Andrea Neulaendtner has recently finished her MA in International Relations from Webster University in Geneva, Austria. An Austrian citizen and native German speaker, Andrea also speaks English, Russian, and French and has also studied Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese. She’s served many internships across the globe, including one in Moscow with Synergy International Systems where she helped develop information systems that are changing the way international aid is distributed. That internship was arranged by SRAS along with an RSL program at Moscow State University.
This remarkable young woman (who also has her own website) recently took some time to answer a few questions about her life experiences and philosophies.
SRAS: You’ve mention to us that International Politics, with a focus in Finance and the Environment, are your priorities in education and internship selection. What do you hope to eventually do with this experience – what are your final career goals?
Andrea: The reason why I initially started my studies of International Relations and Management was that I saw how long-term environmental issues were neglected over short-term financial gains. Thus, during my education and internships, I focused on learning to identify win-win solutions, bringing about both environmentally sound development and financial gains. My short-term career goal is to work in a political organization dealing with, ideally, both environmental and financial affairs. I am thinking of organizations dealing with renewable energy, emission trading, or related issues. For defining my final career goals I still consider myself a bit too young.
SRAS: Fair enough. According to your resume, you’ve helped work to develop information systems called DAD and PAFSM. Can you define for us what these are and their importance?
Andrea: DAD means “Donor Assistance Database.” This database allows a donor (an individual, organization, or country) to select projects for funding according to a number of self-determined criteria. Applicants for project funding provide information on their proposed projects, usually by feeding the database over the internet. DAD is easy to use for both the project applicants and the donors. A donor can use information provided in the database to set-up and print (a) overview-maps, showing which types of projects are proposed in which regions of the country, (b) charts, showing statistics on the projects proposed, and (c) reports, presenting selected information in a selected format. DAD is very popular among big and small companies and organizations. The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria is only one of the “big name” organizations working with Synergy’s DAD database.
PAFSM means “Proposal Application Form Submission Mode.” It is a multi-lingual user manual for applicants seeking project funding through DAD. It helps them provide project information to DAD in an accurate way.
Both DAD and PAFSM contribute to making the distribution of aid more transparent and, thus, more efficient. This is to the benefit of aid donors and recipients alike. For further information on DAD or PAFSM, please do not hesitate to contact Mrs Galina Ten (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Synergy International Systems, Moscow.
SRAS: That’s quite amazing. And what did your work contribute to these systems?
Andrea: My primary task during my internship at Synergy International Systems was to familiarize myself with various country-specific DADs (Afghanistan, Iraq and Guatemala), and to subsequently set up PowerPoint-introductions for managers lacking the time to read user manuals. These PowerPoint introductions were step-by-step presentations which, in 20 minutes or less, explained how DAD works. Once these presentations were set-up, I also participated in finalizing the English version of one of PAFSMs.
SRAS: How would you describe Synergy’s philosophy and management style?
Andrea: Synergy International Systems is a very professional company, working closely with its clients to tailor-fit Synergy products to the clients’ needs. Synergy specializes in Web Database, Web Portal and Web Services solutions for aid coordination and management, business intelligence, knowledge management, e-Government, process performance and executive decision support.
The management style of my supervisor, Galina Ten, is best among those I have come across so far. Mrs Ten would make sure that everyone would feel part of the Synergy family. As such, everyone would give his or her best for the well-being of this family.
SRAS: You’ve done a wide range of other internships – how did your internship with Synergy differ / stand out from the others?
Andrea: As a former student of management, working with Synergy stood out in that it was the first time I came across a management style which seriously took the well-being of employees into consideration. Previously I had been used to management styles that tried to use employees “most efficiently,” caring for the needs of the employees, only if a direct link to profitability was evident. At Synergy International Systems I came to understand that you can get even further by creating a positive work environment and by seriously caring about the well-being and happiness of your employees.
Apart from the above, I benefited from the internship at Synergy in that it helped me to rapidly improve my Russian language skills. Russian was the working language at Synergy. In the beginning they had to translate into English for me, but over time, the need for translations disappeared. I am very thankful to SRAS for finding this company for me.
SRAS: You’ve studied a wide, wide range of languages. What do you think is the importance of studying and understanding foreign languages and cultures? What do you think should be the relationship between studying these at home and travelling abroad to experience them? (in terms of the importance of both and how they should interact)
Andrea: For me, the importance of studying and understanding foreign languages and cultures is easily described. Languages are like bridges to people of other cultures. If you can walk across these bridges, you can exchange points of view and, in the end, both sides are enriched and both sides learn – which helps both sides to improve. Having an International Relations background, I also appreciate the fact that an overall better understanding of the language and culture of others reduces the likelihood of conflicts and war.
I cannot comment much on studying languages at home. I prefer to learn them in the countries they are spoken as – in my opinion – this is the most efficient way of learning a language: My pronunciation is more accurate, helping others to understand me better. Also, I can listen to people speaking the language, which helps me pick up common phrases. Being exposed to the written language every day, I first pick up the words used most often. Also, I am forced to speak, which prevents me from only learning the language in a written form. If you cannot start to learn a language in a country it is spoken, it is definitely important to travel to such a country at some point, not only in order to improve your pronunciation and to pick up common phrases, but also to experience the culture that carries the language.
SRAS: Could you briefly describe the TORFL (Test of Russian as a Foreign Language) that you took. How did you sign up for it, where was it administered, what did the test consist of, and did you think it hard, challenging, or easy?
Andrea: I did two language exams while being in Russia. Both were Moscow State University language exams. The first exam, the “Elementary Level,” I skipped. I started with the “Basic Level,” followed by “Level 1.” Both exams I passed very well. The “Level 1” exam allows you to study at a Russian university, which I considered doing at the time. There are exams up to “Level 4.” This level corresponds to a language knowledge equivalent to the one of a native speaker.
I signed up for the exams in my language department at the Philological Institute, which also was the place where the exams were administered. The exams consisted of a speaking and a writing part. During the exams I thought that they were rather challenging, but it turned out that I had been well prepared. At the “Basic Level” I obtained 93% (75% is passing), and at “Level 1” I obtained 90%. These results would not have been possible without the language courses organized by SRAS. So: Thank you once again for your excellent work, SRAS!
I wish everyone deciding to go to Russia as brilliant and enriching a time as I had! I promise you, Russia and its culture are worth exploring, and the people you meet will enrich your life.