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Interview with the red diploma candidate of Sociology of Organizations and Public Administration program Alfebin Ubaidulla Vadayil

Image author: No LLU arhīva

The interview will give you a glimpse into Alfebins life in Jelgava. He's a very well rounded individual with whom we could have talked for hours!

He just defended his bachelor thesis and is about to receive a red diploma, meaning 75% of his grades have been 9 or 10 and he does not have any grades that were lower than 7.

You will learn tips on how to find a job while studing and how you too can find a job related to your study field, we touch on how to manage your time to live a life that is balanced with work and play(in his case football), we talk about how contrary to a common belief Latvians are not serious and cold infact, they can be very friendly and helpful people once you get to know them and how the leaders of student governments used their power to help gather data for Alfebins bachelor survey about Alcohol consumption in LBTU.

Hi! Tell the reader more about yourself.

My name is Alfebin Ubaidulla Vadayil . I am from a state called Kerala located south of India. I am about to graduate from a 3 year bachelor course of Sociology of Organizations and Public Administration.

What's your story, how did you find us?

I graduated highschool in 2016 and went to study for a bachelor in Business administration in Turkey. I went there - I didn’t know if it was the university or the program because after one semester I dropped out. I thought maybe it was the university’s fault and tried the same program In a different Turkish University and the same thing happened. I realized maybe it’s not the university or the course that’s the problem - it’s me, not knowing what I want.

I came back to India again, then to Abu Dhabi to visit my family that live there. I took two months off from everything and reflected on what it is I want, what it is I like and what makes me excited. I realized I like to socialize with people, I like Politics and that I’d like to study more about society. Questions like “Why this “thing” is happening in one country, but not in the other?” and “how big of a role does culture play in it?” I realize it would be something related to administration and Sociology.

I started searching on Google for places where I could study. And I found our university. It was perfect because Sociology and Public Administration were together -  the curriculum had courses like Sociology, Politics - It had all the things I wanted to study!

After I sent the international office an email they replied in under 2 hours, and we started the admissions and Visa process right then and there.

How fast was it from the day you applied and the day you got your papers done? What was the Admissions process like?

I applied in August. The communication started way before that and they told me that this is the time to apply for The spring Intake in February, so by October I got all of my papers in order. And by January I got my visa. 3 years later I am about to graduate!

What is life in the 8th Dormitories like?

I got a room for myself so I have the privacy I need. I live on the 4th floor and it is pretty calm there. Each floor has two kitchens and It’s a joy sharing it with others, because whenever you go to make food you can socialize. Especially on these winter Nights we drink tea and just talk.

How have you adapted to the four seasons in Latvia?

Honestly, I adapted pretty well. I was always going out in winter having fun, but now, after covid I get sick very fast. I don’t know what happened to my immune system, but I am very careful now. I got sick last February, and since then I’ve had a fever 4 times. Before going back home to Abu Dhabi I had a cough for a month, then it ended and now that I came back.

Do you work?

My company is called “Edurio”. Spot on in what I am studying. We are a start-up that does educational surveys for municipalities in Latvia and the United Kingdom. My job is related to sales, so I am a sales assistant and one of my main duties is the analysis of sales data through a spreadsheet. My task is to figure out what is going on with marketing leads, how the information we put out affects the sales and vice versa.

Many students come here and end up working anything they get their hands on, but you managed to find a job related to your study field, how did that come to be?

I created a professional resume. After the CV was made  I created a LinkedIn page which I made more significant with a professionally taken photo, my previous work experience, skills and all of my positive aspects that could be useful to somebody. After everything was ready I just started applying and sending my information wherever I saw the opportunity. 

In the meantime I took some free courses. Like Digital marketing and other Lead generating software related information - I absorbed all of it, I even got a HubSpot certificate.

At the time my company's HR department called and said they liked the resume, they are interested in taking it further and then they gave me an exam to test if what I said was true. It was basically a transcript of how I would communicate with a client. So I completed a test with common difficulties faced by the sales manager when talking to a customer. I showed them how I would handle these situations and the result was they loved it! It’s been 1,5 years since and when I graduate I will already have job experience!

What were the challenges in finding a job?

It was really difficult to find a job, the fact that I can only work 20hrs a week, because I am a bachelor student, means most serious companies would not even consider me. They would want somebody who can work full time. My company had more flexible rules - they said I can work whenever I want, choose a time and the amount as long as the work is done. The fact that I tried, learned from my mistakes and did not give up. It paid off.

How did you get the red diploma? That’s a big thing!

The red diploma became a reality only in the second semester, my professor came to me and said: “Alfebin, If you keep this up, you might get the red diploma”. I never saw it like I will get the diploma no matter what. I just concentrated on each semester to do as good as I possibly can and it became a reality. What really made the difference was my time management skills and the way I focus my attention. So when I go to the lectures I am always present, paying attention and participating in the lecture, not wondering about what I will do tomorrow. All of the knowledge is absorbed into my brain.

What about the homework? A lot of students wait till the deadline. Is this something you face too?

No, actually I try to do my homework right after the lecture when the knowledge is still fresh and It is the easiest to actually do it. That’s where time management comes into play. After work, lectures and even after I cook dinner I usually have some time left over so I put my homework time right after dinner. The other thing that motivates me is football. So most football games are on the weekends and I  work during the workweek and rest during the weekend. Of Course depending on the needs of the specific week I can change my schedule, but I am strict about separating work and play.

Speaking about play, what is your relationship with challenging yourself physically?

I don’t drink Alcohol, smoke or consume fast food with any sweet beverages. I also workout from home and when it’s summer I always go to play volleyball right here on Pasta Island. As long as I can play sports, especially football, which is my favorite, I'll always participate even until old age. 

The weather in Latvia when it’s summer is just perfect for any kind of sport. Right after 4pm till 11PM is the best time for me. “When it’s sunny you can even glimpse happy looking Latvians”: Alfebin Jokes.

Did you actually try really hard to get the diploma or did it just happen?

This will not be a surprise, but I was really motivated to do it. When I go to the class I am really motivated to learn new things and I absorb knowledge quickly. I picked this subject myself after some time alone. I know This is what I want to do. It is my and nobody else's decision. This gives me so much motivation and drive, it pushes me forward to graduate from Sociology and to do something for the society. I took everything step by step and look where I got!

We have talked about and around your life, what motivates you, what habits you have, now it’s time you tell the reader what is your topic that you defended?

My thesis is about alcohol consumption by students in our university. One day I was about to go to bed and it just came to my mind, I quickly wrote it down and after showing it to the professor she said it would be useful to talk about this. 

As I was searching for information related to my work I could not find too much, because no such research had been done. Some small scale things in Riga, but not in Jelgava. Also compared to other European countries Latvia was one of the only ones who had not done such a Sociological study.

What is the reason students drink?

The full in-depth review of the gathered data you will have a chance to read in the paper, but the main motive that urged students to drink was actually a social one. I never asked questions directly, in fact in my survey I made statements and asked students to rate how true it is for them. Fun fact - Latvian students drink a lot more than International students and they are more likely to “binge drink”. The statement was: “I am likely to have 5 drinks in 2 hours” and the students would rate the probability of that. 66% of Latvian students agreed with the statements compared to 38% of International students.There were also questions about the consequences of drinking, but that is another topic.

So how about the solutions, what should be done after your work is published?

During Orientation for new students at the beginning of the year, we should inform the students about healthy amounts of drinking which would be compared to a glass of wine 2 times a week. This could lessen the effects of binge drinking and would be beneficial to study quality.

What about having fun? Isn’t it common to come to a party and drink to get the courage to dance or even ask a girl out to dance?

Ofcourse, but we still need to spread awareness about this topic so decisions instead of being based on following the social norms accepted by students are based on awareness about the outcomes of your actions. 

The situation in Latvia is also that the government has policies regarding these issues, but not always the action has followed resulting in what we have now. The right thing to do would be to start these informative campaigns already in highschool so when students come to the university all that needs to be done is a reminder.

People think that alcohol is always connected to the positive outcomes, but they rarely think about what comes after, so the negative consequences include not only a headache right after drinking, but even in the distant future.

How did you come up with this topic of alcohol?

I wanted something that is not only interesting to me, but also the students and could give added value to the university. And some of the other factors include the fact it would be difficult for me to go out of the borders of university to do research. I don’t speak latvian and it would be difficult to interview someone on the street, so in a way I was limited to only the student population as I am one of them.

In my opinion Latvians - if you know them personally, they are really helpful, friendly and nice people.

Do you feel safe in Jelgava? What about other International friends and girls specifically, do they feel safe here?

In my experience Jelgava is really safe. It’s something that has not come up in conversation, I think they feel safe too, atleast, I have not heard any bad experiences regarding this.

How did you get the data for your survey?

I am lucky to have Signe Dobelniece as my study advisor, she really helped me with finalizing the topic and suggested changes in my work. At first I sent her a draft that was just one page long. It had my research subject, object and aim. She said it’s good and I kept going. 

In September I started the surveying process and for Internationals it was quite easy. 

I am staying in the 8th dormitory and I knew that floor 2, 3 and 4 are full of international students, so I went door to door explaining my motives and collecting people's emails.

The next step was getting Latvian students to join the survey, which I thought would be rather challenging, because I didn’t have many Latvian students as friends. And I had to translate the whole survey in Latvian. I am thankful that I got it done with the help of my professor. I decided instead of trying to reach out to all of the students, I would talk to the student council and the surrounding faculty committee leaders. This strategy proved to be the right one!

Who did you go to for help?

Student self-government of LBTU and the surrounding Faculty councils like (ITF, Šalkone, VMF, PTF, LF, ESAF, TF, VBF) are full of amazing and helpful Individuals. They helped to spread my bachelor thesis survey about alcohol consumption in LBTU to their faculty chats and in less than a week I got most of the answers.. For my research to be valid I needed 200 answers and I ended up getting almost 500! I thought it would be really difficult to get to the Latvian students, but this support surprised me. I would like to thank them for their help!

I would like to thank all my professors. The professors in the sociology program were really experienced and highly professional. I learned a lot from my professors and big thanks to all professors who taught me during the last 3 years. Also, I would like to thank my supervisor for my bachelor thesis and study project, Prof. Signe Dobelniece whose feedback and guidance was highly valuable to me. Finally, I would like to thank my family for always supporting and believing in me.

Why do you think so many people responded to your survey?

It was easier for me to see the things overlooked by ones that live here and are used to the way things are. I am from another country, I view life differently. In my culture we have different norms and customs, the way we think and speak to one another differs from latvian culture. That’s why It’s so beneficial when someone comes from the outside and gives a completely new perspective on things. A fresh perspective that was needed and interesting to the general public of students!

Do you care more about socializing with International students or also Latvians?

Both. I would be happy to socialize with Latvians students. When I needed my survey to be passed along I learned that they are really friendly. Everyone seems scary at first, but until I broke the barrier of conversation I realized people are really friendly - I look forward to events with them!

As the last question I would like to ask you, what would you like to say to an International student that is coming to study at LBTU?

When you choose a program in the university, choose something that motivates you, work hard, manage your time and don’t give up, especially when it comes to finding a job. Always stay positive, take care of your body and lastly study, study, study! 

Submitted on: 13/01/2023