Victoria Stetsko from Russia, alumna of the programme, now working as Advocacy, Campaign, and Communications Officer at Oxfam
Why did you choose this programme?
"I decided to look for a Master’s programme in Asian Studies which would be more focused on topics such as human rights, gender, and international relations, but still would be general enough to allow some flexibility. After some research I chose two programmes I was most interested in – and they both happened to be in Sweden. Lund was my first choice – and I got in. The programme curricula were quite multi-disciplinary. It focused on modern affairs rather than archaeology or history, as with my Bachelor’s curricula. I was looking forward to studying topics like International Development, International Human Rights and Political Science in relation to China. Eventually, I decided to switch tracks from China to South-East Asia. I am very grateful that the Centre didn’t confine me to China Studies, despite the fact that my previous educational background was in China Studies. While in Lund I developed an interest in studying migration, and I decided to study the Thai-Burmese border. It felt like a drastic change, but I am happy I followed my interest. It contributed to development of my career."
What was the best thing about your programme?
"It’s difficult to find one best thing about the programme – it was rather a combination of factors which made the programme very useful for me. Apart from the benefits I described above, I really enjoyed learning from a very diverse group of students who were in my classes. We had students who came with a solid professional background – in NGOs, governments and business. There were also those who came straight after graduating from economics, business, international development and other programmes. I learned a lot from my classmates, and one of them invited me to enroll into an extra-curricular activity, which in the end helped me find my passion. In addition to that I enjoyed the interactive style of teaching in most classes. We attempted policy analysis, assumed the role of lobbyists during the simulation of international peace talks, and even analysed films from a feminist perspective!"
Why should prospective students choose this programme?
"I believe that there’s something for everyone in the programme. If you are looking to explore your area of interest within Asian studies then this programme is a good place to start. It will also suit those with majors in business, political or social science who are looking to develop a regional focus. Graduates from the programme who have some prior work experience will undoubtedly benefit from having the MSc in Asian Studies from Lund University on their CVs."
What was your favourite course and why?
"Human Rights in Asia and International Development were my favourite courses. Both provided the opportunity not just to explore relevant theories, but also used various exercises which helped students learn to apply them. We didn’t just analyse policies and write a position paper. Instead, for example, we learned how to use video as a human rights tool."
What do you think of the teaching style?
"After having studied in a very hierarchical academic environment in Russia, it took me some time to adjust to the very horizontal and interactive teaching style in Lund. In my university in Russia I was taught that the professor is a master, and the students are the sheep following them. Lund taught me not to strive to please a particular professor, but to focus on actually exploring the topic and learning to see things from various perspectives. This is definitely more useful in one’s professional life after graduation."
What do you think of Lund as a city?
"I love Lund! Even though it’s so small and somewhat dependent on students coming and going, it always has something to offer to everyone – food, language clubs, parties, volunteering in particular."
Were you involved in any extracurricular activities?
"One of the best things about my 2 years in Lund was volunteering for the Save the Children’s Kids in Transit programme. I was part of the international volunteers’ group who visited the immigration detention centre near Malmö to organise leisure activities for unaccompanied migrant children. We also attended public lectures on children’s rights and the rights of refugees and migrants. I gained a lot from this experience both personally and professionally."
What have you been doing after your studies?
"Immediately after graduation I left for Bangkok to do an internship at a regional human rights organisation. I was very lucky with my internship. From the very first day I was given the responsibility to monitor human rights violations in South-East Asia. I was also instructed on how to conduct strategic communication with the office of the UN Special Rapporteurs. I had several short consultancies and volunteering opportunities after the internship, and then I moved on to work for Oxfam. I currently work as Advocacy, Campaigns and Communications Officer. I lead on the Russian leg of Oxfam’s campaign against gender-based violence, and I work closely with colleagues from China, Thailand, and India."
To what extent do you think your degree programme prepared you for a career in your field?
"I wouldn’t be able to be where I am now professionally if I didn’t graduate from the programme. Many courses within the programme focus on teaching you how to apply certain methods, skills, and techniques rather than just memorising theories. My employers reacted well to seeing Lund University on my CV, which was also a very handy factor when you’re looking for your first job after graduation."
What was the focus of your thesis?
"I explored how migrant children who came from Myanmar to Thailand were portrayed in the external communications by humanitarian agencies and local NGOs who provided them support. My programme provided me with the skills to analyse power relations and how they affect the way the NGOs treat their 'beneficiaries'. It was a very helpful exercise – akin to power analysis done by INGOs, but in a more academic manner."