Internship at Harvard University, 2012
Denis Shershnev, graduate student of World Economy and International Affairs Faculty, undertook a six-month internship at Harvard University in the framework of cooperation program of Faculty with the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies in 2012. He told about the results of his visit in an interview for our portal.
- Denis, tell us why you decide to undertake an internship. What were the main tasks you set for yourself?
The topic of my thesis research is "Cultural factors of innovative economy formation in the case of India and China." I have been working on it for several years, but at some point, I felt that I was in a dead end. There was a need to acquire momentum not only from papers and publications, but also by direct communication with colleagues and experts who are engaged in related research. Most of them work in the United States, including Harvard University. Therefore, having learned about opportunities to participate in the internship, I submitted documents for the competition.
In addition, I would like to escape from the routine of Moscow and constant worries and immerse myself in my own research.
- Did you have a clear idea on who you want to meet and consult with, whose opinion to hear before the trip?
- Yes, I have a list of experts, communication with whom seemed the most important for me. Lauren Graham, Tim Colton, Tom Nicholas, Frederick Scherer were among them. The most fruitful for me was the meeting with Lauren Graham, who gave me not only a valuable advice on the research project, but suggested a number of ideas for my practice development. Tom Nicholas offered to consider the research problems from a historical point of view and helped to find studies that formed the basis for my work. Dialogue with Robert Scherer made it possible to study evaluation methods of innovative activities that can be made by measuring the number of registered patents based on citation, i.e. the demand of the latter. This approach enables rough, but still comparable assessment of innovation effectiveness in different countries.
- Are you satisfied with your trip? Did it meet your expectations?
- In my opinion, the trip was a success. It was my first visit to the US for an extended period, from January to June. It gave me new experiences. I took a fresh look at my own work and could overestimate it. Broken out of the usual circle of friends and objectives and immersed into a completely new academic, professional and cultural environment, I gain the momentum that I needed. I managed to re-think not only my research work, but my development objectives in general, and targets for the near future. And, of course, I got new knowledge.
- Did you get new knowledge mainly in the library or have the opportunity to attend courses?
- Both. Harvard Library is a separate story. This is not only an unusually rich collection of research, but also a place where you want to work. It was important for me that it worked 24 hours per day that make it possible to attend it in the most comfortable schedule for me as a night owl actually not leaving the process.
By the way, my workplace in the Davis Center was available the same 24 hours per day. This is very proper, in my opinion, when the doors are open to university researchers at any time of the day or night.
I was able to study a number of courses, but, unfortunately, less than initially planned. Enrolment to the part of the subjects was already closed and trainees were not admitted to lectures in business schools in principle.
Nevertheless, I managed to become a student of Chinese anthropology course. This is a complex project for the students, where they have to read a lot, including the old texts in English, which is not easy for a foreigner. Classes were extremely interesting. Teachers revealed certain aspects of courses comprehensively and consistently.
Anthony Sadiq’s course on China's political economy was very interesting for me. On his lectures the author gathered together a very interesting part of the audience, which included not only the students, but experts and representatives of state and business structures in China, teachers and researchers. Anthony involved everybody in the debate, given their knowledge and experience that made it possible to consider the country from various perspectives, including the inside of some processes.
- That’s interesting. What ideas were the most surprising for you?
- There is no saying. For example, before now I made nothing of what it means to be the culture representative. Cultural affiliation is usually measured formally. However, if this is true, why do not I get Chinese if I know all the habits, traditions, and language? On the other hand, why are the Chinese emigrants in the United States who speak different dialects, and often do not understand each other, nevertheless representatives of Chinese culture.
- How did you feel the atmosphere of Harvard?
- I think it is a combination of incongruous things, which nevertheless are organically interwoven in Harvard. For example, one of business school courses, which I managed to study, was taught in an old building, where the walls were covered with wooden panels, we sat at the oak table, or in the big chairs. I felt at least like Churchill though with no cigar. At the same time, teachers and staff were modern people. It was expressed not only by knowledge but in dress mode and behavior.
- What activities did you attend in addition to lectures?
- I attended a lot of conferences and seminars. The Davis Center gives them every week. And they are very different, from the discussions and presentations to watching movies. This is extremely interesting, because it allows not only to immerse into the atmosphere of Harvard, but also to meet new interesting people.
- What was the main result of the trip?
- Perhaps the main thing is an opportunity to break out of the habitual and dive into a completely new environment for me with no Russian language, with other traditions of building the relationships and new people. I was fortunate to meet interesting people at Harvard who are stronger than I am and with whom I want to compete. Although I should note that, it is a perception of university greenhouse. Behind the walls, the life is a lot harder and not as rosy as it seems sometimes from overseas.
- Did you manage to travel around the country?
Yes, I made several excursions. I visited New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington, Vermont.
- What can you advise those who are planning to take part in this training program?
- First of all, it is necessary to communicate with the teachers of the courses you are interested in as soon as possible, to send a brief summary about yourself and get a permit to attend classes.
It is advisable to come to Boston immediately after the new year starts on the 3d, 4th, 5th of January, when course enrolment period begins (so-called shopping-period). Therefore, you can choose exactly what is interesting.
It is worth finding the accommodation in advance. This is not a trivial task, and not always easily solved.
Do not hesitate to contact Davis center officers for help and advice, wonderful people - Robin Englay, Alexandra Warcu, Tim Colton - work there, they can always help you.
Finally, I would advise to communicate as much as possible. Immersion into the environment and capture of ideas and spirit of university air from communicating with people are in my opinion an important part of the internship, as well as the work in the library and attending the lectures and seminars.