The MGIMO School of Government and International Affairs

Alumni Interviews

Yana Chikvashvili

Yana Chikvashvili

Israel / Russia, Class of 2019

1. Why did you decide to get an undergraduate degree at MGIMO?

MGIMO is considered to be one of the best universities in Russia especially for International Relations that I have always been excited about. I had studied in English at the British International School in Moscow, so I was looking for a Bachelor program that would also be taught in English. I also knew I wanted to stay in Moscow for my Bachelors, and SGIA was one of the very few highly reputed educational institutions offering social sciences degrees taught fully in English. The choice was limited, but at SGIA I found exactly what I wanted, given my interest in social sciences and languages.

2. When you think about the years spent at SGIA, what are your memorable experiences?

Firstly, the people I met and the connections and friends I made here; I networked with so many interesting peers—ours is indeed an international university! My network is one of the most valuable assets that I took away from my four years in the SGIA Bachelor program.

Also, I very much enjoyed the hospitable environment at MGIMO. You meet everyone not only in the auditorium, but also in the cafeteria, including our professors. That contributes to what I would call an atmosphere of a big family. At some point, I realized that after I graduate, I was going to miss SGIA with all the stress during exams and in other moments, so I decided to continue and do my Masters at MGIMO as well.

3. What goals did you set for yourself when applying to the SGIA course? Were you able to achieve them?

When I applied, I was still very young, 16 years old, so I wasn’t setting any particular career goals for myself then. I just wanted to work hard and study, but I didn’t know what to expect because I had never studied in the Russian educational system before. Interestingly, I found all of it, including, for example, the way our tests and exams were organized, quite likeable, although it was indeed new to me.

While it took me a while to adapt, I found the broad range of subjects we studied very useful, especially if you do not have an idea early on of what kind of job you would like to get upon graduating. No opportunity was foreclosed to me, however—as I was learning a lot about not just IR, but Economics, Law and other subjects as well, while being trained to fluency in two foreign languages.

4. What else did you like and what you did not like about your education and years spent at MGIMO?

I really liked the people met, the fact that we had a wide range of subjects, while most of our faculty were highly qualified, nice and ready to talk and help. Also the Dean’s Office, especially Deputy Dean Anastasia Solomentseva, Faculty Coordinator Elizaveta Babadjanova, and others, were very nice and helpful all the time. I can even say they saved me during the very tough time when I was finishing my BA thesis.

Of course, there were some things I didn’t like—for example, some disciplines appeared unnecessary because they were too unrelated to our IR major. As I mentioned earlier, it was good to study a broad variety of subjects, but some of them could have clearly been skipped. It was also difficult to sit exams in various Economics disciplines every single semester.

Also, we had a lot of Economics, which was fine and useful, but we literally had an exam every single semester, which was indeed challenging.

We also had a change of dean during my term at SGIA, so it took us a while to adapt to some new requirements.

5. What is the community of International students like at MGIMO?

I had close friends among international students whom we often went out with and who enjoyed Moscow and adapted to the lifestyle here which they found very different from what they had experienced before, for example, in other parts of Europe. Some of them were unhappy with the MGIMO dorm, but they were smart so they adapted. After all, they very much enjoyed the cultural sites, including the Kremlin and the museums, they liked theaters and restaurants. Overall, it was a positive experience for them.

Other students whom one might consider international were Russians who spent much of their earlier lives living and attending high school abroad. They found adaptation easier.

6. What kind of improvements would you like to see in the SGIA program in the future?

We could have benefitted from a more even approach to examination during the program and the final exams. The final exam turned out to be very harsh and therefore stressful. We were facing a committee of 6 or 7 people who were not trying to make our life easier! I take it for granted that one may fail the finals if there are significant gaps in their education. But what we had to deal with was a radical change from our earlier exams. Our students could have used more information about the final exam and clearer guidelines about BA thesis requirements, so that it would not come as a surprise.