - I wrote a program for it, collected materials, etc. Then I started teaching a course in "Social Anthropology" for first-year students.
Can you describe what you are doing now?
Now I hold the position of Deputy Director of the International Institute for the Study of Asia, Africa, and Latin America at the RUDN. In fact, within the framework of this institute, we are engaged in cooperation, the development of scientific and educational partnerships with the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Since last year, I have been participating in the project" Export of Education", which aims to increase the attractiveness and competitiveness of Russian education in the international market of educational services. My work experience at the HSE Institute of Education helps me a lot. In parallel with this, I am trying to write a PhD thesis.
I also work as the head of the Department of Educational Programs at the Institute of the Far East of the Russian Academy of Sciences, where I was invited by A. A. Maslov.
The most problematic part for me is the PhD thesis, because there are so many interesting projects around, you want to contribute everywhere, so it became difficult over time, and preparing a good text requires time. But I need a dissertation. For me, it is a social ritual. I think that everyone who works in the field of science and higher education should go through it.
«The most problematic part for me is the PhD thesis, because there are so many interesting projects around, you want to contribute everywhere, so it became difficult over time, and preparing a good text requires time»
By the way, for this attitude to the text, I am very grateful to our master's program. We had the disciplines "Methodology of scientific research" and "Ethnic conflicts", which were taught by Rogozhina Anna Alekseevna. It was really difficult: constant testing, you constantly write something and pass it in English, you constantly read and reread a lot of things. It is difficult to understand in Russian, and here it needs to be done in English. For our group, these courses were a challenge, and we did it! And for this approach, we are infinitely grateful, because it is thing that keeps this light inside the student. It's wildly difficult for you, but it's interesting to break through.
«It's wildly difficult for you, but it's interesting to break through»
Why did you not want to go to China? Usually, all Sinologists are eager to go to China.
I had a clear understanding of what China is and what would happen to me there. I was already there on a language internship. It was a short-term language course. We studied at Shenyang Polytechnic University. It was very cool time, I really liked it. In general, I love China. But the attitude towards foreigners and their education is a little confusing to me, because I am a rather intrusive person, and I did not like what I saw in Shenyang. From this approach to learning, I get bored, and I stop learning. I knew perfectly well that even if I went there on a scholarship, jumped on this train to China, it would not end well for me. It was such an inner belief. It is clear that I really wanted to go to China, stay there for a while, live, work, but not study, in any case. I can't explain it rationally, it's more on the level of intuition.
It turns out that the Chinese language was taught well in Novosibirsk?
In this regard, I was very lucky with the teachers. At first, we had a very cool girl, and then in the 3rd year, a military translator, Pavel Kormich, came to us. This is the person who introduced almost army discipline, gave me a C (but I later corrected it) and the person who taught me a very important thing - there is always a counteraction to any action.
«This is the person who introduced almost army discipline, gave me a C (but I later corrected it) and the person who taught me a very important thing - there is always a counteraction to any action»
What professional retraining program did you complete?
This is a professional retraining program "Translator in the field of professional communication". The program was designed for 2 years.
Is there any plan for the near future?
It is very difficult for me to concretize my goal setting, because as soon as I concretize a goal, it becomes too real for me, and when I reach it, I no longer have a sense of completeness. Therefore, the motto here is "Never look back!". I would like to support Russian Oriental studies with my scientific research, if there are any, or with the training of specialists who will later form the Russian corpus of Oriental studies. But I do not see my tasks only in science or only in education. In a certain sense, I am such a mediator – I like to do research, but I also like to build processes within the scientific and educational environment.
After 2020, I realized that work is not the purpose of my life. I love what I do, but my job is not me. I have my own hobbies, my own "wishlist", I like to spend time with my loved ones.
«I realized that work is not the pupose of my life. I love what I do, but my job is not me»
I'm for balance. Although I still need to learn it. What is important is that I see the value of what I do, both for myself and for Russian science and education.