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Russia and Eurasia

Read the stories of our alumni specialized in Russia and Eurasia here.

Pelle Smits

Alumni dreams #227

Even before starting International Studies, Pelle was drawn to Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. For his thesis he researched the extent to which Pashinyan’s government in Armenia succeeded in democratizing the electoral system. In order to examine this further, he spent one semester in Yerevan writing his thesis. Whilst in Yerevan, he had the opportunity to hold numerous interviews with Armenian diplomats, civil society, researchers, and the parliamentary group supervising the electoral reforms.

Unfortunately, during his third year, the pandemic hit, and all courses moved online. Pelle decided then to move to Kyiv with his girlfriend, attending BA classes in the afternoon and spending their mornings volunteering and their evenings taking Russian and Ukrainian language classes. After their visas expired, Pelle traveled to Belgrade, before eventually settling down in Armenia for six months – thereby concluding his last half year of International Studies in Yerevan.

Earlier this year (2023), he successfully completed his MA in International Security Politics at the European School of Political and Social Sciences in Lille, France, and the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He now lives in Paris where he will soon start working at the European Union Institute for Security Studies as a Trainee specialized in Russia & Eastern Europe.

Pelle happily looks back on his times abroad. “I would urge International Studies students to take any possibility to venture out to your chosen region and get in touch with its people and practice the language. It is important to learn about your region in University, but if you do not go out into the world and experience the region for yourself, you will only get half the story.”

We could not agree more Pelle, and we are looking forward to see where you will go next!

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