Maya Atwal

MSc Contemporary Russian and East European Studies (2007)

awal-maya

"I wished to broaden my knowledge of the region to include comparative politics in the region alongside continuing to develop my Russian language skills in a centre that was renowned for its research excellence in Russia and Central and Eastern-Europe."

I began my studies at the University of Birmingham in October 2006 when I joined the Centre for Russian and East European Studies (CREES) on their taught MSc course in Contemporary Russian and East European Studies .

I applied to undertake my post-graduate studies at the University of Birmingham primarily because, having taken the BA Russian Studies degree program at another British University (the University of Leeds), I wished to broaden my knowledge of the region to include comparative politics in the region alongside continuing to develop my Russian language skills in a centre that was renowned for its research excellence in Russia and Central and Eastern-Europe. The BA degree program at Leeds had been more arts based than social sciences and did not run any politics modules.

CREES is unique in the sense that while having a vibrant research community with staff, research students and postdoctoral fellows engaged in research that spans Central and Eastern Europe and being able to offer a diverse range of course to its postgraduate, it remains a close-knit and welcoming environment for students who dislike the anonymity of many larger university departments.

During the course of my MSc at CREES I made the decision to stay on in academia and do a PhD here at CREES. This is something that I would simply not have even considered without the support and guidance of the staff here at CREES. As such, my studies here at CREES have enabled me to realise my full academic potential.

Although a post-graduate degree here at CREES is a steep learning curve from a BA undergraduate program, the approachability of the academic, administrative and library staff facilitated my learning experience hugely.

Engaging with research on Ukraine and Central European countries of which I had no experience studying and producing Master’s level work on these regions was challenging, although at the same time very rewarding. Similarly, having no political science background, I was worried that I would struggle with the politics modules, however, I was able to achieve well in these modules with the support of CREES staff and the guidance provided in module handbooks.

The Muirhead Tower development, which currently houses the CREES department, has excellent facilities for postgraduate students. The collection of specialist resources in the Baykov library is a wealth of information for postgraduate students interested in studying Central and Eastern Europe.

Amongst my postgraduate modules, I particular enjoyed an optional self-study module ‘Readings in Russian and East European Studies’. So, I would particularly encourage students to take this module. I found this module to be an invaluable learning experience for myself, as it involves undertaking a short, independent research project on a topic of your choice with the support of a member of staff and then produce a written research report and deliver a presentation on your findings to your peers, which helped to develop my skills to go on to further research.

PhD profile: Investigating the democratic effects of state-sponsored youth participation in Russia: Nashi and the Young Guard of United Russia.