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EP Advisory

Free European education and work visas in three countries: the story of Ekaterina Shevlyuga


Education in four countries, work in the "Big Four" in auditing and finance, research, teaching and a career in the fashion world - all of this is the life story of Ekaterina Shevlyuga, a career consultant at EP Advisory.

Ekaterina obtained her bachelor's degree for free in Germany, pursued a fully-funded master's degree in finance in England and is currently completing her PhD in Norway.

When the pandemic hit and companies shifted to remote work, Katya decided to fulfil her long-standing dream and also started studying fashion in Italy.

One small mistake could cost you admission

I studied in Belarus to become a linguist specialising in "Intercultural Communication" with English and German languages.

It seemed that an education based solely on foreign languages offered limited career opportunities. There had to be some practical aspect to follow.

Economics and finance turned out to be the most interesting options for me and I wanted to study them in another country.

Austria was initially my destination of choice. I had been there on an exchange program during my childhood and lived with a local family. So, the main advantage was having acquaintances who could support me with the move and adaptation, as well as the affordability of education (starting from 700 euros per semester). But imagine, when filling out the documents, I misspelt my last name... So, I wasn't admitted to the university despite having enough points.

It was painful and disappointing and that could have been the end of it, but I decided not to waste a year and switched my focus to Germany. You could apply for admission there every semester, twice a year (while in Austria - only once).

Germany chose me, not the other way around

I was already familiar with Germany as well. At the age of 18, I volunteered there through the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace program and worked at an epilepsy centre for about a month. It was my first experience of living abroad, not just a short trip. I was fascinated by the local culture and tried to speak German.

The big advantage for students: in Germany, you can study for free if the program is in German.

Of course, I decided to apply there. I actively prepared for the Deutsches Sprachdiplom, an international language exam that allows admission to Germany and study carried out in German. I successfully enrolled in the International Business program in 2012!

Studying in Germany not only provides an excellent education and a prestigious diploma recognized worldwide but also offers a great international experience. For instance, while studying there, I managed to go on an exchange to South Korea for a whole semester at a partner university. Don't forget about such opportunities while you're studying and make the most of your student life experience!

 First Work Experience in Germany

Germany is an excellent place to build an international career because the country has a well-developed economy and a low unemployment rate. That's where my career path began.

During my studies, I worked part-time at a small auditing company where only two people,  myself included, worked. They couldn't hire me for a full-time position due to financial constraints. But that's when I realised that I really enjoyed auditing! My specialisation at university (International Accounting and Taxation) was a perfect fit. I aspired to join the "Big Four" to gain experience on diverse projects.

I decided to apply to KPMG, an auditing company and the head of my small firm greatly helped me with this. We edited my personal statement together, for which I am very grateful. The next step after submitting the documents was interviews.

First, there was a phone interview (which took about 20 minutes) where they asked me very general questions like, "Why do you want to join us?" and "Why do you want to become an auditor?" After that, I was invited to the office for an interview with two partners. It was, of course, very nerve-wracking.

I travelled from Fulda to Frankfurt for the interview, leaving several hours early because I was afraid of being late. The KPMG office is located near the airport and I spent a long time in a café there, getting myself prepared.

But during the actual interview, I felt at ease. The conversation was very friendly and I felt like we were on the same wavelength. I left with confidence that I would receive good news... and just a few days later, I got the coveted offer.

Honestly, I thought there would be more selection stages at KPMG, but in Germany, it all happened surprisingly quickly. That was my stroke of luck!

I had to work both hard and dynamically at KPMG; everyone there was focused on specific results. Young professionals could be assigned to major projects from their very first week. Learning sometimes happens on the fly.

Among the main advantages, I learned resilience and multitasking. It was a very diverse experience because each client had their own financial processes and reports that needed to be quickly understood. I'm comfortable with a fast-paced work environment, but it's important to understand that it's not suitable for everyone.

 New Adventures: Enrolling in Lancaster

While working at KPMG, I realised that I didn't want to limit myself to a bachelor's degree. In Germany, many companies assist with master's degree education, but it turned out that I went in search of adventures in the next country.

In Frankfurt, where I worked, there were many career and education fairs. It was at one of these events that a fateful meeting took place: I met a representative from Lancaster University in England who confidently said that with my experience, there was a good chance of receiving a scholarship.

Education in the UK always seemed unreal and required investments I didn't have at that time, but I applied anyway - and... I was accepted with full tuition coverage!

Such a wonderful coincidence of acquaintances and circumstances.

By the way, I also competed for a master's program in Norway, but ultimately chose Lancaster. (I later went to Norway on a doctoral scholarship program, but more on that later!)

"Master's degree programs in England typically last for one year. I had a strong desire to stay in the United Kingdom and work in the finance sector, so from the very beginning of my studies, I visited the career centre at the university. In that academic year (2016-2017), there wasn't a visa that allowed graduates to seek employment for two years after completing their degree (now there is, called the Graduate route). I had only four months after completing my studies, but I revamped my resume (tailoring it for the British job market instead of the German one), went through seven rounds of selection and landed a job at Bloomberg.

A British Postal Mishap

The job application process in the UK is quite multifaceted. In Germany, at KPMG, I had just two interviews: one over the phone and one in person. In England, before you're invited for an interview, you often need to complete additional tasks and tests.

Remember that I mentioned that I got into KPMG in Germany after just two interviews? And it was the only application I submitted and I received an offer right away. Well, in England, I applied for 300 positions. I went through various stages in different companies (for example, Barclays), sometimes encountering psychometric tests and case studies.

Fortunately, there were no such hurdles at Bloomberg; their selection process consisted of five interviews. First, there were two phone interviews: the first one was a general conversation with an HR representative and the second time, a lady who spoke German called to test my language skills. After that, there were three more interviews with company representatives from different teams. In the end, I joined the emerging markets team, focusing on Russian speakers.

I actually received the offer well in advance, in March 2017, even though I didn't start working until October. However, there was another twist in the tale. When applying for a work visa, I needed to show my British diploma to simplify the process and avoid taking additional language exams. By that time, I had already moved from Lancaster to London and the university was supposed to send my diploma by mail. This is common practice - here in the UK, you send things through Royal Mail, including money and passports. But this time, the mail lost my envelope!

I urgently requested a copy of my diploma and they managed to send it to me. Another delay and I would have missed my appointment to apply for a work visa, along with my entire future in this country.

In such situations when things don't go as planned, one should always be mentally prepared (but it's even better to have a couple of copies of important documents).

In Bloomberg, I worked on analytics, sales and conducted training for clients from various industries. For example, I conducted training on charts that enable market analysis (charts analytics training). This experience made it clear that I wanted to delve into education and teach at a university. To do that, I needed to continue my academic career and pursue a PhD.

Balancing Life and Work in Norway (Bonus: Nature)

For my PhD, I chose a business school in Oslo, where they initially admitted me to the master's program. I think my main advantage when applying for a funded academic position was my experience at Bloomberg. The university had a goal to integrate Bloomberg components into various educational programs and I was uniquely involved in preparing such a program and its materials. Now, I conduct research in entrepreneurship and family businesses in Norway and I teach finance.

Why did I choose Norway? After the bustling and dynamic life in London, I was looking for a more measured pace of life. Scandinavia places a great emphasis on work-life balance and the natural environment here greatly contributes to it.

Population density is not as high, so it feels like everyone has their personal space. Although Oslo is the capital, you can quickly get to the forest, the sea, or the mountains. It allows you to recharge and then return to city life.

Some great advantages in Norway are the favourable conditions for PhD candidates. You are considered a university employee, you have a work visa and you are paid an average salary in the country. In contrast, in England, you receive a student stipend and the cost of living is quite high.

However, not everything in life in Norway was so perfect. It's a northern country and people here are not always as open as in other parts of Europe. I'm a very sociable person and in the first year, it was psychologically challenging for me. At some point, I even began to doubt if I had made the right decision by jumping into this "cold water" and moving here.

Over time, of course, I adapted. I formed my own circle of friends, although they are mostly people from other countries.

Making friends with Norwegians can be quite challenging - they have had their social circles since childhood and don't always feel a strong need for new ones.

Communicating with them is best done gently, without undue pressure or insistence and over time, they gradually open up. It's a very charming and trusting process.

the world of Fashion: Experience in Milan at Versace

Now, a little detour. During the pandemic, when all work shifted to remote and many people returned to their countries, I was already in Norway. I had more free time, which I dedicated to my interests, one of which is fashion. I've always been drawn to this industry – I'm naturally a creative and artistic person and I always wanted something more. That's how my new adventure began!

Honestly, I wouldn't have ventured into this if it weren't for the pandemic because then I would have had to fully relocate and leave Norway, which I wasn't prepared for.

I thought that becoming a designer was no longer an option for me, but I could try my hand at fashion direction and brand development. That's the path I chose at a private school in Italy. It is based at three different universities, including Politecnico Milano, one of the top universities in the country. I chose this school because they have excellent industry connections and mandatory internships. Of course, they don't directly hire you, but they greatly facilitate it - for example, by organising job fairs.

Most of the lectures were held online, but to obtain the diploma, I had to complete a mandatory in-person internship. I joined Versace, in the buying and merchandising department. It was fascinating to apply my skills from a completely different field in the creative industry!

The most exciting time was during fashion week when I could work from right in the showroom, located in the heart of Milan. It was unforgettable because that's when you could get up close to the collection and touch all this beauty that you had only seen in photos.


Unfortunately, I didn't secure a full-time contract after the internship, but I wasn't disappointed. I'm very grateful for all the opportunities that Italy opened up for me. For instance, I managed to learn Italian!

Now I've returned to Norway to continue my PhD. We'll see what the future holds.

Seek Your Happiness and Do What You Truly Love

I started my journey with the "play it safe" strategy - I wanted to work in top companies. But along the way, I tried academic activities, creative pursuits and even helped people with their careers as a consultant at EP Advisory. It's a tremendous source of energy for me - to see that my knowledge can genuinely change someone's life.

My advice: cast aside your doubts and seek what makes you happy. Pursue what your heart truly desires.

Источник: EP Advisory

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