How To Apply To Strelka

Strelka alumni of different years told their stories how to apply to the Institute

All Strelkavites / collage by Kuba Snopek

Yes, you thought of applying to Strelka. The 2015 Education Programme provides opportunities for personal and professional development as well as offers an exciting collaboration with the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The tuition is free, and students get a stipend. You would like to be a Strelka student, yet you are still wondering how you can become one?

The truth is that there is no one recipe. Every year the Education Programme transforms and changes its focus, tutors, and students. To help new applicants, Strelka Magazine collected feedback from 10 Strelka alumni to guide your journey from the point of application to graduation. Read their advice on portfolio, interview, and how alumni applied their knowledge and experience gained at Strelka.

2014/15
Paul Chetnarski, Wroclaw, Poland, 26 years, architect
Thomas Clark, London, UK, 27 years, writer

2013/14
Liva Dudareva, Jelgava, Latvia / Edinburgh, Scotland, 31 years and Eduardo Gimenez Cassina, Madrid, Spain, 29 years, video artists and urban consultants
Anna Maikova, Altay republic, Russia, 25 years, marketing strategy specialist
Ekaterina Asinskaya, Almaty, Kazahstan / St. Petersburg, Russia, 29 years, strategic communications specialist

2012/13
Inessa Kovaleva, Kramatorsk, Ukraine, 26 years, jewelry designer
Katerina Examiliotou, Thessaloniki, Greece, 29 years, architect

2011/12
Philipp Kats, Kazan, Russia, 29 years, analyst / data visualizer
Tatiana Mamaeva, St. Petersburg, Russia, 28 years, UX-designer

2010/11
Andrei Goncharov, Moscow, Russia, 29 years, designer

2016/17

ALINA NAZMEEVA
Moscow, Russi
Architect

Research at Strelka

1. What is your advice on building a portfolio for Strelka that stands out?

Whatever your case might be, everything depends on your background. Designers and architects have it both easier and harder. Sure, you already have materials to add to the portfolio, but you also have to think of how to stand out and make an impression. I think that a good strategy and proper presentation can take you a long way. Your portfolio should leave the impression that you are the perfect candidate. Being a bit unorthodox and including a couple of weird but memorable projects can also help. But the best thing you can probably do is to be earnest.

2. How important are written and spoken English skills?

English is an important part of being able to complete the program successfully, although not critical. You need to have quite an impressive vocabulary in order to understand every single nuance of what is being explained during the lectures. When we were talking about something familiar, I had no trouble whatsoever, as I already knew most of the relevant terms. But when something new was being discussed, then I had to rely heavily on my English skills.

As for communicating with tutors and fellow students, having imperfect English was never an issue for anyone.

3. What do you need to prepare and get ready for your Skype or in person interview?

I read my motivation letter a million times, but I didn’t feel prepared anyway. I can’t say that I was calm during my interview (I came to Strelka for a live interview instead of doing one on Skype). I think you can draw confidence from knowing your journey up to the point when you decided to apply. If you know why you are here, you should talk about that. I recall smiling a lot and being ‘an excited idiot’ because I sincerely believed in Strelka and The New Normal.

4. Why do you think Strelka chose you?

I believe my high motivation was the deciding factor. Despite having a purely architectural background, I managed to perfectly explain why I should be part of the program. I think that my motivation letter played a huge role.

5. What moment, workshop, or lecture was the most memorable?

It’s quite hard to choose because the program was very intensive, and one week felt like a year, and one month could fly by in one day. The program should be regarded as a complex whole: every tutor offered their own insights on different aspects of The New Normal. This complexity of views and approaches was the key thing that made the program so successful.

The trip beyond the Arctic Circle with Liam Young left quite an impression. It was a test of our determination. We slept and worked on our projects whenever and wherever we could. We could spend the entire day working with a Lidar scanner somewhere in Murmansk, Tundra, or Teriberka, and then have lectures almost until midnight. Once, when Liam and a group of students were scanning a residential block in Murmansk, some concerned locals called the police on us. We had to spend a lot of time explaining that we were merely students gathering some footage.

6. What was your job before you decided to take a 6-month leave?

Before Strelka I was a part of the WALL architecture bureau, where I mainly worked on early concepts for projects of various scales: anything from minute pavilions in the middle of the woods to development strategies for territories spanning 10 square kilometers. Although I was earning some unique experience and was part of a great team, I always wanted to continue my education. I had been following education programs at Strelka for quite a while, and as soon as I saw and read through The New Normal program description I knew it was a perfect fit for me.

7. How has your career and life changed after you graduated?

In February, before the launch of the program, I applied for several master programs at foreign universities. In March I got a call from MIT saying that I had been accepted. Now I am in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I’m starting the first semester of the SMArchS in Architecture and Urbanism program. It’s a two-year master’s program for architecture students.

I’m very glad that I managed to become part of Strelka. Here I gained a great deal of knowledge, valuable contacts, and many talented friends with whom I hope to collaborate in the future. Strelka affected me and my interests and helped me achieve a better understanding of what I want to explore from now on. It was a unique experience and I take every opportunity to share it with my new colleagues.

2014/15

Paul Chetnarski
Wroclaw, Poland
26 years
Research at Strelka

1. What is your advice on building a noticeable portfolio for Strelka?

Be completely honest with yourself. You have an amazing opportunity to wrap up your previous achievements, rethink your approach, and find out what is missing in the palette of your soft and hard skills. The twist here is that approaching it only as an application to the Strelka Institute could be a missed opportunity. At this point you can really decide on your future steps, and if the Education Programme is a necessary tool there, for sure you will be noticed.

2. How important are written and spoken English skills? Have your Russian skills advanced while you were living in Russia?

I do believe that the language skills were not the main obstacle. Wherever disagreement or misunderstanding happened, it was mostly based on different professional and cultural backgrounds, or, even more trivial, because of stress and sleep depravation. But everything goes way smoother from the point where people get to know each other and their comfort zones adapt to the new situation.

Yes. When I came to Moscow, Cyrillic was a set of shapes that I adored in an aesthetic way only. It was extremely shallow, but I enjoyed this new visual language in a new context. I had an amazing opportunity to explore new urban environment, being blindfolded. With the time, I’ve got to know how to use Russian in my everyday life.

3. What do you need to prepare and get ready for your Skype or in person interview?

You have to be sure that this place suits you. The answer could be very different. What I did was pretty straightforward: I was aware of what I had done already, I knew why I needed Strelka and Moscow, and the last but not least, I had an idea of what I could possibly do with all those elements combined together.

4. Why do you think Strelka chose you?

Maybe because the Educational Programme at Strelka without a Polish guy wouldn’t be legit! To be more serious, it would be interesting to know from the people that made the call. I would only add that I increased my chances by knowing that Strelka was going to be a perfect move for my professional growth. In my case it wasn’t a spontaneous idea. I was planning to apply no sooner than a year after completing my master thesis, in the meantime undertaking hard office work to improve my workshop skills and structure my professional focus.

5. What moment, workshop or lecture was the most memorable?

I’ll sound a little bit geeky but I still remember my excitement during a five-hour lecture about Volga’s urbanization patterns and history of Russian Urbanism. It was a huge dose of information, amazingly comprehensive. I would say that I liked the first three months the most. They were extremely dynamic in a way that I haven’t experienced before.

6. What was your job before you decided to take a 9-month leave?

My whole transition went pretty smooth. It occurred that this decision was way more difficult for my office than for me. They hoped that I’ll stay longer with them, but we mutually agreed that this move would be the best for my personal growth. Your life is not going to change dramatically only because you got accepted to Strelka and moved to Moscow. The real changes are about to happen, but they won’t be obvious from the very beginning.

7. How has your career and life changed after you graduated?

The shift here has to be divided into two separate parts, even though at some point they were tightly interlocked. My career hasn’t changed much, I’m passionate about architecture and what Strelka add to that is amazing — I got to know a completely new range of tools that were beyond my profession. What I want to do now is to use them as much as possible and by trial and error method incorporate them into my professional sphere. On the other hand there is no chance to avoid personal perspective. Try to imagine: you have spent 9 months among beautiful and talented people in an extraordinary city.

Thomas Clark
27 years
London, UK
Writer
Research at Strelka

1. What is your advice on building a noticeable portfolio for Strelka?

To make a noticeable portfolio, think outside the box. Think about what you will bring to Strelka that other people won’t. Much of Strelka is about presenting complex ideas so that they can be understood by an audience unfamiliar with the subject matter. The content of your portfolio should be created with an intelligent but uninformed viewer in mind. Remember how many portfolios the selection team will look through — 700 people applied last year. Therefore, each item should quickly communicate its value or core idea. That does not mean including work which dazzles but is ultimately shallow, which could be tempting if you have a visual background. Your portfolio should be deep and thought-provoking, unusual and well-presented.

It also needs to be clear that effort and thought went into the selection. In my case, I had five items. The first four items were concise: short précis with links to two-minute videos or short blogs. The fifth item was a long essay that I wrote about the problems of "online space" especially for Strelka. I don’t believe anyone ever read it — no one ever discussed it with me. But the piece showed my work ethic and desire to enter Strelka.

2. How important are written and spoken English skills? Have your Russian skills advanced while you were living in Russia?

At the start, English communication was an issue. It was a combination of language and certain cultural norms. People didn’t really understand my English way of being polite or ironic. I managed to offend people quite unintentionally, which has never happened to me before. My English accent was a problem, because Russians struggle with it. During teamwork, I would say something and then people would carry on the discussion in exactly the same direction it was going before. But as the course went on people’s English improved a lot and we all got to know each other. One month into the main project and I was confident my team understood everything I was saying.

I had a relatively high level of Russian before I came, and it was frustrating to have few opportunities to speak. The language of Strelka is English, and my Russian team mates joined Strelka expecting to speak English and improve, so it was important to respect this and speak English. However, there is a lot of interaction with people outside the course and I was able to conduct expert interviews in Russian, as well as email correspondence. I found Russian flatmates, too, which was crucial for socialising in Russian, because the course is all-consuming, often devouring evenings.

If my Russian language stood still, my understanding of how things work in Russia — of the Russian landscape, mentality and so on — sky-rocketed. I made contacts in Russia through my projects. These things are as important a "Russian skill" as the language. Strelka is a brilliant introduction to life in Moscow and Russia.

3. What do you need to prepare and get ready for your Skype or in person interview?

I drank a big glass of whiskey! I had done all the reading very thoroughly, which I think helped. If you are wondering how to prioritise your reading preparation, I would say that a conversation can only be about one thing. Have a strong understanding of one book and something fascinating to say about it, then guide the conversation towards it. Skim read the other books. The most important thing you can do is listen carefully and actively to what your interviewers say. Do not interrupt them if they are telling you something. Do not be too modest. In my interview, doubts were raised about my lack of design background. I modestly said I didn’t know much about architecture and saw the disappointment on my interviewer’s face. So I quickly back-tracked, said "well, I do know something" and reeled off a list of things I knew about, and I could see I had allayed their fears.

4. Why do you think Strelka chose you?

For two reasons. Firstly, I got an interview because of my strong academic background. Secondly, I got into Strelka because I listened attentively and thoughtfully in the interview, and presented myself as someone who would work cooperatively and with energy in a team.

5. What moment, workshop or lecture was the most memorable?

My favourite part of Strelka was a field trip to Astrkahan and the Caspian Delta, where my task was to research "Designed Memory". Our tutor, Nicholas Moore, encouraged us to follow our instinct to the most interesting and unusual things we could find. He also encouraged us to document what we found in a plurality of ways. A girl in our group got chatting to a local and learnt about a light-house at the southernmost inhabited point of the Caspian Delta. It was seven hours travel away from where we were staying, and we only had one day left. At four the following morning, three of us got up and broke away from the main group, leaving the island we were staying on a small motor boat that cut quietly through the dawn fog. By the afternoon, after finding someone willing to drive us across the semi-desert in a jeep, we had reached the light-house, first built in wood by Peter the Great but rebuilt by the Reds in brick during the civil war. It once stood on an island, but the sea had dried up around it. There were military vehicles abandoned here from a former military zone, three huge telecommunications towers, and an old fishing yard (now the sea was dried up to a stream). We spoke to its resident, an alcoholic fisherman who had a hazy memory of when the sea had departed, and we climbed the light-house for a view out over what was once the ocean floor. Strelka teaches you to take as many interviews as possible. We managed to find a ninety-two year old woman and spoke to her about her memories of the place where she lived. They were mind-blowing.

6. What was your job before you decided to take a 9-month leave?

Before Strelka I had been involved in start-up businesses in London. Working in small teams, thinking conceptually, talking to people about their problems, making plans, taking initiative — all of these skill sets which are necessary for start-ups also came into play at Strelka. Research skills are important to Strelka work, but anyone can pick these up. Immediately before Strelka, I had been writing a book. For me it was a delight to be surrounded by people and energy again, after the solitude of writing. These nine months were a great time in my life. The main challenges occurred for me with the clashes of skillsets within teams. People come from different backgrounds. Sometimes it is hard to find a common language, but how to find one is a valuable lesson in itself. My team persisted, overcame this issue and it was worth it.

7. How has your career changed since graduation?

Strelka has given me a platform to move my life to Russia. At Strelka I also learnt many journalistic and media skills, which was unexpected. Since graduating I have written articles for various publications. Strelka has taught me the joy of working in a well-oiled team, and whatever I choose to do permanently, I will seek this dynamic.

2013/14

Liva Dudareva
Jelgava, Latvia
31 years
Research at Strelka






Eduardo Cassina
Madrid, Spain
29 years
Video artists and urban consultants
Research at Strelka

1. What is your advice on building a noticeable portfolio for Strelka?

You have to talk about what you are passionate about and then the pieces fall together. A lot of people are worried that their portfolio is all over the place. It seems that the project you did outside your university, your latest job assignment and the master’s thesis do not have anything in common, but that is not true. You are that common link. Sometimes it is not easy to see how the dots are connected. The portfolio would do that for you when you describe the things you are passionate about. Don’t forget to mention your hobbies outside school and work activities.

2. How important are written and spoken English skills? Have your Russian skills advanced while you were living in Russia?

Neither of us is a native speaker of English. We did not have any problems communicating at Strelka. It was a fantastic environment that helped us get rid of the fear of speaking in English in public and presenting or discussing your ideas. Strelka also provided us with free Russian lessons, which were very helpful for me (Eduardo): despite grammatical impossibility of ordering "11 beers" in Russian, it was great having a bit of a base to communicate with people outside Strelka.

3. What do you need to prepare and get ready for your Skype or in person interview?

Going through the "recommended reading" list is a must. In both our cases we did not end up discussing any of the books directly on the interview, but we referred to some ideas from the texts to back up our plans. We would advise candidates to learn more about contemporary Russia: it is a lot more than just Putin, Gazprom, or Pussy Riot. Check out the Calvert Journal or articles on Dazed as well as some English content in Afisha or Dozhd in order to have more accurate and holistic view of what is going on in Russia today.

4. Why do you think Strelka chose you?

We guess we were chosen because we were both extremely curious people passionate about our work. Perhaps that is why we also chose to continue working together after Strelka. We are genuinely interested in exploring how cities work or how they don’t, and what solutions we can find for it. We love theoretical discourses, practical outcomes, and challenging contexts.

5. What moment, workshop or lecture was the most memorable?

There were many great moments throughout the year: from the personal development workshops to all the parties we went to (we weren’t prepared for that!). Also, all the incredible experts that popped up at the institute, which was a bit surreal at times. Particularly, the best experience was how Strelka just gave us access to so many resources, events, and people.

6. What was your job before you decided to take a 9-month leave?

Liva was working as a landscape architect for Gross.Max in Edinburgh, Scotland. Eduardo was living in Cape Town and working as an urban sociologist researching Chinese commercial landscapes in Southern Africa. It was not hard to change our lives because we were both used to moving to different cities on a regular basis. By the way, Strelka provides you with lots of help to make your settling in Moscow easier. We wish it was as easy to move to most places!

7. How has your career changed since graduation?

Well, we started working together in our own art collective and urban consultancy called METASITU. We have been traveling for the past 13 months from project to project across the globe: Lebanon, Ukraine, Palestine, Kenya, Ethiopia, Austria, the UAE, and many more in between. We are currently working on a project in Mariupol, Eastern Ukraine. We became a lot more ambitious after graduating from Strelka.

Anna Maikova
Altay republic, Russia
25 years
Marketing strategy specialist
Research at Strelka

1. What is your advice on building a noticeable portfolio for Strelka?

When I applied to Strelka, I was getting ready for a master’s application as well as actively looking for grants, so I already had a personal statement and a motivation essay written and my IELTS taken. I assembled the portfolio on the last application day: I quickly put together ten slides and used some information from the essays. On the first page I placed a photo and a short description of myself: professional interests, motivation to study at Strelka, and my hobbies. On other pages there were screenshots and links to my advertising and marketing projects: strategy development, marketing research, package design, events, and TV-commercials. None of the projects were related to urbanism. It is fine not to be an architect or urban planner, you just need to show your strengths and projects in other areas. I was 23 years old when I got accepted into Strelka. So, if you are younger than 25 or older than 35, you still have a chance to get accepted.

2. How important are written and spoken English skills? Have your Russian skills advanced while you were living in Russia?

Even with a good command of English it was hard for me to understand architecture and urban planning terminology. When I was studying at Strelka, I had to prepare for the GRE exam and study advanced vocabulary. To remember new words, I read books and essays in English, underlined all unfamiliar words in texts, and tried to memorize their meaning in context. The process is very slow, but it incredibly improves language skills. I recommend using this technique if you cannot afford English lessons.

3. What do you need to prepare and get ready for your Skype or in person interview?

During the interview I was asked why I was interested in urbanism, why I wanted to study at Strelka, and what I thought about the books that the applicants were given to read before the interview. After that we discussed my work and life experience in different cities.

4. In your opinion, why had Strelka chosen you from many applicants?

I think I was chosen because of a diverse mix of my urban and rural experience. I was born and raised in a small village located in Altai Mountains in Central Asia. When I was 16, I moved to Moscow for my undergraduate degree. Then I studied and worked for two years in different cities of South Korea. The fact that I lived in places with population ranging from 10 thousand to 15 million people reflected in my choices of education and work background as well as my personality.

5. What moment, workshop or lecture was the most memorable?

Strelka taught me not to give up, even if you feel devastated. I remember a competition among students on Strelka Relocation. We had a month to come up with a new strategy and location for the Strelka Institute. I was in a team of two architects, a business analyst, and a specialist in cultural management. We worked in an art studio on Arbat street: conducted a research, elaborated an index to define a relocation place, drove around abandoned buildings and industrial space, argued a lot, and did not have enough sleep. All teams wanted to win a trip to the Venice Biennale, so the atmosphere of competition reigned for a month at Strelka. I remember how a security guard would wonder how it was possible to go home on Saturday after midnight and return back at 9 am to work again for an entire day. You should be ready for intense schedule. We did not win the competition, but still visited the opening of the Architecture Biennale, which was incredible.

6. What was your job before you decided to take a 9-month leave?

Before Strelka I studied information communications in a South Korean college and worked as an English facilitator for students of design department in the college. Then I worked as a marketing manager in a Korean company that has offices in many cities, including Moscow. At some point I decided to change the management style from Asian to international, so I applied for both Strelka and Fulbright programs. I received an invitation to the interview right after I resigned from my work, so it was a really good timing.

7. How has your career and life changed after you graduated?

Right before the final presentation at Strelka, I received the Fulbright grant to go on a master’s course in strategic communications at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. At first, I was not happy with the university location after spending nine months at the heart of Moscow. I did my research on the university and realized how lucky I am to study at the oldest journalism school in the world and one of the best in the US. This summer I started working at a startup founded by an urban planner and assistant research professor at the New York University. We collect data on specific blocks and districts in diffferent urban areas, calculate a walkability index, and advise on how to improve the pedestrian environment and the quality of life in the given neighborhood. I am developing a communication strategy and content. This is my first experience of working in the company related to urban issues. I am very grateful to the knowledge and contacts that I acquired at Strelka. Although there is never enough knowledge, so I am looking forward to working on the master thesis about the perceived images of the cities, and my future educational project between Russia and the United States.

Ekaterina Asinskaya
Almaty, Kazahstan / St. Petersburg, Russia
29 years
Strategic communications specialist
Research at Strelka

1. What is your advice on building a noticeable portfolio for Strelka?

I think that the answer to this question is particularly relevant to those who are neither architects nor designers. I’m one of those. I am a marketing manager, whose entire career was devoted to strategic communications. How was I supposed to describe my achievements if the numbers and figures could not be disclosed, and the pictures did not reflect the actual accomplishments or skills that I wanted to show? There are three things that helped me overcome this obstacle:

1) I chose a specific way to talk about my projects. Marketing work includes several activities, which I organized in groups rather than in a chronological order: research, events, digital, SMM, and so on. It helped me structure my areas of expertise, distill my strong skills, and talk about them briefly and clearly.

2) In order to show the volume and efficiency of my work and at the same time not disclose sales figures, I came up with a solution to gather as much publicly available data as possible: size of groups, number of publications, visits to the sites, and so forth. For private and hard-to-measure metrics I came up with memorable analogies. Would it be interesting to know about 25 market researches conducted by me if I cannot demonstrate them? Perhaps no. So I showed that if printed, the stack of paper with my studies would weigh more than 23 kg. Another example is that the total area of shopping centers the administration of which I was part of would take up 200 football fields.

3) I described myself in the form of a story: this is me, this is what I can do and what I do well, the results I achieved, and I want to do in the future. In order to come up with this structure, I remade the portfolio four times.

Of course it is very important to stick to the classic rules of creating a portfolio: it cannot be too long, contain mistakes and typos, inappropriate jokes, and unrelated creative. It would be great if you could come up with an interesting and clear structure to quickly engage admission managers who check different kinds of portfolios in a very short period of time.

2. How important are written and spoken English skills?

If you do not have a good command of English, it is important to be eager to improve it and not hesitate to speak and express your ideas. In addition, it is very difficult to work in a team if you are not very good at English, as you would be having a hard time explaining your ideas to others or understanding their ideas. A good command of English would greatly help you and your fellow students. The best thing is that by the end of the program you would have a fantastic level of writing and speaking!

3. What do you need to prepare and get ready for your Skype or in person interview?

Be prepared for unexpected questions. Sometimes I think that I got accepted only because I successfully responded to a very sudden question about what would be the only thing I would change in the city if I became a mayor of Moscow. I answered that I would reform the parking system (at that time many drivers would still park on the sidewalks) and described in details how I would do it. It is important not to be afraid and be ready to discuss different issues and, although it sounds trivial, not to try to appear someone who you are not.

4. Why do you think Strelka chose you?

I still do not know. For the first couple of months I quite seriously thought it was some kind of an administrative mistake, and at any moment it could be revealed that I was not accepted. To be serious, I think that the portfolio and the way I organized it played an essential role in the initial selection as well as my expertise in the retail sector (Retail was one of four studios at Strelka).

5. What moment, workshop or lecture was the most memorable?

There are a lot of them. Over the time some things are getting distanced, while others get more important. Now it seems to me that the most important lesson that I learned at Strelka is that perfectionism is completely unnecessary. When you realize that in a few days or even in a couple of hours you need not only to deliver a product, but also to come up with an idea, discuss it with a team, work out a common vision, then details become not that important. I was very surprised when I realized that chaos could have as much power as a detailed planning. My view of the world has changed greatly when I learned that doing something fast is much more important than doing it perfectly, because after the deadline nobody would need the perfection. I would not say that I got rid of perfectionism at Strelka, but I am definitely not that obsessed with it anymore.

6. What was your job before you decided to take a 9-month leave?

I worked in consulting and marketing of commercial real estate. To put it simply, I was creating communication strategies for big shopping centers. At some point I realized that for various reasons I cannot do this any longer, and I started looking for something that I would like and have abilities to do. For a few weeks I was pondering how to find something that would help me fulfill myself and push me further. I visited Vinzavod, where I accidentally found a postcard about student recruitment with a slogan on lt: Do not know how to act? Act right! I twirled it in my hands and put it in my bag. I came home and opened Strelka.com. A couple of hours later I decided that this was what I was looking for.

7. How has your career and life changed after you graduated?

Immediately after graduating from Strelka I returned to the consulting work I was doing earlier and lasted there for six months. From the first day it was a very strange experience after Strelka: once I worked in effective teams, knew how to approach tough problems and do great things in short terms, it was very difficult to be back in a corporate environment, where all these skills are not in high demand. Now I am back at Strelka, where I supervise communications and production, and it feels great. At the same time, I am developing my personal project, which is associated with my previous experience and the research that I conducted at Strelka. I hope to continue working on it in the nearest future.

2012/13

Inessa Kovaleva
Kramatorsk, Ukraine
26 years
Jewelry designer
Research at Strelka

1.What is your advice on building a noticeable portfolio for Strelka?

There is no one rule on how to organize your portfolio. You need to tell your story and showcase the projects that correspond to the education program as well as not to be afraid of describing your interests in other fields. For example, my portfolio included not only urban planning projects, but also a slide about jewelry design, my hobby back in time.

2. How important are written and spoken English skills?

It is very important to have a good command of English to understand lectures better, discuss ideas, and read professional literature.

3. What do you need to prepare and get ready for your Skype or in person interview?

First of all, ask yourself why you want to study at the institute. Then think about your study goals and how Strelka can help you achieve them. During the interview, try to behave in an open and natural way. Be ready for a dialog in which you can discuss your background and ideas with interesting and competent people.

4. Why do you think Strelka chose you?

Perhaps I got accepted because I really wanted to study there. The main reason for that was my interest in the Education studio. At that moment I had been working for a year after graduation, and I found several gaps in my architectural education. I had some ideas on how to change the education system and brought them to Strelka.

5. What moment, workshop or lecture was the most memorable?

There was a lot of them. Perhaps the most important is that there is no such thing as impossible. Strelka taught me how to work with data: to think critically and look for correlations from which you can extract ideas and turn them into projects.

6. What was your job before you decided to take a 9-month leave?

I worked as an architect and urban planner at the Donetsk General Plan Management Office in Ukraine.

7. How has your career and life changed after you graduated?

For half a year after graduation I was working in the same field as before, but with larger scale projects and on a new, more professional level. I was conducting urban planning research studies at the consulting bureau KB Strelka. After that I continued my education at the Richemont Group Creative Academy in Milan, which was followed by an internship at Van Cleef and Arpels. At the moment I am working in jewelry design. It is a product of a different scale, but the approach is the same as to a master plan. It is important to find correlations in every field.

Katerina Examiliotou
Thessaloniki, Greece
29 years
Architect
Research at Strelka

1. What is your advice on building a noticeable portfolio for Strelka?

I think it is important to make it contemporary, brief, and representative of who you are as a professional and as an individual. There are way too many "how-to" manuals for putting together a proper portfolio. I would say read them, understand them, and ignore them. You don’t want to be one of the many generic ones, what you want and what Strelka wants you to do is to be yourself, one of a kind. If you are passionate, show it with colour. If you are organised, show it with layout. If you are creative, show it with graphics, find your way, and go for it.

2. How important are written and spoken English skills? Have your Russian skills advanced while you were living in Russia?

Language was a challenge everywhere else but Strelka. Most people that work and study there speak very good English. There are cultural differences inherited in the way people speak that could make the communication more difficult but not to a degree one cannot overcome. As far as my non-existing Russian skills go, I was able to communicate with the lady in the supermarket by the end of my time there, so for me that was a definite success!

3. What do you need to prepare and get ready for your Skype or in person interview?

Definitely a very good internet connection if you are skyping and some stress relief exercise. For example, I was on holidays skyping from a noisy internet café on an island. You want to avoid that! Prepare as you would for any other interview, do your research, know your portfolio by heart, and spend some time in front of the mirror convincing yourself that you can do this.

4. Why do you think Strelka chose you?

I strongly believe that my work background was the key factor. With that being said, I cannot shake the feeling that I got the definite yes when I interrupted the interview to basically tell off some loud people around me because I couldn’t concentrate. As uncomfortable as it might have been, when I turned back to the screen I saw Paul and Anna smiling. Right at that moment I think they saw determination and a glimpse of my character.

5. What moment, workshop or lecture was the most memorable?

One of the many ones is the trip to the Microrayons during one of the studio intro weeks. It was the second month at Strelka, it had snowed, it was extremely cold, we were getting to see a place and experience a culture completely alien to everything I knew and we ended up having dinner in an Indian(!) restaurant. Simply brilliant.

6. What was your job before you decided to take a 9-month leave?

After graduating I moved to Netherlands, where I worked for OMA. It was after a year there when I decided to go to Strelka. At the time I was craving for a change. Things happened so fast that I didn’t have time to think if it would be hard. In retrospective it was a challenging period and I’m glad I went through it.

7. How has your career changed since graduation?

After Strelka I decided to move to London, a place I always wanted to live in and go back to practising architecture. Right now I am working for Grimshaw. When people ask me who I want to be when I grow up I say a storyteller.

2011/12

Philipp Kats
Kazan, Russia
29 years
Analyst, data visualizer
Research at Strelka

1. What is your advice on building a noticeable portfolio for Strelka?

Firstly, it should look good and be well-arranged and paginated. You don’t have to be a professional designer for this: there are enough services that help structure your portfolio, with decent patterns and templates. Your portfolio should match the current standard of graphics.

Secondly, never include too many projects — 3-7 is enough. Pay attention to the balance between the variety of your projects and the particularity of your professional sphere. One of the main goals of the portfolio is to describe you as a professional but also show some of the unexpected sides to your career. Be careful though: including three projects in three completely different spheres could create confusion. It’s always a good bonus if your project has a website or any other kind of resource where additional information can be found.

2. How important are written and spoken English skills?

When I was applying the entry requirements for English were quite low. During the course of the year your English inevitably gets better but often at the expense of your main studies here. So I would recommend improving your English as much as possible and well in advance. Writing skills especially.

3. What do you need to prepare and get ready for your Skype or in person interview?

When I was applying there were none of those communication games that are a big part of the process now, so I allowed myself to be as much of a misanthrope as I wished. The best way to present yourself is by creating a coherent narrative stating why you want to study at Strelka and why Strelka should want you as a student. This in turn will give you the sort of confidence that would allow to open any doors.

4. Why do you think Strelka chose you?

I think I made myself quite noticed during the "Branch Point" workshops, but also because my interests and skills matched the "Senseable Moscow" group perfectly.

5. What moment, workshop or lecture was the most memorable?

The most memorable were probably Alexander Bard’s lecture and interview with Chris Anderson. But really there were many great moments. The most important moment for me though was meeting my future wife here — Anna Siprikova who was in the same year as me.

6. What was your job before you decided to take a 9-month leave?

I was doing architecture, trying to balance the job and my growing interest in parametric design. It wasn’t really working out so I applied to Strelka thinking that even in the worst case scenario, this break would at least give me the time to dig deeper into parametrics. But all turned out well and I was so absorbed with study there wasn’t time for much else.

7. How has your career changed since graduation?

While I was still at Strelka thanks to Vasily Gatov I received a job offer from RIA Novosti, a position in their infographics design studio. Dasha Paramonova told me that I should take this risk and try a new profession. I followed her advice and I’m still bearing fruit of this lucky coincidence.

Tatiana Mamaeva
Saint Petersburg
28 years
User Experience Designer
Research at Strelka

1. What is your advice on building a noticeable portfolio for Strelka?

The best way to present it is either in pdf or online. Arrange all your projects according to their importance and include their length, the main goal, your role, and what was achieved. It’s important to describe the process well and keep the balance between textual and media content.

2. How important are written and spoken English skills?

Very important. If you have any doubts about your abilities, I would advise doing an intensive course, either with a teacher or by studying on your own.

3. What do you need to prepare and get ready for your Skype or in person interview?

For all sorts of questions — from the last non-fiction book that you read to your favourite designer. You can’t really prepare yourself for this, you must be interested in your subject matter.

4. Why do you think Strelka chose you?

Because I have worked abroad and because I’m a designer — there weren’t that many of us in my year.

5. What moment, workshop or lecture was the most memorable?

Listening to Toyo Ito’s lecture at his studio.

6. What was your job before you decided to take a 9-month leave?

I had a freelance project at Strelka that was nearing its completion. When I got accepted, I thought why not try it?

7. How has your career changed since graduation?

I continue to work as a UX-designer. Now I make sure to pay more attention to research, but just like before my main focus is on the user.

2010/11

Andrei Goncharov
29 years
Moscow
Designer
Research at Strelka

1. What is your advice on building a noticeable portfolio for Strelka?

In a way that Strelka expects — briefly and clearly.

2. How important are written and spoken English skills?

Critically important.

3. What do you need to prepare and get ready for your Skype or in person interview?

Pay attention to the question "Why do you need this".

4. Why do you think Strelka chose you?

Just like everyone else — shining eyes.

5. What moment, workshop or lecture was the most memorable?

Hong-Kong trip. We got to know the city and took part in a workshop dedicated to the study of the local area.

6. What was your job before you decided to take a 9-month leave?

I was working as a designer at Yandex. Leaving work was an easy decision for me — I was hungry for adventures.

7. How has your career changed since graduation? What are you working on right now?

These days I am developing branding at Tsentsiper as well as producing a film about wild nature in the city.