Student at the Strategic Company Management Liberal Arts program at the RANEPA ISS speaks about the internship at The Hague University of Applied Sciences
Despite the difficult epidemic situation in the world, the Institute for Social Sciences (ISS) of the RANEPA makes efforts to support international activities. Here 9 educational programs are partly or fully taught in English, and the institute cooperates with 45 foreign universities in 18 countries worldwide. Daria Zhelunitsina, a student at the Strategic Company Management Liberal Arts program, shared her impressions about studying at The Hague University of Applied Sciences as part of the semester student exchange program, in which she is participating right now.
“The cooperation with The Hague University of Applied Sciences has already lasted for three years. It is a reliable partner with whom we are interested in implementing joint projects in various areas from training to research. In the fall of 2020, despite pandemic restrictions, we were able to launch a semester-long student exchange program. The University provides extensive opportunities for our students, not just interesting courses, but also an extensive network of partner organizations. The Hague is home to many international organizations with very interesting and important projects.
Our Liberal Arts Bachelor’s degree programs in Strategic Company Management and Public Policy and Government Strategies are practice-oriented. One of the key competitive advantages is that students learn best international practices both in business and in the public sector,” Alexey Verbetsky, Head of the Strategic Company Management Liberal Arts program at the RANEPA ISS.
Daria Zhelunitsina shared her first-hand impressions with the audience of the website.
– Daria, how did you find out about the internship and why did you want to participate?
– It has been a dream of mine to study on exchange. I remember well when my cousin went to study as an exchange student from her university. Then I told myself that I would definitely go too when I grew up and went to university. I realized that the second or third year is the most appropriate time, as the first year is just the beginning and general subjects are still studied, without specialization, and the fourth year is when you write the thesis. So in the autumn of the second year, when nobody knew about the pandemic yet, I found out that there were plans to sign an agreement with The Hague University of Applied Sciences, and there was a chance that the exchange program itself would take place next year, which I was very happy about.
– What were the conditions for selecting internship participants? Did you prepare specifically to be successful in the selection process?
– The program was originally planned for two students. The specific requirements were unknown, as the universities had not even signed the agreement at that time. But anyway, I knew I had to do everything I could to go. So I tried to study at the highest level, paying special attention to English classes. When the enrollment was announced, I was required to write a motivation letter, submit a confirmation of the required level of English, of course, the rating of academic achievement was taken into account.
– Weren’t you afraid to travel in such a difficult epidemiological situation?
– Honestly, it was scary. Until the last minute it was not clear whether we would be able to go. The epidemiological situation was worsening, borders were closing, the number of sick people was growing, and many people were unprepared for the new normal. The visa fee and insurance had to be paid at the time of application. No one could guarantee that the trip would take place and the money spent would be refunded. Nor was the format of the training known, whether the classes would be held remotely or at the university. But I decided it was too late to give up and I could not let myself quit. It turned out that in such a volatile situation, I was the only exchange student in the area of my studies.
– Tell us about your expectations: what came true and what did not?
– My original expectations were different. I thought that I would go to classes at the university, communicate with my coursemates in person, attend events and explore the city and its surroundings. As a result, due to the same pandemic, the pairs are classes online, collaboration with classmates is also mostly through calls, but sometimes we study together offline at the university, since the campus itself is open and there is a lot of free space to study. The exams take place in person at the university. The café terraces, regular shops were only opened for free visits recently, as previously you could get there by appointment only. Curfew has also been lifted. Before that, you could only be outside until nine o’clock and later until ten o’clock at night. But despite all the restrictions, no one has shut down the wonderful parks, narrow streets, the coast of The Hague and the tulip fields, my favorite places.
– What were your first impressions upon arrival?
– My exchange program began with an adventure: four hours before my flight, I tested positive for coronavirus. So I had to stay in Russia for quarantine and then go to The Hague. The Netherlands welcomed me with warm spring weather, bright greenery, blooming flowers and birds singing. It contrasted to our weather and felt like I used a time machine and ended up in mid-April, even though it was late February. The buildings of the university itself impressed me: they were spacious, with modern design, light slipping through the huge windows and endless study areas where you can study with comfort and joy.
– Are you comfortable being on an internship without your usual study group and constantly communicating in English?
– In the Hague I remembered my classmates by their voices as the cameras were off in the online lectures. Of course, there was a lack of live communication. In the previous semester, we worked a lot together with classmates from ISS on different learning projects in teams, we called each other, and I really enjoyed the interaction process. But after a while, some of the guys in my Hague group decided to make a tour and meet in person, which I was very happy about. At first it was a bit difficult to understand some of the classmates due to different pronunciation. It always takes time to adjust. I also felt the extra workload: my Hague classmates have been studying only in English for years, and I had to look up the meanings of unfamiliar terms at first.
– Tell us more about how the foreign internship program at the University of Applied Sciences in The Hague is organized? What is the ratio between practical and lecture classes, approximate daily routine, is there free time, how do you spend it?
– The learning process consists of regular lectures, independent study of materials, and a written exam consisting of open-ended questions. There are subjects in which you have to take final written assignments. And the final points for the course students receive only in accordance with the results of the submitted works. But there are also subjects in which we work on projects in teams. As you can guess, these are my favorites, as I am always in favor of knowledge being learned through application rather than classic memorization. Working together also helps to bring the learning process closer to the real teamwork situations students will face after graduation, improve communication and task sharing skills, and brainstorming sessions. I am really glad that we have this is practiced all the time in Liberal Arts format, which I miss a bit in some subjects here.
With free time, things are rather ambiguous. I would say that at the moment I have a hybrid study system, studying at the University of The Hague, studying some subjects at the RANEPA, and to pass everything, I have to take some subjects on my own. Since studying at the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration was also partly online, I could attend some of the classes. But often the timetables at the two universities overlap, and at The Hague University examinations take place almost every month as soon as a subject is finished, and no separate time is set aside for preparation. I was recently diseased with coronavirus for the second time and this time it was even worse, so it also made it harder for me to study. I need to have self-discipline, planning my time, which I try to practice along with regular exercise and outdoor walks for balance.
– What impressed you most about this trip?
– As part of one of The Hague University’s subjects, we are organizing an online conference that will focus on rethinking sustainable cities after SOVID-19. Working on the conference is one of the highlights of the exchange program for me. All students from our group form a team that is divided into different departments. I am an assistant manager of the team that manages the conference program itself, we are responsible for recruiting speakers and developing the content of the event, we tried to make it as exciting as possible. My responsibilities include strategic planning, because we need to understand what kind of conference we want to organize in the end, and to think about all the steps that our team should take to make it happen. I also distribute tasks among team members and check the quality of execution, hold weekly meetings with the team together with the manager. This experience is very close to working for a real event agency, so the benefits are enormous.
I am grateful to this trip for expanding my perception of the world, communication with people from different countries, cultural exchange, allowing me to think about familiar things and look at them from a new perspective, as well as to discover new approaches and views on things from different areas of life. And of course, the nature, the stunning landscapes and the Dutch cities themselves support my unabating interest in exploring them.
– Do you plan to use the acquired knowledge to write your term/diploma thesis? What topics are closest and most interesting to you?
– The topic of sustainable development has been of interest to me since I was in school. Throughout my courses at the RANEPA ISS many of my papers were on the same subject. I think in my fourth year I will continue to develop in this sphere. The experience gained during the exchange internship will help to further immerse myself into this topic, as the Netherlands is actively implementing sustainable projects at both governmental and commercial levels. The leading experts in the field we have invited to the conference will be able to further motivate and expand my knowledge in this area.
At the University of the Hague I was able to complete my vision from the public sector perspective, as I study International Public Administration, and at the RANEPA ISS my field of study is Management. Thanks to the knowledge I have gained, my future projects and work will be more balanced and encompassing. I am very grateful to the RANEPA ISS for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and gain international experience!