Is there a foreign future for foreign graduates?
25/08/2006, Yelena Jetpyspayeva
Many Kazakhs went every year abroad for studying. Many of them had a dream to stay abroad for working. Many think they will be a perfect choice for employees with their 'foreign perspective'. Do they really value? Being a Gazeta.kz journalist I became a Master of EU Studies student at the Hochschule Bremen in Germany. That is what I experienced.
Entering the study program you usually think about what it has: subjects, seminars, exams. As well as group, communication process, friendship, 'just having fun'. When it draws to a close you start thinking about where you are and what your study gave you. Was it worthy? Will it bring you a job? These questions started torturing me at least 5 month before graduating.
It was a long way for me to come to study European Studies. Both from financial and organizational perspectives. Coming from developing countries such as Kazakhstan where I live is not very easy. First of all, because of tuition fee. Most of the universities offering Master programs in European Studies charge you a lot from Kazakhstani perspective where the average salary in big town is more or less 300 euro per month.
The second obstacle is how to get visa. Living in developing country makes you impossible to come to Europe, at least, to Germany where I always wanted to study. German embassy requirements seem to be made to prevent us coming to Europe no matter in what case. You need to have a real estate, well-paid job, credit card with no bad credit history, some savings on your account, health insurance and also untouchable amount of at least 7.000 euro per year to make German authorities be sure you will not get into trouble, will not work and are not searching for better life.
Let's count how many years you need to fulfill German embassy requirements. If I follow their way, to get 7.000 euro as a deposit and 7.900 euro for tuition fee having 300 per month salary (in good case) I need 49 months which is 4 years to get to Germany. Without eating, paying for a flat, transport, clothes. I would rather die having this dream.
Another possible way is to get German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst - DAAD) scholarship. This means go through all the competition stages such as application, interview and German language exam competing with other Kazakhs for 3 places a year for Master Study. And it is not all you need. You have to start thinking about it at least 3 years before. Finishing your Bachelor with honored diploma, having diploma work in European field, a work experience and English language exam certificate (if you plan to study in English), finding a German University who will give you a confirmation of admission in written form a year (!) before DAAD competition takes place. Then face up thousands of students who fulfilled these criteria. If you win, DAAD guaranteed you a visa and monthly scholarship for 700 euro at least.
I have chosen the second way. For me it was 1 year shorter and I would probably not die at the end. I started preparation 2 years before graduating from International Journalism course at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Almaty which is the best Uni in Kazakhstan working, saving money, getting work experience and good CV history and writing diploma in EU field. Excellent defense of "The role of Mass-Media in EU Integration process" which was my diploma about, long working history in media and NGO's, knowledge of English and German and native Russian, confirmation of admission from Bremen Hochschule International Graduate Center was my completed unit of fire which rewarded me at the end with DAAD scholarship.
I was among 2 others who got this happiness. "I will go to Germany for study and I will not die dreaming", - I was screaming in "Izvestia" newspaper office where I worked and that driven my colleagues crazy. My head was a mess at that time. My mind turned on a new phase of personal development. I was thinking only about new stop in my life, which was for at least next year - Bremen.
Now I am in Bremen (Germany) studying European Studies for 10 months at the International Graduate Center of Hochschule Bremen. I have studied a lot and went through both in studies, getting a huge amount of information every day, and in personal life. Sometimes it seems more then a lot. Sometimes I feel myself stock in EU subject. Sometimes - completely lost. But still I can say it was what I always wanted.
We set up together a group of 17 auslaender (foreigners) from all over the world: 1 Thai, 1 Taiwanese, 6 Chinese, 3 Turkish, 1 French, 2 Bulgarians, 1 Latvian, 1 Russian and me, Kazakh, most of the time considered to be also Russian which I hate. From different countries, different backgrounds, different cultural perspectives. Facing new life in new country with the same problems, studying the same hard every day changing subject of EU. Sometimes being really good friends, sometimes hating each other especially working in groups.
Everything was new for us. Even the system of teaching which was not usual for German universities. All my German friends studying in normal German Hochschule or University asked me surprisingly: "Do you really have coffee and tea for free there? It is like Heaven!" It isn't. Actually it is a little bit like Hell with some nice moments. Such as coffee or "You are free to interrupt and ask questions".
Our schedule, very empty from the beginning, was completely full of subjects after first week even on Saturdays. We had teachers from all over the Europe coming and teaching and had to be free for them and slaved for their schedule. Some came from European Commission and were able to give classes only on Saturdays and we suffered from it having weekends on Mondays. Some of them gave classes after work then we studied from 4 p.m.
But, it would be unjust to say, everyday we experienced something new. I was happy noticing it because the reason I went to job being a 1 course student while getting my Bachelor was non-having THIS new. At that time the only way to become a specialist was working but not studying. I was regretting so much I was spending time useless. Here I have no time to spend. Even to sleep. The big poster in my room tells me every time I look on it I have a deadline for something. I forgot to tell you: my program is an intensive 1 year course.
Mixed of both compulsory and elective classes it gave us an idea how Europe works. All this policy fields with its terminology was something strange, never heard and hard-to-be-understood in first weeks. Then became a part of our way of thinking. We were like aliens from another planet for non-EU students always talking about NUTS, ex-post\ex-ante evaluations, phasing-out countries and transitional periods. Arguing with 4 freedoms and defending with "Acquis Communautaires". Looking very intelligent debating about Normative theories vs. Analytical or all these Federalism, Spill-over and Neo-functionalism. As well as pin our hopes with units and DGs.
Actually this course gave us a lot until we got used to it and stopped noticing new. We adopted all technical terms and felt ourselves close to specialists. As time goes by we become snobbiest more criticizing then expecting. Now we all attended to question: what is ahead?
Simply searching for the answer on this question and checking my chances to get an internship or job in EU affairs I was googling for European Studies programs. The result made me feel lost in thoughts. There were 42,200,000 sites of Universities and Schools offering courses in European Studies all over the Europe. Multiply it on average amount of graduates at least 20 per year we can get a figure of 844,000,000 which is unbelievable. Is a market for EU graduates still not saturated? I doubt it.
Talking with Wolfgang Petzold, European Commission Regional Policy Directorate-General official and one of our part-time lecturers, I have made a conclusion that chance to get an internship in EU field is rather close to zero. European Studies program is just a course but not a red carpet to your perfect future.
"Not having done research myself on the question whether it's important or not to (a) do EU studies at all and (b) to become an EU official based on this, here are my 'felt' impressions. Yes, the "College of Europe" or the European University Institute are or at least have been "factories producing" EU officials. Yes, of course it matters if one has the post-graduate European Studies degree. Sure, the number of students will in these days by far higher than the number of vacant Commission posts (currently 1,000 per year). What is clear to me: applicants to traineeships and official's posts have a clear advantage when they finish "European Studies" on top of their original ones, which however need to be graded 'excellent' and hopefully done on an international basis. And yes: more and more relevant professional experience counts, be it from national authorities, NGOs or the enterprise sector. What I find interesting in how far the label "European Studies/training on EU affairs" has become a market of its own", - thinks Mr. Petzold.
Now I can understand why in our program there are some life-subjects such as marketing and management, cross-cultural communication which became vital and fashionable with all these trans-national corporations, business law and expanding business across borders. Having this issue in mind that the market is full of European Studies graduates all types and backgrounds our course prepares us to be able to work not only in public sector but more in private. Simply to be not disappointed at all.
Entering the course we are usually full of pink dreams and expectations then at the end we all see reality. Will it be a future for European Studies graduates? Or will it be a future for European Studies program? What I can say now is that I see the same name of offered courses; huge demand for a topic, very different context varies from University to University, not well-developed schedule and no system on the market to absorb at least half-graduates. The current situation more or less reminds me something made spontaneous according to 'spirit of the times', something which not last long but something you have to pay for.
What I can suggest is to think about what pupils start to learn at schools all over Europe where European Studies are becoming a part of a school program. The context is somehow similar to what I have studied in Master course. After this does it still make sense to study only European Studies or it is better to go for something where European Studies will be a perfect attachment to vivid and not temporary subjects. Check before but not studies, not subjects, not exams. Check a market demand for your future diploma. Then - decide.
P.S. I have just got a letter. I was accepted for 5 month paid traineeship in Internal Relations Department in European Parliament. I am going to Brussels, the capital of Belgium, the capital of European Union. Thanks to my European Studies program. Sometimes miracles happen!