Dear Anastasiya Lutskova, where exactly do you come from and since when have you been in Germany? Is your family also in Hamburg?
I come from Belarus and have been living in Germany since the beginning of 2017. I graduated from high school in Belarus when I was 16 and then came to Hamburg in January 2017, when I was 17. My whole family lives in Belarus, which means that I have lived far away from my parents and relatives since I was 17.
In Germany, I then took the so-called Feststellungsprüfung (assessment test) at the Studienkolleg Hamburg in the same year, i.e. 2017. This exam is usually a prerequisite for international students to be admitted to a university in Germany and proves that you have A-levels in subjects relevant to your studies.
Then you had only been in Germany for one and a half years when you started studying at HSBA! That is impressive. Why did you want to study in Germany and how did you come to HSBA?
In 9th grade I got the idea that it wouldn't be wrong to go abroad. I learned German at school and so the question of choosing a country had taken care of itself. Moreover, there is a conviction in the East that a German degree, a German Bachelor's degree is very valuable and appreciated worldwide, because Germans stand for "reliability, order and punctuality".
My original plan was to go to Germany immediately after school and then start studying here straight away. When I moved to Hamburg, I was 17 years old and had to realise that I wasn't allowed to start studying straight away. Before I could begin my journey at HSBA, I had to study at the Studienkolleg Hamburg for another year to qualify. The Studienkolleg qualification is comparable to the German Abitur and is usually required if you want to study at a German university with a foreign school leaving certificate.
At HSBA, the dual study model with alternations between university and company convinced me. Not all universities have a similar training system. The dual study programme gives you the chance to dive into the working world immediately and gain experience from day one. In addition, some companies offer the opportunity to take a training examination at the Chamber of Commerce parallel to the Bachelor's degree. In my case, this was the training to become a merchant in wholesale and foreign trade management.
To cut a long story short: In answer to the question "Why HSBA?", I can say that you get a lot out of these three years. Especially if you learn another foreign language, you can already acquire a lot of knowledge and skills. For example, I started learning Chinese during my studies. At other universities, students have to invest much more time for comparable things.
How did you come to work for your current employer and former partner company C. Illies & Co?
Through a contact via friends of my family in Germany, I completed a one-week student internship at C. Illies & Co during the 9th grade. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my friends from "the old brickworks" and the surrounding area and send them my warmest regards! At the time, my father was in Hamburg with me for a week and we also took a closer look at HSBA. During this internship, it became clear to me that a stay abroad is quite realistic and that I could do it. So I applied again to Illies for the dual study programme and took the opportunity to get to know the company (and many others, of course) better at the business speed dating events offered by HSBA. When Illies then offered me a position, it was perfect for me and I jumped at it.
How was it for you to study in Germany / Hamburg? Were there any particular hurdles and how did you deal with them or cope with them?
It turns out that Germany is a very bureaucratic country, something I didn't know before. You could write a whole book about the bureaucratic hurdles and challenges, but those are just the nuances that no student from abroad can anticipate.
When I took my first steps in Germany, I was a minor, so there were always some obstacles just because of my age (e.g. opening a bank account, signing a room rental contract, etc.). You simply have to find a solution for the various situations.
The special thing for students from abroad is that everything is new for them. Not only the learning content, but also the entire everyday life, at all times. I had to get used to everything anew, discover everything anew, from the kind of rolls the bakery offers to such serious topics as labour law and tax law.
The traditions are also different. There is a very funny story about this that I always laugh about: on my first day in Germany, I met my current best friend. She hugged me to say hello, which is customary here in Germany - especially before the Corona pandemic. I greeted her in typical Russian fashion - with kisses right and left. She looked at me very puzzled and asked, "What was that? What are you doing?" I was very embarrassed at the time, but today we often laugh about it and it's very funny to think back.
You already knew a little German from school in Belarus. The year at the Studienkolleg Hamburg certainly helped you to consolidate your language skills. But studying in a language other than your mother tongue and absorbing new, complex learning content is still something I imagine to be very challenging. What was it like for you?
In the first few months, especially in the first semester, I felt I had to do three times more than German students. In the beginning it was just really a lot. And of course that was mainly due to the language, because it takes a while to consolidate the new vocabulary and develop a feeling for High German. I can remember well how I had to sleep for two hours every day after university in the first two months. The lectures were in German and English, and I had to translate some things into Russian or Belarusian before I could process the new learning content.
In addition, I had focused entirely on German at my school in Belarus and during my time at the Studienkolleg in Hamburg. To study at HSBA, however, you also need English, and at least level B2. This "little" problem came on top and I had five months only to learn English. That was definitely challenging, but I made it.
What has particularly fascinated / surprised / inspired / irritated you at a German university or in your everyday working life? Is there a special experience that you would like to share with us?
I was thrilled by the German openness. I always felt very welcome in my company and also at university. Everyone was always ready to support me and help me. People approached me, which is rather different in my home country. When you join a new team in Belarus, you first have to prove that you are not here for nothing. And I don't mean that one is worse or better, it's just a different approach.
I like the fact that you can start studying in Germany at any age. It's also fine if you don't study at all, but first do an apprenticeship or even a "gap year" to find your purpose in life. In Belarus it's basically the same, yet there's a certain expectation that you should go to university at 16 or 17, right after school. Otherwise people look at you suspiciously. At the same time, many Belarusian students at that age don't even know whether they have chosen the right field of study for themselves. They often choose what their friends or parents recommend.
In addition, students at many Belarusian universities are treated more or less like they are at school: for example, homework is assigned that one is supposed to do without fail. In Germany, everything is left more to the students, they act more on their own responsibility. Self-direction and one's own motivation play a big role. But of course this does not apply to all universities in Belarus.
What advice or tip would you give to other students coming to Germany from abroad?
Especially important is good preparation. Always prepare yourself very well! Be it for the visa application, the interview at the embassy or the job interview at the company. This way you will feel relatively confident despite your lack of language skills, you will be able to appear self-confident and react much better to the unexpected. Don't let yourself feel insecure, clearly emphasise your strengths and be determined!
Above all, you should not be ashamed to speak German! Of course it's not perfect, but Germans like it when someone from abroad makes an effort to learn the language.
And thirdly, make sure you try to explore the country while you study, and perhaps document your time abroad by keeping a diary or writing a blog. That way you will keep the memories for a lifetime.
What do you have planned for your future? What will you do after you graduate?
I am very happy that I was taken on by my partner company C. Illies & Co. During my studies, I had the opportunity to work in the area of "Business Development" and "Sustainability". I find both areas very interesting and forward-looking. Working in such an international company as C. Illies & Co. allows me to have unique experiences and also to get to know more countries, cultures and people.