Who? Michael Sivolap (2000)
What? Bachelor's student in Communication Science
First job: At age 13 I was a photographer's assistant, helping with lighting and that type of thing.
Favourite spot at the UvA: De Brug, Roeterseiland
Essential: My friends, nice and interesting people from all over the world.
Michael Sivolap (2000) is a Bachelor's student in Communication Science. He was born in Moscow, grew up in Canada and attended school in both Russia and Canada. Even before finishing secondary school, he knew for sure: ‘I'm going to study at the UvA.’ The reasons were the wide range of Bachelor's programmes taught in English, his love of media and (of course) the city of Amsterdam itself. He was awarded the prestigious Amsterdam Merit Scholarship and made a last-minute decision to attend a Bachelor's Day at the UvA. It turned out to be the best decision ever.
You knew what you wanted, and yet at the same time you didn't. How significant was that Bachelor's Day for you?
‘It was either Media and Information or Communication Science at the UvA, but I was having a terrible time making up my mind. I always wanted to do something having to do with media. The idea was to orient myself at the Bachelor's Day, which was an extremely spur-of-the-moment decision on my part. Three hours before the flight departed, I bought a ticket. I rushed to the airport and booked a hostel while I was waiting for my plane to take off. It's a funny coincidence, but I now live across the street from that same hostel. At the Bachelor's Day, I met Laura, one of the student ambassadors. I spent a long time talking to her and am so glad I met her. She has been a fantastic help to me and is an important factor in why I am here today.’
Be prepared to have your opinions put to the test.
You chose Communication Science. Was it what you expected?
‘Right now, I'm happy with the decision I made. The programme offers me a challenge. The workload is quite large; I think that's why I like it. It's hard to explain Communication Science to other people. My parents, for example, think I'm studying emoji. People also sometimes think we study social media and that we're learning how to get more followers on Instagram. Which is obviously not the case. We study the science behind every form of human communication, and our main focus is research. And so our work involves elements from sociology, psychology and anthropology. My class includes many international students, which I think is wonderful. The students are interesting; being in the same programme together gives you a chance to build a multicultural network. And studying in a city like Amsterdam is fantastic. Some things are a little more difficult, like finding a place to live. Still, my dream has come true. And of course it's a great feeling to be able to say that my university is ranked number one for Communication.’
Amsterdam is like a small town – but one that offers all the possibilities of a multicultural city.
Is it possible to prepare yourself for life as a Bachelor's student?
‘When you enrol at a university, you should be prepared to have your opinions put to the test. What university life teaches you is things like social skills, the ability to think critically about problems, to analyse them and to look for alternative work methods. These things are intangible. The ideal UvA student is someone who is willing to work hard to learn such skills, because that's the only way to acquire them. You have to want to read, think, ask questions and engage in discussion, and be open to new things as well. My advice to prospective students is: do your research, look at the universities’ websites – all the information you need is available there. Google is your friend. Go to an Open Day or follow one via the live stream.’
Of course it's a great feeling to be able to say that my university is ranked number one for Communication.
What other pleasant surprises did you encounter?
‘I was surprised by how young the professors are: they're in their thirties and forties. That makes it easier for us to interact with them on a personal level, because they understand our problems. They were in our shoes only a few years ago, which makes them very approachable. One of the professors told us: “Don't email me, send me a tweet.” They have both feet on the ground, they're on our side. Respect is essential, of course, but I don't think that's an issue with most of the professors. On top on that, Amsterdam is like a small town, but one that offers all the possibilities of a multicultural city. I don't think it would be good for Amsterdam to get any bigger; if it did, the city would lose its character. It's easy to just jump on a train or rent a car and go on a trip. I've been to Belgium, France and Iceland. I walked around a bit, tried some Belgian waffles. The whole cycling culture really appeals to me, too. I've always been a fan of that. It's not dangerous because the infrastructure makes it safe. I love how you can get anywhere you need to by bike. Another thing I've learned is that the atmosphere and the mentality of the people are different here than in Canada. It's easy to step off the beaten path and to find others who are doing the same.’