Serbian Student Talks on Coronavirus and Education

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With the start of the pandemic and subsequent switch to distant learning, many international students decided to leave Russia and return to their home countries. When the new academic year began in the autumn, many had problems getting back to their universities. Some ended up studying remotely.

At the beginning of the second wave, some students started thinking about going back home once again. Jovana Milić, a Master’s student at St. Petersburg Mining University, decided to stay no matter what. According to her, many students she knows are not leaving the country either.

“I am not going anywhere until I complete my studies, that is, not before summer then,” shares the student.

Jovana is also concerned that the coronavirus restrictions may hamper the education process or lead to negative consequences in the future. Engineers, who are sitting now at home, unable to undergo practical training or do lab work, will experience difficulties when entering the workforce.

Jovana is studying at the Faculty of Oil and Gas Engineering. She was born in Kraljevo, a city in central Serbia, but then her family moved to Novi Sad, the second-largest city in the country. As she was studying at school, the girl learned about the Energy of Knowledge program of Naftna Industrija Srbije (NIS). She passed the competition and, as one of the best Serbian students, was granted a scholarship. As NIS’s majority shareholder is Gazprom Neft, the third-largest oil producer in Russia, Jovana was admitted to a Russian university.

“Studying in Russia is what I always wanted. The country’s resource potential allowed it to have gained profound academic and field experience in the extraction and processing of hydrocarbons. Since I had heard a lot about Mining University, my utmost desire was to study in St. Petersburg. When I first entered the university’s main building, I was deeply impressed: a majestic old building, corridors with portraits on the walls, astonishing library collections, and of course, the Mining Museum,” recalls Jovana.

The curriculum adopted at Russian technical universities implies that students take about 10 to 12 study courses per term. Higher engineering education is also built according to such a principle that first comes the theory. It continues with research or lab work and ends in field experiments. 

“I will give an example. In my third year, we had a lab session on which we learned how to use and operate deep-well sucker-rod pumps. Then I had a summer internship at NIS. I acknowledged myself with the job functions of an oil and gas production operator and realized I already had enough knowledge to administer the on-site oil extraction process. However, it was on-the-job training that made me fully comprehend the principles of work,” says Jovana.

“Afterward, we went through different other activities: we were taught how to enhance oil recovery, had lab classes on simulation of field development, learned about offshore production, used simulators to become familiar with well servicing, and a lot more. Each summer, we either had internships or field trips or both. Indeed, none of that is possible to be done online,” she adds.

Having earned her Bachelor’s degree, the Serbian student proceeded to a Master’s program. Soon, she familiarised herself with more field-specific topics and started attending conferences. Before the pandemic began, she had managed to participate in the SPE Tatarstan UpExPro 2020, an international scientific conference held in Kazan and organized by the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). She had also taken part in the Winter School on Petroleum and Process Engineering. As part of the latter event, its participants were invited to visit one of the facilities of SIBUR, Russia’s largest petrochemicals company.