Twenty-two-year-old Staisy Kaptusarova exchanged Russia for Rotterdam. And she would do it again, she explains.
Words: Jelle Simons
We agreed to meet at Erasmus University, my old and her current school.
The campus has changed a lot over the years. There is a food court these days. A proper food court, not the shabby soup kitchen I had to deal with in my younger years. There is even a Starbucks. No need to muse over the good old days, that’s for sure. English seems to be the lingua franca, although the farrago of accents shows that students from all corners of the globe are enjoying college life in Rotterdam nowadays.
Twenty-two-year-old Staisy Kaptusarova is one of them.
Staisy was born in Moermansk, but attended high school in St. Petersburg. According to Staisy, the Presidential Physics and Mathematical Lyceum of St. Petersburg No. 239 (her former school) is a pretty good. According to Google, it is one of the best schools in Russia. After her graduation, Staisy decided to study in Western Europe. She heard promising stories about Erasmus University in Rotterdam, so she travelled to the second city of the Netherlands to determine whether the school and city met her expectations. Staisey was impressed with what she saw: “The first thing I noticed was the number of international students over here. It is a truly international institution. Even Dutch students speak English, so you don’t have the feeling that you’re not really part of the college community, because you don’t speak the language. I also appreciate the way students and professors interact with one another. It is very cordial and informal. You don’t see that in Russia. Or at least not in that degree.”
Erasmus University gave her a favourable impression, but the city stole her heart. “When I came to the Netherlands, I visited a number of Dutch cities, but I found Rotterdam to be the most dynamic. Besides the stunning architecture, there is a great atmosphere in this city.
People seem to live a balanced life. During the day they focus on their jobs, but at night there is always time to relax and unwind. And Rotterdam provides plenty of opportunities to that. People don’t just exist, but actually live, and that really appeals to me. My favourite part of town? Well, I’d say the area around Blaak. I love Markthal and Hoogstraat. It is an attractive shopping district, but it also has plenty of bars and restaurants were you can meet with friends and just relax. Again, it is very balanced over here, which makes it a very enjoyable place to live.”
Modesty is regarded to be a virtue in many countries, Russia included, so it seems. Staisy is a gifted student who was educated at a prestigious school. She studied econometrics and economics, was rewarded with internships at Nationale Nederlanden and Unilever and is currently studying for a master’s degree in business analytics and quantitative marketing. Companies are already lining up to woo her. She acknowledges that she has “good opportunities in the job market,” but that’s all she has to say about that, after which the conversation meanders into other areas. The word ‘balance’ seems to pop up in every subject that we discuss. When asked whether the Dutch can learn something from the Russians, she answers: “Dutch people don’t really open up. They like to talk about the weather, football and other general subjects, but they hardly ever discuss their true emotions. Russians tend to be a bit more frank about their feelings. You don’t really see that over here, unfortunately.” And is there is anything the Russians could learn from the Dutch? “Be less emotional!”
Staisy fell in love with a Dutchman, so she won’t return to St. Petersburg any time soon. Whether the couple will stay in Rotterdam is yet to be determined: “We’ll see how life goes. After we graduate, we will probably work for a few years, get a place of our own, and then we’ll see. As I’ve said, I love Rotterdam, but I’d like to keep my options open. That’s the great thing about living in the European Union; you can basically live anywhere you want. So, we’ll see. Yes, that might be a very Russian answer.”
Favourite restaurant: VIP (Very Italian Pizza)
Shopping area: Alexandrium
Favourite neighbourhood: Kralingse Bos