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Nastya Menshikova on her Masters programme in Utrecht University

Hi everyone! It has already been a month since I moved to the Netherlands and started my studies at Utrecht University.

Time flies, especially since my Masters programme demands quite a hefty workload. However, it is quite nice to stay up late at the huge library of Utrecht Science Park (fortunately, it works until 10.30 pm). It is really quiet, has very comfortable tables and everyone is very concentrated and working hard.

I am doing great – I am renting a small room, riding a bike to university and working. When I have free time I like to take a walk in the city center, read about local architecture or travel to nearby cities.

The Masters degree in which I am enrolled is called Sociology and Social Research. Due to the fact this is a research Masters, the whole programme, as well as all the courses and lectures, are built in such a way that we regularly check all the material covered, submitting two or three fully completed articles from a team of students during the semester. During our first year we will have two big courses on statistics and network analysis, as well as courses on theory construction and a general course on inequality. We will also have to work on our thesis literature review. During our second year there will be more attention given to the dissertation, with the rest of the time dedicated to elective courses or internship.

There are 17 people in my group. 9 of them are internationals and the rest are Dutch. Everyone is really cool, and all of my classmates have a lot of research experience in various areas: someone researched the introduction of basic income in Europe, someone else went on an internship to South Africa. We have quite a lot of group work, and I really enjoy working together and having discussions (such was a very unexpected realisation because team work is often quite hard and annoying). I think I learn from my new classmates as much as I learn from the teachers, and this is incredibly nice.

Such was the case at HSE as well. A lot of other things remind me of HSE too. For example, the format of text discussions is the same as at research seminars at HSE or analytic sociology seminars, besides the fact that it is a bit more intensive and we read a lot more here. I remember my data analysis course very fondly because now I feel quite confident in my new statistics course. Of course, I miss everyone a lot. Moreover, I understand that I am only here because of what I was able to do during my bachelor degree at HSE.

When I was looking for various European Masters programmes on cold winter evenings, I put this programme on my list for two reasons: being able to get a scholarship and a great selection of courses. I was not considering it very seriously, because it seemed too unattainable, but Ilya Leonidovich talked me into trying to send my documents there. It all worked out: I got Utrecht Excellence Scholarship that covers my tuition. Daniil Alexandrovich recommended that I write to a professor from Utrecht who knows about how to get a part-time job. SO here I am, it has been four weeks already, I am now waiting for my contract to start working for one of the projects connected to digital data, exploring the city, convenient shops and best routes, and getting used to living in a different country a little bit.

I am riding a bike all the time and it is one of the biggest changes that’s happened to me after I moved. I am managing to navigate the bike and look at the maps on my phone at the same time if it is a new route for me. I had to buy a really funny poncho raincoat, because it is raining all the time, and I take my laptop everywhere all the time. I also have two headlights, a special bag on the trunk, and two big locks so that my bike cannot be stolen.

Right now the biggest disappointment for me is that the pictures in Field’s statistics textbook are black-and-white. The prices for all the tickets, even to the smallest museums, are quite high, so I am dreaming of getting a museum card.

I will be very glad to give someone advice if anyone has questions on how to apply. It is always great when you have someone to answer your questions. This way you can avoid unnecessary anxiety or small mistakes that someone has already made for you and knows a better way to do it differently. Feel free to contact me!

Come visit me as well :)