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'Only the Bravest’

Inna Alexandrovich, third-year student of Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania, was a graduate of the HSE School of Russian Studies in 2009 .

- Inna, how did you come to study in Russia?

- I was born in Moscow, but we left Russia when I was one year old. Growing up, we always spoke Russian in the family, that's why I speak Russian fluently. The course which I'm taking in the University of Pennsylvania is geared towards international research in business, and as part of the programme's requirements, every student spends a year abroad, in the country of his specialization. I've been specializing in Russia, and our university has been cooperating with the HSE for several years, so that's why I'm here.

- What goals did you pursue applying to the HSE School of Russian Studies?

- I wanted to feel like a Russian student, to understand Russian society better, to try and figure out what is happening here in economics and politics. And, of course, I was expecting to get a high quality education. I should say that my expectations in terms of the quality of teaching have been met 100%, - we had excellent teachers!

- What course or teacher do you remember the most?

- Nina Belyaeva, Deputy Head of the Department of Public Policy, Maxim Braterskiy, Professor of the Department of International Affairs, Sergey Kortunov, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, and many other teachers. The matter is that the number of students of each year of study in the School of Russian Studies is about 5 or 6 people, and in fact you are tête-à-tête with the professor. That's why you remember everyone, and they also remember and recognize you. Usually there are very interesting discussions in classes, they are not just lectures, like the ones I am used to at my university. There, student groups at lectures are large and there is less contact with professors.

- How international was your group?

- There were several Americans from the University of Pennsylvania and one student from Netherlands. But for example the course by Sergey Medvedev was also attended by students from Germany, Russia and the US. During the preparation of a presentation for this course we were working in groups, and in every group there were people from different countries. It turned out to be very interesting:there were very diverse views on politics, life and the world. For me it is interesting not only to study the subjects, but to exchange viewpoints and opinions

- What disciplines formed your curriculum in the HSE School of Russian Studies?

- We were studying political processes in Russia, the economy of Russia, international politics and defence policies. There was also a course in national security and of course Russian language - This is essential, since the better you know Russian, the easier it is for you to get information and adapt to the country. From what I've seen, the education I've received in Russia is broader and more focused on human sciences.

- Do you like reading in Russian?

- I like Russian classics very much. At our Russian classes we read a lot of Solzhenitsyn, Babel, Bunin and Rybakov. I always attended Russian lessons enthusiastically. Our teacher was Zhanna Alexanyan - she is a brilliant speaker, and learning the language rapidly becomes interesting and fun.

- In your view, how difficult is Russian to learn?

- I think it is very difficult, but very interesting at the same time. As I noticed, only the bravest international students choose to study it.

- Did you make friends with any of your classmates?

- Of course. I am very fond of the people I met in the classes, as well those I met out of them, for example, in the HSE Studio School of Acting Skills I met students from various faculties and different years of study.

- Generally, in Russia, did you often run into differences between the American and Russian mentality?

- I could feel a difference. I understand this is a kind of cliché, but it really seems to me that Americans are more rational, and Russians are more curious, ask more questions

and have a more philosophical approach to life.

- Apart from studying, what else did you do here?

Inna Alexandrovich and Leonid Ionin, Dean of the School of Russian Studies
Inna Alexandrovich and Leonid Ionin, Dean of the School of Russian Studies
- Almost all of the students of our group were working during our education. For example, Ryan Morgan, and I found jobs with the help of the School of Russian Studies:we were matched with a couple of banks, and they helped us to pass the interviews. Ryan worked in a French bank, and I worked in ‘My Bank'. This experience was invaluable for me in terms of professional development - I picked up lots of knowledge on the Russian banking system, as well as in terms of dealing with the public - I communicated on a daily basis with visitors who came to the bank.

- What will be the topic of your graduation work in the U.S., will it be somehow connected with Russia?

- I have another year and a half for writing up my graduation work, and I am sure it will be connected with Russia, since it would be a pity not to use the knowledge and experience I gained here. At the School of Russian Studies we wrote a final paper on almost every course, and I am sure that some part of what I have written will become the basis for my future research.

- Inna, how do you see your future, in, say, five years?

- After graduating, I am planning to find a job in a bank, maybe in New York or another big city. After that I would like to start working in a large financial company with connections with Russia. I believe that from financial point of view Russia is a very interesting partner for international companies, since the Russian market has a big investment potential.

- Would you like to come to Russia again? And if so, what would be your aim - working or studying?

- I would like to come back here to work. Of course, this would be after I get some work experience back home. And if we compare work and study, it seems to me that it is easier to be a student. But when you work you face more reality, more people, I might say the true essence of the country.

Lyudmila Mezentseva, HSE News Service

Photos by Ivan Moryakov