As a native of Belarus, she studied at Harvard and worked at HBO
The online edition of lady.tut.by tells the story of a native of Belarus, Darya Zhuk. More than 15 years she lives in the USA. She began her professional career as a financier at a bank on Wall Street, then worked on the famous HBO channel, where she participated in the work on the film Sex and the City.
After 6 years of working for HBO, Daria radically changed her life, changing her prestigious job to a high-school course in directing at Columbia University. Now the girl lives in New York.
About moving to the USA
It turned out quite unexpectedly. In 90, after the collapse of the USSR, everyone was very interested in what was happening in the West. I studied in a specialized school and went for a year exchange in the United States. There I met a wonderful woman who, after looking at my high marks, advised me to continue my studies in America. I agreed: I sent a questionnaire, wrote an essay - and got into a women's college for a full scholarship.
I was 16 years old, I didn’t understand what a women's college in the USA was. When I arrived, I was shocked. The institution, designed for 300 girls, was in the wilderness. The nearest city 3 hours by car! It was such a small, small town in the Midwest, as if from the book The Wizard of the Emerald City. It took me a few more years to understand: "Oh, my God, you have to get out of the village where I fell."
When I entered college, I received a visa without any problems, because the scholarship completely covered my studies and accommodation. Two years later, realizing that I wouldn’t last that long, I was already preparing to go back home and go, for example, to Moscow. There was no installation that you need at all costs to stay in the United States. “Saved” by a friend: she took me to Princeton University Ivy League, and I realized that I just didn’t go there.
There is a certain caste system in the USA: if you go to a prestigious university, then you get access to prestigious work, naturally, this is a class difference, and you need to understand how to maneuver in this system. You will not always immediately figure out with whom you need to communicate, where you need to move, because a millionaire may look like a bum. The first years are difficult just for this reason. It took me about ten years to find my place in this society.
Study at harvard
For admission, you must pass the written exams and then have another interview. How does the American system work? First of all, they are looking for interesting people with a broad outlook who can offer something to their fellow students. You need not only to solve problems well and be able to conduct biological experiments, but also to be a marathon champion. Broad horizons are very much appreciated. At Harvard, there is a focus on diversity, and often students from other countries are taken just for this. It is believed that you can always offer a new look at some problem, so you are always interesting.
I graduated from Harvard with honors in 2002! I am still surprised that I got a diploma in economics, because at some point I found myself in the cinema and did not leave the editing room.
At Harvard, the educational system is as follows: some of the subjects are compulsory (in accordance with your curriculum), some are optional. On the course on electronic music, which I chose as an optional, I met different creative people and suddenly realized that these people are much closer to me than those who are engaged in economics. When I took a camera at one workshop and tried to shoot a movie, everything fell into place. Economics was more difficult than my fellow students.
A friend of mine, for example, became a very famous professor at the University of Chicago. Communicating with such people, you understand what it is worth doing and what not. I was interested in the stories of people more than finance and statistics that you need to know well to be a good specialist in this environment.
First job and documents
After graduating from university, I got into a mess. If the education system in America is very flexible, then the immigration system is not at all. I was a certified economist, and the fact that I had an incredible number of art courses was not reflected in my diploma. To get the right to work, and then a residence permit, I really had to suffer a lot.
A residence permit is very difficult to obtain. Even if you unlearn here, it does not mean that you can stay. Many people come here, study and undergo an internship. If you have no experience, then your diploma will not be enough for your employer to hire and open a work visa for you. Creative people are even more difficult: in 22 − 23, you need to prove that you are an outstanding artist or an artist who is so outstanding that this country should sponsor you and give you a residence permit. Easier, of course, if you are rich or famous. I had neither one nor the other.
I did everything myself. My parents are journalists, they live in Belarus and could not financially support in any way. But I definitely borrowed great ambitions and an inquiring mind from them: I quickly realized that with my education you can easily work as a financier. Investment banks still recruit brigades of students from Ivy League universities, including, of course, Harvard.
Everyone clearly understands that this is a fairly high salary, but you are at work 24 hours a day. This is such a "deal with the devil", but a great way to quickly gain experience after graduation, and for immigrants - quickly get a work visa.
For two months I went through trainings, after which I had to take a test. If you get 70 points or more, you are immediately hired. So I spent two years working as a financier at JP Morgan on Wall Street. In general, I went there every morning and cried. The work was hard, but it allowed me to find an apartment and somehow settle in New York, to feel on my feet.
Jobs at HBO
I decided to try myself as a producer or something like that. At least engage in strategy and finance, but in a more interesting area - in the cinema. And I did it all! I got on the HBO channel, which is famous for its TV shows from Sex and the City and the Game of Thrones to The Real Detective. Now I realize: it was somehow a miracle that they took me there, but then it seemed that this was necessary.
I sent a resume online, and I was just called for an interview. I didn't know anyone at HBO. Working on the channel was much easier than in a bank, a completely adequate schedule, cute managers and bosses. The team is good, calm. Feeling as if people on the channel work, as in the old days, throughout life.
Even at the end of my six-year "run" on the HBO, they said to me: "Well, you're new here." During this period I had experience, I made many projects, after which I was able to prove that I needed in the USA. The channel hired lawyers who filled out all the documents and made me a residence permit.
At first I was taken to the analyst position and then promoted to manager. I had many different projects, I helped different departments, but the most interesting projects were related to film finances. For example, after the series “Sex and the City”, several feature films were produced that were produced by HBO in conjunction with Warner Brothers. I had to predict the payback of these films, depending on the company with which we will produce and distribute it.
By the way, famous TV shows are the most secret place in HBO. Producers don't like to share their plans. Of course, I wanted to get closer to them, but I decided to go a radically different way. So I went to Columbia University for an advanced filmmaking course. Leaving HBO was painful, but on the other hand, I just blossomed, it seemed to me that some kind of second life had begun.
Now she lives in New York and is engaged in the filming of an independent film.
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