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‘A High Concentration of Intercultural Communications’

The team of the HSE International Preparatory Year said goodbye to its students at a graduation party that took place at the HSE Cultural Centre. 197 students from 58 countries graduated from the programme this year. They learned Russian and profile subjects in Russian, which has helped over 100 of them to enrol in degree programmes at HSE University.

Graduates of the HSE International Preparatory Year are proof that it is possible to become proficient in Russian within a year—the ceremony was hosted by international students speaking Russian. The programmes start with an intensive compulsory course of Russian as a Foreign Language, after which students take courses in general subjects in three academic tracks: Humanities, Economics, and Engineering and Technology. 

A Huge Advantage

This year’s graduation party was a special event for the International Preparatory Year: it was the first one since the pandemic (the last similar party took place in 2019). Alexandra Nazarchuk, Director of the Programme, addressed the graduates: ‘You’ve managed to deal with Russian grammar and math, you’ve met new friends and got to know Moscow.’

Natalya Nikitskaya, Branko Vuchkovich, and Alexandra Nazarchuk
© HSE University

Ivan Prostakov, HSE University Vice Rector, emphasised that the graduates had to deal not only with grammar and math, but with many more difficulties, since they had to study in a foreign country in unusual circumstances. But they had overcome these hardships and made it to the graduation. He thanked the teachers, since working in such a multi-language, multicultural environment requires experience, patience and skills. He addressed the graduates who are going to other universities: ‘Our university remains open to you. Who knows, maybe you will come back for master’s or doctoral studies. We will be happy to see you again.’ To those who are staying at HSE University, he suggested: ‘Become part of university life right away, help the international students who are beginning their studies today, because you have a huge advantage—you already know HSE University and how it works.’

Ivan Prostakov, HSE University Vice Rector
© HSE University

Elena Aysakova, teacher of Russian as a Foreign Language, provided some curious statistics: ‘The year has been long. This means that you have attended over 600 hours of Russian classes; you opened your textbooks several thousand times; you answered the teachers’ questions about 10,000 times; you completed at least 300 homework assignments; you took about 20 tests; you survived and successfully passed 2 exam periods.’ She thanked the students for choosing Russia, for loving the Russian language, for getting to know the Russian culture and choosing to study in Russia.

The graduates immediately provided proof of their love of the language and the culture. Students of group 2112 recorded a video of their recital of Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. Students Zhang Weichi and Wei Haoming from China staged and sung the popular Russian song Milenky Ty Moy (My Sweetheart).

Liu Chen from China and Gilistro Baptiste Michel Patrick from France ‘added some adrenaline’ with performances of a song by iconic Russian rock musician Viktor Tsoy and one from the beloved children’s cartoon Cheburashka. Liu Chen impressed the audience by playing a guitar, while Baptiste performed a solo on wooden spoons.

The mini-concert was followed by an award ceremony, with prizes going to the students who had asked the most questions of teachers; who never hurried, but always did everything on time; who were most eager to get the best results; who visited the most Russian cities; who are best at making friends, and who achieved the best results in the final attestation.

The informal part of the ceremony included cake, folk games, and a balloon release.

Learning Russian: Interesting and Difficult at the Same Time

When the HSE News Service asked a couple of students for interviews, they were confident enough to answer in Russian. Ganjargal Ganbaatar finished high school in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and decided to go to university in Russia. She heard about HSE University from her sister and friends who studied here. She had studied Russian for a year before coming here, and today, she believes she has improved her Russian proficiency a lot: ‘I have learned so many things. Learning Russian is interesting and difficult at the same time.’ She has already enrolled in a Russian-taught Bachelor’s programme in Economics at HSE University.

Ganjargal Ganbaatar

Among the few difficulties she had to face in Russia, Ganjargal mentions extensive paperwork and, particularly, COVID-related bureaucracy: ‘It was difficult for the first few days, because I didn’t speak Russian. Russians speak very fast and look angry, but that is not how they are, it is just a manner of speaking. I was lucky to have a very attentive Russian neighbour in the dorm—she has become a good friend of mine. The dorm is great, with a lot of international students, and we are all friends there.’

Everything seems thrilling here, and particularly HSE University—it is an outstanding university

Since Ganjargal is going to study Economics, her Prep Year studies included Russian as a Foreign Language, Russian for Subject-Specific Purposes, Mathematics, History, and Social Studies. She said that Russian for Subject-Specific Purposes was the hardest: ‘We had to memorise a lot of complicated terms in Russian. Mathematics was also a bit difficult when I could not understand the explanations in Russian. But as my Russian progressed, it got easier.’

She also managed to participate in some extracurricular activities: ‘The Russian Speaking Club at the university was really cool. I met many interesting students and teachers there. It sometimes meets on special occasions, such as New Year, Maslenitsa and other holidays for tea parties and other activities. I also participated in an event called Culture Café organised by HSE University, where I represented Mongolia. We got to know each other’s cultures, traditions and food. The event attracted not only Prep Year students, but international students enrolled in degree programmes at HSE University.’

After she gets her Bachelor’s degree in Economics at HSE University in four years, Ganjargal wants to work in Russia for a few years and then go home to work. She is considering the banking sphere or starting her own business.

HSE University Does Everything to Ensure International Students Feel Comfortable

Natalya Nikitskaya, Teacher of Russian as a Foreign Language at the HSE Preparatory Year

International students can face a variety of difficulties upon arrival in Russia. Those from warmer countries have to adapt to the cold climate. Those who come from small towns have to adapt to the fast pace of life in Moscow. For some, Russian cuisine seems unusual, and they bring groceries from their home countries. But eventually, everyone adapts. Russian is considered a complicated language, so they feel scared about whether they can learn the huge amount of grammar and speak fluently. I believe that a talented teacher seeks an individual approach to each student. As soon as they find it, students understand that Russian is not that difficult: it’s like Lego blocks that make up a structure. When they come here, we teachers are the face of Russia for them—in a way, we are like their parents teaching them to talk. HSE University does everything to ensure that international students feel comfortable in Russia.

I Don’t Feel Like an Alien Here

Branko Vuchkovich from Serbia already had some international experience before coming to Russia. He graduated from Economics Department of Singidunum University in Belgrade, Serbia, in 2017, spent some time working in the United States and China, and then decided to come to Russia: ‘I chose Russia because, I believe, 85% of Serbs love Russia, and each of us wants to come to Russia. I don’t feel like an alien or even a foreigner here. I asked my friends from Russia about the best universities in the country, and they recommended HSE University as the best and most modern one. My friend told me about a scholarship for studies in Russia, and I used this opportunity.’

Branko Vuchkovich

Despite the Prep Year being his first time in Russia, Branko adapted easily: ‘On the first day, I felt like I was in Shanghai. But then, I saw that Moscow is more beautiful than Shanghai, since it is older and there is a lot of nice architecture here. And now, I feel here like I feel in Belgrade. I was born in the west of Serbia, the city of Užice, but studied and worked in Belgrade for almost ten years. The process of my adaptation in Russia took about 15 days.'

I found some grocery shops where I could buy food, learned how to use the metro and how to get to the university, and after that, everything was easy

Branko chose the Prep Year track in Humanities, which included Russian History, Social Studies, Russian Literature, Russian as a Foreign Language, and Russian for Subject-Specific Purposes. He said: ‘Studying was easy for me, because I had learned Russian history, literature and social studies before. Russian for Subject-Specific Purposes was difficult, because there are a lot of complicated words that I am going to use during my master’s studies.’ He also mentions that the only difficulty he has faced in Russia is bureaucracy: ‘Everything else has gone smoothly.’

Branko has already enrolled in a Master’s programme in International Relations that is taught in Russian with several courses in English. While it is hard to make long-term plans in these volatile times, he is optimistic: ‘After graduation from my master’s programme, I would like to stay to work in Moscow. Since a lot of Serbian companies have left Russia, I think I could try to get employed by the Serbian embassy in Moscow.’

Students from Almost Every Continent

Ivan Prostakov, HSE Vice Rector

This year’s course was the first on-campus one since the pandemic. On-site studies are particularly important for the International Preparatory Year, since learning a new language online is difficult. And we are happy that this year’s students have had some very good achievements. The share of Prep Year graduates who will continue their studies in HSE University’s degree programmes is particularly high among students on a Russian Government Scholarship: 82%, the highest for the last three years.

Another special feature of this year’s course is the vast geographical scope of the students. We have welcomed students from almost every continent: China, Vietnam, India, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Sri Lanka in Asia; the United States in North America; Brazil, Honduras, and Ecuador in South America; Egypt, Djibouti, and Eritrea in Africa; Austria, Italy, Ireland, France and Switzerland in Europe, and many others—58 countries is a lot.  This shows that education truly has no borders.

We host a rich, high concentration of intercultural communications.

Another satisfying fact is that students come to HSE University to study in very different programmes. One of our main tasks is to promote the university as a multidisciplinary one. Prep Year graduates have applied to 31 programmes in a variety of fields: not only economics, but also international relations, mathematics, engineering, computer science, linguistics, design, and others. The idea of the Prep Year is to prepare its students for studying in Russian, which helps them to apply for the wide variety of programmes available at HSE University.

Admissions for the Prep Year Basic Course are open until August 15, 2022

Admissions for the Online Basic Course are open until September 25, 2022

See also:

‘The City of Moscow Inspires Me with the Joy of Living’

The new academic year is gaining momentum at the HSE Preparatory Year, with students from over 40 countries currently enrolled. The HSE News Service talked to the new students about their first impressions and the challenges of studying at HSE University and living in Moscow, while teachers of the Prep Year extracurricular clubs shared their ideas and plans for future activities.

International Students Learn Russian Through Theatre Performance

International students at HSE University acted in and shot a film-play in Russian as part of the ‘Russian through Drama’ course. The students spent a semester preparing the play, immersing themselves in the Russian language and cultural environment. The HSE News Service spoke with the instructors and students about their work on the play and their Russian studies.

Applications Open for HSE University Intensive Summer Language School 2022

This summer, the HSE University Russian Language Centre will offer intermediate and advanced Russian-language students an opportunity to learn and practice their skills while immersing themselves in Moscow life.

Let's Learn to Speak Russian

A growing number of HSE University’s international students are actively learning Russian, even if their degree programme is taught entirely in English. To help them build fluency, the HSE University Preparatory Programme launched a Russian Speaking Club for its students in March 2021. Now, all HSE University's students, regardless of the programme they are in, can take part in the meetings.

What It Is Like to Be an HSE Student

Van Ly Vu took Prep Year programme at HSE University before enrolling in BA in Advertising and Public Relations. In her column for HSE Illuminated, an online student newsletter, she shares her story of becaming a student of HSE University.

'It Was Nice to Experience the Charms of Student Life in Russia'

Ljiljana Filipović, from Croatia, is currenttly studying in the Master in International Management programme at the HSE Graduate School of Business. This year she was also helping international students with Russian language in 'Russian speaking club' organized by International Prep Year programme. In her interview, Ljiljana Filipović shares her experience of the Prep Year programme and offers some useful tips for international students.

‘I Feel at Ease in Russian Class’

Since September of this academic year, the HSE International Prep Year (IPY) programme has offered a supplemental Russian language course for international students studying at HSE. It is designed for students who have successfully graduated from the preparatory programme and are now studying in undergraduate or graduate programmes at HSE on Russian government scholarships. The HSE News Service spoke with students about the course and learned how it is helping them in their studies at HSE.

‘Every Word and Grammatical Construction That I Learned in the Preparatory Year Is Very Useful for Me’

Though born in Ukraine, Roksana Ramirez has lived all her life in Bolivia. A native Spanish speaker, Roksana came to Russia with no knowledge of Russian. She is currently studying at the Graduate School of Business in a Russian-taught Master’s programme in HR Analytics. In an interview with HSE News Service, Roksana describes how HSE’s Prep Year programme helped her become proficient in Russian and how she is now mentoring current prep year students to help them adjust to university life.

‘I Really Enjoy Learning Russian’

Karla Sofía Torres Pesquera is an exchange student from ITAM, Mexico City. She is spending one semester at HSE University, from January to June. She has talked to HSE News Service about the courses she is taking this semester and also described her life at the HSE dorm.

Learn Russian Online

The HSE Centre for International Preparatory Programmes is launching an intensive online course of Russian as a Foreign Language. The course will start on October 1, 2020 and will be part of a blended preparatory programme that aims to help international students gain proficiency in Russian so that they can enrol in Russian-taught undergraduate and graduate programmes. Registration for the course is already open.