It's summertime and nearing the end of the school year. My fellow Russian students are preparing to move their young rich lives to a higher level of educational elitism, Euro-style. Most have already got their warm places in the London School of Economics or the European Business School, and exchanged their rental leases at our college for their new Knightsbridge Park Mansion apartments. Others are preparing themselves with a "4 hour Italian" CD to for when they go to Milan to study their top-notch fashion degrees.
Most Soviet-born applicants have an easy time getting into top European universities. Being Russian means that you have so-called international status, meaning you have to pay about nine times more for tuition then an EU citizen, which makes a Russian applicant a desirable piece of meat from the school's point of view. As a result, we get in with less preparation, shittier portfolios and worse marks. Sometimes even this advantage -- our willingness to vastly overpay for the same education that Europeans can barely afford -- is sometimes not enough to get us accepted. Like for example, when some Russian students I know didn't even do a single bit of work all year, and therefore had no portfolio or marks, no matter how bad, to show the elite university admissions board. So some Russian students have an even more effortless way to secure their college places...
I was looking forward to the May Ball in our college for a long time. This is the event when a dull hangar normally used to celebrate 80's pop wedding parties for some 30-something Englishers from the countryside is transformed into an elegant catwalk to accommodate the latest Cavalli leopard prints and blinding Versace ball-gowns worn by a bunch of Slavic teenagers. The event seemed promising. Most of all, I couldn't wait to see what garish outfit Nastya would choose for this gala. It could be anything from a tight pink logo-covered Dior tube-dress to something utterly invisible, revealing everything.
Nastya's toy-beau Miguelo (really a Russian who'd adopted a ridiculous Latino name, one of the latest fads for elitny young Russians) made a spectacle when he arrived at the ball in a rented helicopter, which he shared with another Eurotrash student from Germany. Their arrival by helo caused a sensation, as no one could top it for sheer tackiness.
Unfortunately Nastya never showed up for the May Ball, which ended early due to one student's MDMA-induced heart attack, requiring emergency medical attention.
The reason for Nastya's sudden cancellation was her upcoming interview in one of the top English design colleges to which she applied for an Interior Design degree.
According to Anya, another aspiring interior designer (the most popular career choice for the richest Russian brats), Nastya was totally unprepared for her interview with the admissions officer. "She shows up once a week to class and all she does is talk about her trips to Harvey Nichols, then she vanishes again. She never does anything. The week before her interview she suddenly flies back to Russia, and she returns with, like, amazingly professional drawings for her portfolio. And she says, like, 'ooti-pooti, I worked so hard!' Yeah, right, she just gave 200 dollars to some starving architect in the Russian provinces, and that's it, she's in the top English design college!"
I was shocked by how obvious it was that Nastya had cheated. It was impossible not to notice. "What about the teacher? Didn't he think it was suspicious that she suddenly showed up with these great drawings?"
"Oh no," said Anya, "it didn't even cross his mind. No one cheats like this here in England. It is OUR method. They couldn't even fathom it."
When I finally saw Nastya again, she was radiant with joy: "Imagine, I bought a dog! A Chihuahua! Tiffany! She is sooo fluffy!"
Using her degree to earn money is not one of Nastya's long-term plans, as I learned. During one of the classes we had together, she started to interrogate me about my life in Russia. When I mentioned that I have an acquaintance who works for GQ in Russia, Nastya's eyes lit up. "It would be so klassno to be on the cover of GQ! Imagine, it would really advance my career!"
"But I thought I wanted to be an interior designer," I said to her.
"Nu... not really. Papa thought I would need a serious profession. Something to fall back on. But in reality, I am planning to dedicate myself to modeling. And being on the cover of GQ would make a perfect start."
I wish I could tell her the cover of GQ really does look empty without her. "I believe you have to be a bit famous to get there, Nastya. Plus, I think most of their covers feature men. Why don't you try FHM girl of the month first?"
Nastya's cringed. "No! My father would kill me! It's like porno! So unrespectable. I know you have to sleep with someone or pay to make it there. But I really don't want to. Well, paying maybe, if it is really necessary..."
I promised Nastya to make some inquiries and that somewhat calmed her down for a while.
Meanwhile, bipolar student Vlad is transforming from a mopey, suicidal metrosexual Harrow scholar into a regular Russian "biznesmen" muzhik by acquiring more and more anti-Semitic prejudices. The other day he joined his English mates for lunch in the canteen and offered this preview of his new self. Pointing to his mate's scabby dish, he sneered, "They only gave you one chicken drumstick? That is so JEWISH!"
Vlad's English companions were shocked, and didn't know how to respond, thinking perhaps he meant something that was changed in the translation: "Vlad... just what do you mean by that?" one asked.
"What I mean is, giving you only half a chicken is greedy and disgusting. Like a Jew. Duh."
Vlad, by the way, was accepted to the London School of Economics. He'll be sure to use his fine knowledge to help civilize my Motherland.