Ana Luiza, current student at EF Academy Oxford, sat down with one of our alumni, Daria Tkalina from Russia, to see what she’s been up to since graduating high school. Here’s her story:
Full name: Daria Tkalina
Age: 20 years old
Home country: Russia
Languages: Russian, Ukrainian, English, Spanish
EF Academy campus: Oxford
Grad year: 2016
Favorite club: Children in Need
Favorite subject: Theater and Physics
University: University of Amsterdam
Career: Currently holding an offer to work for Tesla
Why did you decide to attend EF Academy?
I had already attended an EF summer course which allowed me to visit many places in the UK. So when I finished school in Russia I decided that I wanted to go abroad, so I went to a seminar held by EF Academy in Moscow, which was about IB and A-Level.
I finally chose to do the IB because it was much broader than A-Level, and decided to go to Oxford because my family didn’t want me to live too far.
What is your favorite EF Academy memory?
I think it was when we had a Children in Need festival. I remember that when we came into the assembly room that morning all the teachers were dressed up as superheroes, which was hilarious. And it was also for a good cause, because it was an event to raise money for children in Africa and the teachers were dressed as superheroes to represent the “superpowers” we have to change these children’s situation.
What did you find exciting and challenging about the IB program?
The most exciting thing about the IB was that it allowed me to take all the subjects I wanted to, and I could pick them myself, while at the school I studied previously in Russia I had to study twenty-five subjects that I didn’t get to choose. This meant that even if I was not very fond of Chemistry I still had to take it, even though I would much rather study Physics more intensively instead, which I could do with the IB. That definitely made school much more exciting.
The most challenging part was the distance between my family and I, as they need visas and couldn’t come visit very often. But in relation to my studies I was pretty much pleased with everything.
What advice do you have for current students?
I would advise them to think carefully about what subjects to choose, because I met so many people who chose to study Economics, for instance, because it’s a field that influences our daily lives a lot. They thought that would be good for their future careers, but once they started the course they realized that actually they would rather be studying Theater, for example. So I think it’s very important to analyse all the options you have and choose subjects that have to do with your future career, and most importantly with what you like doing, not the subjects that will make you “sound smart.”
How did you choose your university and your program?
I took advantage of the university trips we had at EF Academy and visited about ten universities in the UK before I chose the University of Amsterdam. I even had a list of five British universities which were all top-25 in the national university rankings because I was completely sure that I was going to stay in the UK. But then I went to Amsterdam on a holiday, and I absolutely fell in love with the city!
When I went back to Oxford, I asked Cy (University Guidance Counselor at EF Academy Oxford), and he told me that the University of Amsterdam had a Communication Science course which was ranked 1st in the world. After doing some research on their website, I learned everything about their application process, which was very different from the British process, as they value who you are as a person much more than your grades. For instance, you might have to take a math test or to go through a Skype interview before you get accepted. Personally, I got a place quite quickly: only one week after I submitted my application.
Studying Communication Science was also not my plan from the beginning, as I thought I would study Physics at university. But when I went to EF Academy, I started to study more creative subjects such as Theater, which I really enjoyed, and I realized that I wanted to do something like that. So I found the Communication Science faculty, which allows you to do many things at once, such as developing your creative skills, doing qualitative research, studying business. It’s a very flexible degree and I really like it.
Did you do any internships that have benefitted your studies or your career plan?
I did an internship at the World Market, which is an outdoor shopping mall and one of the biggest businesses in my city. I worked there the summer before I applied to university and that certainly helped make my application stronger. I mostly did creative work such as designing a new logo for the company, but it also helped me improve my communication and organizational skills. Currently, I am planning on doing an internship in Dubai, where I am hoping to work in a technological company, such as Google or Booking.
What is one thing you learned at EF Academy that prepared you for university? For your career? For your personal life?
In relation to university, that was meeting deadlines. Because in the school where I studied in Russia, deadlines for essays were never reinforced, but at EF Academy, they were. Now, I even have a planner where I write everything that I have to do for my university courses.
For my career, I would say it was the interest in business, because that was not a subject that I had in Russia. I would say that having taken business for two years at EF Academy is something that will certainly be an advantage in the future, because I can apply what I learned to my career. Even if I end up working with IT, I will still understand the financial side of the business — for example, I will still be able to figure out what the break-even point of sales is so that I can see if my profit is going up or down.
I also grew up a lot while I was at EF Academy because you gain so much independence, and in the beginning you might think that means you can do whatever you want, but after some time, you understand that you are actually responsible for yourself. Now, I don’t have any problems living alone doing things by myself because I know how to manage it. If I hadn’t had this experience at EF Academy, I don’t know where in life I would be right now — we were taught so much about managing our time, choosing the right friends, and even had assemblies about romantic relationships.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
While I was at EF Academy, I was one of the organizers of a charity event for Children in Need, a campaign organized by the BBC, and we were able to raise £2,300 — all by ourselves — we thought about the events, the competitions, who was going to be in charge of what. It is definitely something that I am very proud of.
What is your dream for your future?
My dream had always been to work abroad. It didn’t matter where, I just thought that staying in Russia would be a bit limiting. I have always wanted to “be more”: to travel more, to learn more… And EF Academy gave me that chance: for example, I met my fiancé there, he is Mexican and we have been together for four years now. I know we would never have met if I had stayed in Russia, and I would never have been so open to meeting people from different cultures as I am. So I would say my dreams are actually coming true right now.
Who are other successful alumni that you think should be featured on the blog?
A friend I had, Maria Kusnechova, who was also Russian and we did Theater together. I don’t know exactly how her life is right now — she wanted to study Modern Art — but she was very successful in her studies and I would love to know how she is doing.