HSE Buddies Become HSE Friends
International students come to HSE University for a variety of reasons—to experience a new culture, take interesting classes, learn Russian, or simply try something completely different. There are numerous services for international students to help ease their transition into Moscow life. One of them is the HSE Buddy System, which matches international students (both full-degree and exchange) with local 'Buddies' to help them with bureaucratic and other practical tasks.
For many students, their buddy becomes not only a much needed helper, but a real friend. HSE News Service spoke with some students who have participated in the HSE Buddy System about what it was like.
Vasilya and Carlo
Vasilya Imamkhodzhaeva, Master’s programme in Counselling Psychology. Personality Studies
I decided to become a Buddy because it's a good opportunity to practice different languages and learn about different cultures. At first, I thought Buddies just helped out international students with their documents! While it does involve that, I have helped with other stuff, too—I didn't think that I would one day be searching for crutches for one of my students, because he hurt his leg, or helping him to order flowers for his girlfriend.
For me, Buddies are more like friends. I appreciate my relationships with my students and I love spending time with them. To this day we still keep in touch. Some of my students are still here in Moscow studying in various programmes, and others have returned to their home countries.
During their last semester, my Italian students traveled to Uzbekistan and met my mom. She helped them discover my hometown and they loved it! I also got to know the parents of my students, seeing that first they arrived here with their family. Another time I accompanied my Buddy on a trip to Kazan. All of the international students are friendly, and they very often invite their Buddies to their hometowns.
Carlo Alberto Frassinetto, exchange student, 2019
I'm discovering Moscow little by little and am falling in love with this city. I’m finding that people are much more open and welcoming than I had expected, and the city is very clean and safe.
My Buddy Vasilya helped me get settled from the moment I arrived. When I arrived here in Moscow, it was almost 11 pm, and she met me at the dorm even though she, as a Buddy, was not obligated to meet me after 9 pm. She helped me check into the dorm and with some other bureaucratic stuff as well. Getting setting up here was much easier thanks to her!
I really get on well with my Buddy. A few days ago we met up for pizza together. I enjoy chatting or spending time with her, even if it is often difficult to reconcile our very different timetables.
Darina and Lim Ji Gu
Darina Burlakova, Bachelor's programme in Asian Studies
I studied abroad in South Korea at Seoul National University, so I know from my own experience what it is like to be an exchange student in an unfamiliar place. This is what made me want to become a Buddy and help international students at HSE.
The experience has not been without challenges—mostly all the difficulties are connected with bureaucratic procedures (getting documents in order, opening a bank account, etc.). Also, one of my students speaks only Korean, so I’ve had to use my Korean a lot. I still face some difficulties connected to the vocabulary, so I always keep my dictionary with me!
I've only been working with my Buddies for about a month or so. We are continuing to communicate and get to know each other. But we’ve already had some memorable moments. One of my students made me a small present with different things from Korea as a gesture of thanks!
Buddies can express a preference for which nationalities they’d like to work with. Due to my experience living in South Korea, I request to be matched with Korean students. A lot of the Korean students who come to study at HSE don’t speak English that well, and they only have a beginner’s level of Russian, so I am glad that I can help them. I do everything I can to help them feel more comfortable here in Moscow.
The language barrier is probably the biggest challenge for foreign students in Moscow. Therefore, if I had to give one piece of advice to international students, it would be to study foreign languages—in particular, Russian! Or to at least be prepared to apply yourself to the task. For some people, languages come easily, so I would advise them to make Russian friends. Russians love sharing their opinions and experiences; I think many people would gladly become friends with our international students!
Lim Ji Gu, International Preparatory Year
When I came to Moscow, I expected beautiful scenery and many tourist attractions. I can say that my expectations have been met! And thanks to my Buddy, adapting to Moscow life has been easier than I anticipated it would be. My Buddy has helped me with things that are hard to do by myself, such as getting through the dormitory move-in procedure, opening a bank account, visiting the programme office, and so on.
I have only known Darina for about a month, so we are continuing to get to know each other. Thanks to her, I can say that I really haven’t encountered any obstacles. Yes, it was difficult getting into the swing of things the first month, but now I have no complaints! I appreciate the support I have received.
Alexandra and Tom
Alexandra Shuvalova, Bachelor’s programme in Sociology
When I first came to HSE’s Erasmus Student Network, I had no experience with interacting with foreign students. But after studying abroad in Finland for a summer, I realized how different and interesting people are—including their world views. That’s why I decided to become a Buddy at HSE and help international students get settled in Moscow. I not only wanted to help new students, but widen my own perspectives as well.
I continue to keep in touch with my Buddies from past semesters—I am especially close with my first two Buddies, Elisa from Italy, and Tom from the USA. We became friends when they were here at HSE.
Since her time here, I have already met up with Elisa twice in Italy. Once it was just for a day in the city where she studies, and the second time I came to visit her for a week. She showed me small ancient Italian cities, which I would never have known about if it wasn’t for her. And, of course, we went to Venice because she lives nearby. As for Tom, he visited me. It’s was so cool to see each other after not seeing each other for 1.5 years. We travelled to Minsk and Crimea, and we are currently making plans to see each other again.
Tom Kowalewski, exchange student, 2017
Because I’m half Russian and had been to Moscow several times before studying at HSE University, I already knew what to expect for the most part. Of course, living in Moscow is different than visiting Moscow. I didn’t expect that I would love living in the city as much as I did.
My buddy met me during my first or second week in Moscow. I’m not completely fluent in Russian, so it was difficult for me to get my student card for the metro. Alexandra took me to the office and helped me fill out all of the papers. It was a huge weight taken off my shoulders, and I was very grateful.
I never expected to become so close with my HSE Buddy. I am now visiting her for the second time since I graduated from HSE in Moscow, and she plans to come and visit me in New York City sometime within the next year.
If you are an international student at HSE University and would like to request a Buddy, click here.