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Start of a unique alliance between ‘Window to Russia’ and Russian & Eurasian Studies

On 14 September the second ‘Labour Day’ (Dag van de Arbeid) event took place: the career afternoon of the BA in Russian Studies and MA in Russian and Eurasian Studies in Leiden. Fifty Dutch and international students gathered in the Lipsius Building to talk with experts in the area of Russia and Eastern Europe and learn about future prospects on the job market. This event also focused on the new, exclusive partnership agreement between the MA programme and ‘Window to Russia’ (Raam op Rusland), a knowledge platform established in 2016.

A good command of Russian is crucial

The opening address by Professor Jos Schaeken, chair of the programme board and moderator, was followed by a short lecture by Bob Deen, Head of Section covering Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and an alumnus of International Relations at the University of Groningen. This personal narrative included not only tips and information about applying for jobs, but also experiences from the field. He described, for example, how a subtle grammatical error landed him in an awkward situation while working abroad and participating in a business meeting that was taking place entirely in Russian. This anecdote naturally succeeded in giving the students extra motivation to master the difficult Russian language, with which they are already confronted in the first weeks of their study: it goes without saying that a good command of Russian is a crucial and highly valuable asset that gives alumni a distinct advantage on the job market. It seems that the chosen specialisation within the study programme is not too important for how their career will proceed from there.

Tips from alumni

After the lecture, it was time for an interactive discussion with the Raam op Rusland panel, on which Bob Deen was joined by Lo Casteleijn, chair of the board and political expert, and three members of the editorial board: Hella Rottenberg and Laura Starink, both Slavists, and historian Hubert Smeets. Various themes came up for discussion, with – as in last year’s Labour Day – the topic of ‘writing’ very much in the spotlight. Being able to write well, in addition to giving presentations and networking, is an essential skill that is useful in many sectors of the job market. For this reason, the new alliance with Raam op Rusland will not only offer Leiden students the opportunity to publish their own articles on the platform website; it will also provide internship positions, giving students the chance to gain work experience during their studies. After all, building up a solid CV begins even in the bachelor’s phase! The panel came to the unanimous conclusion: develop your skills and talents by doing relevant internships, gain as much practical experience as possible abroad, and be good at what makes you stand out from the rest. Something that was not mentioned was students’ growing interest in the countries of the former Soviet Union and Central Asia, which can lead to new career opportunities.

Bob Deen (left) and Laura Starink (right)

Start of a unique partnership

After an inspiring panel discussion, the official agreement was signed by the chair Lo Casteleijn and co-founder Hubert Smeets on behalf of Raam op Rusland, and the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Professor Mark Rutgers, and the chair of the programme board Professor Jos Schaeken on behalf of Leiden University. The panel members and the students and teaching staff then moved on to the networking drinks party, where the discussions continued in an informal setting. This second Labour Day event was another successful and highly informative occasion, and also marked the start of a unique partnership, whose benefits will be reaped by upcoming Slavists and Russia experts in future years.

Virginia Oogjen, student assistant Russian Studies

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