Good summer involves work

Belarusian university students prefer ‘working semester’ instead of easy going beach holidaying

By Marina Shumilo

Dressed in dark blue uniform bearing the national flag, these young people go to work each morning. For their strong character and determination, they are seen as true ‘fighters’...

The student movement is almost 50 years old, having been formed in 1963 — when young people came to Kazakhstan from Belarus and other Soviet republics. Later, they moved to Moldova, Lithuania and Georgia. In Soviet times, students helped construct today’s famous international Artek Camp in Crimea and Minsk National Airport. Several generations of young people have worked as part of student squads, with the movement remaining popular even now.

Working on a student team is a good opportunity to spend summer holidays usefully. “Every year, I work on a Belarusian State University student squad,” notes BSU Radio-Physics and Computer Technologies student Andrey Voloshin. “It’s an easy way to earn money while receiving a hostel place — much cheaper and more convenient than renting a flat. The hostel is even situated near the University building.”

Students receive salaries equal to those paid to qualified staff while being exempt from income tax. They quite often work in this way rather than taking ordinary jobs, since no experience is required to work with a student team; special preparatory courses are organised for new-comers. Moreover, it’s always more interesting to work alongside your peers, with some even able to travel abroad.

This summer, Russia’s Zapolyarie Camp was a destination for those from the Respublika teaching team — working as housemasters, cooks and, even, DJs. Respublikа is among the largest student teams countrywide, being founded 17 years ago. Almost 10,000 youngsters from Belarusian universities have worked with it to date. Belarusian State Economic University student Ksenia Derkach tells us, “Working at a camp offers a different life, with its own joys and, of course, problems. I decided to work as a housemaster since no other job brings as much joy as working with children.”

Other occupations on offer are those on construction sites and working as train conductors; there are even jobs helping university enrolment commissions. The Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics helps teach computer literacy, while a local history team is aiding the restoration of a 17th century castle and church in the village of Lyubcha (Grodno Region).

Naturally, students are encouraged to develop their own personalities. “I’ve learnt to take responsibility for myself and for those around me,” stresses Ksenia Derkach. “I’ve also leant to trust people. It’s an experience you find nowhere else.”

Neighbouring countries are always pleased to receive help from Belarusian students. This summer, many are working in Russian Sochi, helping prepare the city for the forthcoming Olympics. Jointly with peers from the CIS and Baltic States, they’re building a railroad and a motorway. Another two squads have headed for the Yamal Peninsula (Chita Region). Others have remained in Belarus this summer, some helping construct the new Great Patriotic War Museum building in Minsk — a job requiring huge responsibility. Others are working on Grodno’s new hydroelectric station.

Summer is in full swing but these young people are not afraid of heat or rain. They’ve chosen jobs which will yield dividends: financially and in life experience.

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