Interview with Rector’s Assistant
Interview with Rector’s Assistant of DNMU Alla Navolokina for the weekly magazine “Ukraine-Center”
Would you like to have a job, which would include regular trips to the most amazing corners of the planet, which will be paid? We are sure, everyone dreamed about this. It turns out that such job does exist. Moreover, it is in Kropivnytskyi!
Alla Sergeevna Navolokina is an assistant of the rector of the Donetsk National Medical University. One of her direct duties is to represent the university abroad. The countries that she visited with this mission are estimated in dozens. Somewhere she spent only a few days, and somewhere she had to live for six months. And recently Kropivnytskyi became the home to Alla Sergeevna – she moved here from Kramatorsk (and earlier – from the occupied Donetsk, together with part of the teaching staff and the university administration) to develop the medical faculty No. 2 and the international faculty that opened two years ago. Nowadays more than 900 students from fifty different countries are studying at DNMU.
Kharkiv – Donetsk – Kropyvnytskyi
We were a bit surprised by the fact that the assistant to the rector of the medical school has no medical education.
– I’m from Kharkov, I graduated from Kharkov State University of Nutrition and Commerce with a degree in Economics. To be honest, it was not the university or the specialty that I wanted to do, but it was just circumstances. And I dreamed of becoming either a journalist or an archaeologist, know foreign languages, use them and travel a lot. Fate decreed the other way and gave me another gift – after finishing the studies at the University of Nutrition, I began to work in the international department. It was 2004, and it was the job that I liked to deal with.
Since 2010, Alla Navolokina has been working at the Donetsk National Medical University. Until 2014, she lived in Donetsk, but when the university was under the control of the DNR, and its corps began to seize and rob, she along with a large part of the teaching and student staff left for the liberated Kramatorsk. There were much that had to start from scratch, but in the end, the university managed to do more than to make up for lost. It received an impetus for development and further expansion. The faculties – medical and international – were first opened in Kropyvnytskyi, and last year began their work in Mariupol.
– To work with foreign students at a decent level, to understand their mentality, you need to visit countries where they come from, – Alla Sergeyevna is sure that seen in which conditions they live, in what social and cultural environment they grow, you can find an approach to all of them. Unfortunately, not all Ukrainian universities, which work with foreign students pay attention to this aspect. On the other hand, it costs money. But, visiting a country, a representative from the university has the opportunity to kill several birds with one stone. In addition to getting acquainted with the country itself, he can advertise his university and attract more students. Unfortunately, in charge of universities there are people who are confident that a good product does not need advertising. Indeed! At all educational exhibitions, where I represented Donetsk medical university, there were representatives from the leading institutions of Europe and the USA.
Six months in India
To establish strong ties with India, Alla Nabolokina had to spend six months there. During this time she visited seminars in almost all states of the country.
– India is a very diverse country, – she says. – But when I think about it, the first thing I remember is the climate. It is even more or less suitable for a Europeans in the north of the country, where the foothills are located, and on the coast, where it is softened by the ocean. But in inner India is very hot! Especially in the monsoon season – there are heat and daily rains. Plus smells, which in this weather intensify. Sometimes I felt bad on the street, the moved according to the principle “from the hotel room to the nearest air conditioner”. Therefore, I did not have many opportunities for sightseeing – for this, you need to have a certain endurance to the heat. But Indians are more than offset by their hospitality. They are extremely polite and courteous, both to foreigners and to each other. I’ve never seen quarrels or fights on the streets there, anyone will readily help.
Despite the fact, that India is a country where medicine has developed over thousands of years, today a huge number of young people go abroad to study for doctors in other countries, including Ukraine.
“Most of Indians are interested in Medicine,” says Navolokina. – They are not interested in technical and computer skills, as studying them in India is very cheap. But medicine is expensive, and there are not many universities. Indian students are very diligent and responsible, they spend a huge amount of time for studying.
Mainly students from middle-class families come to study in Ukraine, the rich choose Western Europe.
“India is one of the cheapest countries for a living,” notes Navolokina. – Nevertheless, to carry out advertising work there, is very expensive. To write an article in the newspaper (in many parts of India the tradition of reading newspapers is very common) in a small provincial town in one number costs hundreds of dollars. Therefore, in order to have a regular opportunity to acquaint the Indians with our university, we have to cooperate with intermediary firms that pay for a place for exhibition or an advertisement of our seminar. Recently an Indian ambassador visited Kropyvnitskyi, and he expressed the wish that Ukrainian universities work with Indian students directly. This is beneficial for the student, but for us, this work is not currently possible.
This situation is typical not only for India but for many other countries, students from which are studying in our city. As it turned out, the citizen of the Netherlands studies in Kropyvnytskyi.
– Ethnically, he is a representative of one of the countries of Central Asia, grew up in a family of migrants who moved to the Netherlands and obtained the citizenship of this country. Nevertheless, this guy, having all the opportunities to study in Europe, chose Ukraine.
Girls and boys are separate
In addition to the Dutchman of Asian descent, several people from Slovakia study at Donetsk Medical University.
“It’s all about the cost of training,” says the rector’s assistant. – In comparison with Western European countries, education in Ukraine is cheap. You can, of course, say that we are losing the human potential of the country, but on the other hand, we are an attractive country for others. I do not see anything wrong with this. The main thing is to develop, to be open, to use actively new methods of work. And most importantly – to appreciate the students.
At the international faculty of DNMU, there is a broad variety of cultures, in which representatives from the countries of the former USSR, Central and South-East Asia, and Africa are presented. The difference in cultures is colossal as well s the approach to life and study.
– How different is the mentality of different people, you can see almost immediately, you need just to have a look at people who came to the seminar or came to our stand at the exhibition, – says Alla Navolokina. – In some countries, family ties play a decisive role, children come with their parents, sometimes with the whole families. In other countries, families do not care where their offspring will go. The representatives of different cultures are worried about completely different conditions of the study. Children from Slovakia, for example, first asked about curriculum – a list of disciplines and topics that they will study in the chosen specialty. The Indians are very concerned about the existence of separate hostels for boys and girls.
By the way, when the international faculty was just opening, we were worried a little – Kropyvnytskyi was not very popular among foreign visitors and was practically not adapted to their needs. Our experiences were exaggerated:
“The sphere of services is a flexible thing, the owners of cafes and other establishments are very quick,” says Navolokina. – Two years ago in your city, it was impossible to get vegetarian or halal food. Currently, on Dvortsova you can find all of this almost in every cafe.
The owners of the apartment were the fastest. For two years, the price of renting a furnished apartment in a good area of the city exceeded the minimum wage.
Students outside politics?
Despite the tremendous difference in mentality, since the opening of the international faculty, there has not been a single conflict on national grounds – neither between students of different countries nor between foreigners and local ones.
– First of all, for such conflicts, there will be an exception from the university, “said the rector’s assistant. – And secondly, the residents of Kropyvnytskyi are very loyal to foreigners. I always wonder if my students are comfortable here, and they note that there is no hostility or dislike from the local people. And this is a big plus of Ukraine in comparison, for example, with Russia, whose universities work for the same target audience as us. There are no conflicts between the students themselves, even the guys from India and Pakistan find a common language, although in India the situation in the border area remains very tense. But students are outside politics.
Nevertheless, to a certain extent, foreign students have to deal with politics. Everything begins with embassies.
“Working with embassies is one of my tasks,” says Navolokina. – I do not know if other universities take care of their students like that and call regularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But do it, because most students, in order to be able to study at Donetsk Medical University, first have to go through the procedure for issuing a visa. And for some reason it is very complicated and confusing in Ukraine, besides, not all the countries have Ukrainian embassies.
Alla Sergeevna has given us a rather revealing example of the shortsightedness of our Foreign Ministry in Africa. In the southern region of the continent, there is only one Ukrainian embassy – in South Africa. Today it is one of the most criminal countries in the world. There are no representative offices in neighboring Namibia, Zimbabwe and others. Many families are reasonably afraid to send their children to South Africa for a visa. Because of this, students who could study here, go to Russia for example (which has embassies in almost all countries in Africa and issues visa very quickly). True fact, that many of then try hard to transfer to Ukrainian universities.
“Russia has a powerful monetary resource that is invested in advertising its universities in Asia and Africa,” says Alla. – But the training in Russian universities does not change at all. There are no new methods, there are no innovative approaches to the study of subjects – nothing like this. They work in an old-fashioned way since the funding comes entirely from the state budget. In addition, when they come to Russia, students are faced with xenophobia. And it is shown not only by locals but often even by teachers! After studying for a year or two, many students cannot stand it. It is based on my own experience, as transferring students to our university from universities of other countries is also my competence. To the question “Why did you decide to transfer to Ukraine?” They tell terrible things.
The majority of applicants, however, are well aware of this specificity – especially immigrants from the countries of the former USSR. Nevertheless, more often they choose Russia than Ukraine. The answer is simple and banal – Russia retained the right to study on the basis of scholarship for students of countries of the former socialist camp. In Ukraine, higher education for all foreigners is paid. Here is a competition with a political taste.