Working Environment

Who graduated with more honors

I whooped with joy and rushed to the board of advertisements on which my name was listed among those admitted to the Mohyla school of journalism. The unthinkable score of 95 out of 100 baffled me: maybe, there was a mistake in the document? Maybe, I scored 59, and the registrar just confused the digits?

At all costs

After graduating from a college in my home town, moving to Kyiv and being admitted to the master’s program of the Mohyla school of journalism seemed to be unparalleled events. Yet, after I failed at the exams in Ukrainian and English, I even doubted whether I should take the last exam in creative writing at all. It was the decisive exam, though. I did not have time to work part-time at the job I had found in case I wasn’t admitted: our schedule was so busy that we had to stay in the Academy for the night. By the way, we liked it, as, having finished all the work, we took out chips, made coffee and watched movies on a large plasma screen in the main auditorium all night.

The Mohyla school of journalism has a well-deserved reputation of offering the best master’s program in journalism in Ukraine. It has a real television studio and all the necessary equipment, and each student receives his or her own computer for the time of studies. The best program does not mean the ideal program, though. The entire system of education in this country creates a radically wrongful feeling that you have to compete with the others all life. Beginning with elementary school, teachers keep droning that the so-called “academic performance” is an indicator of your own intelligence and personal success.

The very word ‘performance” suggests something theatrical and thus hasty. The university demands speed: the students read up before the exam overnight, pass the exam and forget everything. They cannot choose their courses. Nor can they break down their workload as they wish. We still take up to 20 courses in a semester, while in the European universities students take five courses and study them thoroughly. In reality, such an approach turns into struggling for graduation with flying colors, accompanied with a stomach ulcer and a nervous breakdown. This is a prestigious institution where the lecturers often remind the students of how lucky they are to have been admitted and what a unique professional they will become after graduation. This develops burning ambitions. It seemed to us that on the day of graduation the best employers of the country would kneel in front of us and implore us to choose a desk in their offices.

On traditions and illusions

In real life, nobody is striving to employ a newly-baked graduate. Moreover, since I graduated from the school of journalism, not a single employer has ever asked me to produce a graduation diploma. Mo one asked me about my score in hermeneutics or in public speaking. They asked me to demonstrate my writings. They asked me to send them links to my publications. They asked me to do tests. Real studies begin after you get a job. “I know nothing and I can do nothing” – these are the haunting thoughts of any holder of the master’s degree in the first months of work. A diploma with honors cannot cover the mistakes made and cannot be used as an argument in a dispute. “I had the highest score in hermeneutics!” is not an argument for your boss (although I must admit I have tried to make use of it several times, being in despair).

My friend, a student of a prestigious French university, often comes to Kyiv and tries to use every opportunity to practice his Russian. — Taxi drivers are queer in Ukraine, he said to me once. — Why? — When I ask the driver what he is, I always get an answer “I am a lawyer”, “I am an economist”, or “I am a finance specialist”. At the same time, they all work as taxi drivers!

According to me friend, the common phrase “I am a lawyer” is very rare in France. They usually say, “I studied law”. By the way, I studied law, too. I obtained my bachelor's degree in a traditional way, typical of provincial towns: I entered the college my elder brother graduated from, although I had dreamt of a career in journalism since my childhood... The traditions of bribery ad nepotism which flourished in our department of law, the most prestigious one at our university, had nothing to do with quality education. Of course, we all knew it was wrong to do so, but students themselves were involved. I am still ashamed of this practice. I am aware of what I say: I graduated with honors.

13 years have passed since my admittance but I still do not understand what it was and how it happened to me. Why did I complete my education and did not drop out?

In the student dormitory, when somebody complained of loud music at night, the retort was “Those who want to sleep do sleep”. The same thing with education: those who want to learn do learn, even in Ukraine.

© Anna Grabarskaya

Anna Grabarskaya

A journalist, a lawyer, and a just a good person

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