‘Never stop learning’ is probably the main message which current world leaders and other influential figures are promoting. Education is the opportunity to thirst for new knowledge, a chance for self-realisation, for professional and personal development and for meeting new people. Together with the Erasmus + programme, Inspired interviewed three Ukrainian students, who decided to pursue a second higher education abroad and hope to motivate others with their example.
Vasil Hafich, 24 years old
Ivano-Frankivsk – Munich
Physicist, currently a PhD researcher at Bayesian Stastics & Data Analysis
First degree: Applied Physics
With Erasmus Mundus, Vasil completed a two-year combined masters course called Atomic Scale Modelling of Physical, Chemical and Bio-molecular Systems in Amsterdam, Rome, Lyon and Lausanne.
Learning in four different countries is the opportunity to live four different micro-lives
I’m from Ivano-Frankivsk. After school, I was enrolled at the University of Taras Shevchenko. When you are 17, young and ambitious, you watch films about people who have changed the world, and you think to yourself: how can I contribute to that kind of world? How can I fulfil my potential?
When I was in my fourth year, I heard that there was a programme called Erasmus Mundus, which allows you to study for several Masters’ degrees at once. Wow, I thought, that sounds amazing – to be able to study for two years for a Master’s in different countries and universities and to get various different degrees at the end of it! So, I decided that of course I had to go for it.
I didn’t have any alterior aims. It was simply a reflex reaction to get out and go somewhere different, where I hoped for more opportunities to fulfil my potential.
No sum of money will buy you various lives, but if you put enough effort into it and win the grant, you can live four lives in two years
The programme I was enrolled in would give me the opportunity to study at four different universities. I was able to live four incredibly inspiring and fulfilling extra lives.
When I arrived at the first universities, all I had was my suitcase and the address in my hand. I didn’t know anyone there, I didn’t know the culture and I didn’t even know how people there greeted one another. When at the end of the six months, I had found friends, I had found projects to work on and when everything around me had become familiar and welcoming, it was all over. So, I said: ‘Well that’s it friends, good bye, I have to go.’ I said farewell, gathered up all that I had and arrived the next day in another country – I had to start all over again.
You can’t buy yourself several lives for any sum of money, but you can invest enough efforts in your education and win a grant from Erasmus +. You can live several lives in two years and this is an experience which you would never otherwise be able to obtain.
When no one dictates to you how you should develop, you feel responsible for it
Education isn’t something which you can encompass in one universal algorithm. It is an individual, creative process with which you try to build your desired career. In Europe, you are allowed to independently decide on the path you want to take in your education – you can choose courses which interest you, you can develop your soft skills. When no one dictates to you how you should develop, you feel responsible for it. As soon as you feel responsible for it, your future is in your hands.
It is completely normal to be 33 years old and studying at university.
In Europe, it is completely normal to be 33 years old and studying at university – there is absolutely nothing odd about it. On the contrary, there are actually advantages to it because you carry extra knowledge which you have picked up on the way and so you can absorb and understand knowledge more easily. The life choices you make will be more responsible and realistic.
What was really important and special to me about the experience I obtained because of Erasmus Mundus, was that the programme opened up so many opportunities for work after university. In my group, everyone had several work-offers a couple of months before the end of their course. Today, I have the opportunity to work on a PhD research programme at Bayesian Statistics & Data Analysis, part time work on the project AWAKE at CERN (in Geneva) and part time work at BAT at the Max Planck Institute for Physics (in Munich).
Books to read:
-Martin Eden by Jack London
-The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins
Habits to pick up:
-Organise your time properly and use your people skills
-Build business links
-Cope with difficulties and to understand that if something in life is given to you too easily, then there is probably something wrong
Education is a constant challenge for the brain which brings no negatives, only positives. Regardless of your age, profession or social status, it is never too late to start learning.
Margaret Kulichova, 27 years old
Kyiv – Tallinn
Sound designer, composer
First degree – Literature
At the moment, Margaret is on a sound designer course with Erasmus Mundus, with her degree split between three different universities – Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias (Portugal), Edinburgh Napier University (Scotland) and Tallinn University (Estonia).
We are always able to achieve whatever we want
The catalyst of this story was my realisation that I was walking round in circles. Not only was I always doing the same thing musically, but I was also surrounded by people who couldn’t teach me anything new.
I have been working with Grisly Faye since 2014 – writing music, releasing albums, doing tours. After some time, I started working on more site-specific projects, writing orchestral pieces and working with film. My compositions started to work better and to suit action on screen. I wanted to develop my work in new ways and I was looking for an education programme, which would help me do this.
That’s how I became a student on KinoEyes, a masters programme on Erasmus+. For more than a term and a half, I have been shooting films and bringing to life sound design on scales I never imagined.
Now I understand that I’m not tied to anything and it’s a very powerful feeling
Change is always difficult. But I felt like change would really benefit me because I wanted to travel, I wanted to meet different people so that I could be inspired by them. For the last couple of years, I have been touring and so the decision to move wasn’t particularly hard. But to gather all my things up and realise that from now, my life had to fit into two suitcases was difficult. When I was leaving Ukraine, I was leaving my family there – I was leaving people who were important to me.
Now I understand that I’m not tied to anything, and it’s a very powerful feeling. I never had to decide between my family or my work, because if my family is ever in need, all I have to do is buy a ticket and go back. They’re only a flight away from me.
Development is quick and constant
I am on a sound design course – I am learning how to make music for films. We have six roles we can work towards – producer, screenwriter, director, camera operator, editor and sound designer. We learn how to work in all these different roles to create a film.
On the course, KinoEyes, we are working on projects which would be very difficult to complete without this education. We have the opportunity to experiment, to make mistakes and to try again and again, until we can finally do it. The length of our days is never the same and we are constantly doing something different. On this course, development is quick and constant, which is important to us as artists and specialists.
Learning isn’t painful nor is it difficult
Living in a multicultural space is already a type of learning. When different attitudes and outlooks, traditions and religions are mixed, one’s accepted patterns of thought are altered. Then the end-product which is created becomes much richer.
The chance to live with and to get to know people from different countries in an informal setting is probably the most useful bit of experience I have picked up here. During our course, we have become much closer. When we were moving from Lisbon to Tallinn, we decided to live together and rent together. I have come to really like my colleagues. Obviously we have the occasional quarrel over our work or about who has to wash up the dishes, but we are already planning to live together in the next city, Edinburgh.
Learning isn’t painful nor is it difficult, although sometimes this is hard to believe in. It is especially challenging to start something new. Sometimes it can even seem like you already know everything there is to know but with the beginning of every new project there are always novelties to tackle and get the hang of – you have to start learning all over again.
If you think you are bright and you already know everything then you have to stop and dig deeper. You have the opportunity to become surrounded by a fantastic group of people, and together you will influence and inspire one another. It is exactly that sort of situation which was my motivation.
Books to read:
Read a collection of poetry to the end, song lyrics, the scenes of your favourite films.
Habits to pick up:
-Have a mandatory rest hour. Try to have at least one hour a day which you can productively use just for yourself
-Exercise no matter how much work you have to do
-Analyse the feedback from your colleagues and those around you – try to gather as much information as you can, even from comments which might seem to lack clarity
I have this written on my window – ‘Don’t compare your beginnings with other people’s middles – as long as you don’t give up yourself, there is no stopping you’
Andriy Tarasov, 34 years old
Chernivtsi – Geisenheim
PhD in Chemistry, a research fellow and a teacher at ‘The Chemistry of Wine’
First degree: Chemistry
With Erasmus Mundus, Andriy studied his two-year master’s course at Vinifera EuroMaster in France (in Montpellier and Bordeaux) and in Germany (in Geisenheim) with a speciality in oenology.
University ends but learning doesn’t
When I finished school in Chernivtsi, I started studying Chemistry at the Taras Shevchenko National University where I graduated with a masters and later defended my dissertation there. After that, I worked in Kyiv for a couple of years at a commercial chemical company but at some point I realised that I wanted to go back to scientific research, not in a theoretical way but rather in an applied industry.
I love wine and the process of making it is the same Chemistry I have been learning all these years – the same microbiology and sensory study. But I realised that if I wanted to work with the science of wine making, I had to learn more about viticulture and oenology. I started to look into various options and one day, I found out about the Vinifera EuroMaster programme which Erasmus Mundus was offering. I sent in my application and was accepted within a matter of months – that’s how my journey to France and steps towards a new profession began.
If I have a dream job, then when can I start striving for it other than now?
Unlike with Chemistry, in Ukraine there are some gaps in knowledge when it comes to oenology. Even back in Soviet times, we only had large state-owned wineries which focussed on mass production. This is despite the fact that it is widely known that the best wines need individual approaches and particular attention. That’s why it is better to be educated in such a specific science like oenology in countries which have experience in wine making, like France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Germany.
I was 28 years old and I was hesitant. I had a pretty well set up life here in Ukraine but I was always asking myself: If I have a dream job, then when can I start striving for it other than now?
During my first year, I was studying in France, a country in which they know almost everything there is to know about wine. Our group was very international, with students from more than twenty countries. As they say, wine doesn’t just widen one’s veins but also one’s circle of friends. Next, I moved to Germany, to the Hochschule Geisenheim University, where I received a masters degree and stayed there to work at the end of my two year course. Now I’m working in the profession I always wanted to be in, conducting scientific research and lecturing students on the chemistry of wine.
A decision made with awareness leads to better results
I think that a second education is a choice made with more awareness because when you are 20, you still don’t quite understand what you want to do with your life. A second education can give you the necessary knowledge for further sustainable development. On the Vinifera programme, there are student of various ages, especially a lot who are older than 30. Older students are in my opinion more motivated, more disciplined, concentrated on their studies because they know what they are working towards. A decision made with awareness leads to better results.
We are always learning even when we are working. And when we understand that there is a gap in our knowledge and there is a chance to spend two years studying, why not take it?
-Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’
-Charles Wheelan’s ‘Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dream from the Data’
-Robert Volke and Marlen Parrish’s ‘What Einstein Told His Cook’
Habits to pick up:
-Networking is a skill you should pick up at the very beginning and which you should be constantly using
-be interested in the exact science of things and learn them so that you can orientate yourself in the world, so that you are never lost or tricked
Whilst studying abroad, you are not losing anything but always gaining something. Even if you decide to leave that particular sphere of expertise, you will still have the support of a unique experience behind you.