‘I Have Already Become Part of the HSE Community, Albeit Remotely’
In 2020, prospective students got a new experience: touring and getting to know universities remotely. After passing entrance exams online, many of them are now studying online and have yet to see HSE University in person. We asked Aiganym Daupbayeva, first-year student of the HSE and University of London Double Degree Programme in Economics from Kazakhstan about her experience attending HSE virtually. She discussed how to get into HSE and take classes without leaving your home, and why international students choose HSE University.
I decided upon economics as my future degree when I was in the 10th grade: that was when I first participated in high school Olympiads. There are a lot of Olympiads and various competitions in economics, which allow students to earn certificates and medals that enhance their application portfolios. I’m from Karaganda, and many citywide and national Olympiads are held here, so I could participate in them without having to leave my city and country.
I also participated in the ‘Vysshaya Proba’ Olympiad, and when I made it to the on-site stage, they sent my assignment to a local university, which was very convenient. Soon, my passion for the competition gave way to a real interest in economics. I’ve been dedicating more and more time to it, and I realized that it is economics that helps us look at societal interrelations and understand the hidden meaning of all global processes. For me, learning about economics has become a superpower to understanding the world: I know what inflation is, what crisis means, and how my purchase decisions impact national prosperity.
How I Got to Know HSE University
I travelled to Moscow and St. Petersburg to participate in the international economics Olympiad organized by HSE University, and there, I got to know the University. It was a serious step forward, for my studies and for my life. I got to experience the university environment not in brochures and guides, but through real people: volunteer students, teachers, and coordinators. Being at a university in person provides a fuller understanding of where and how you are going to learn, whether you are going to like it or not, and what prospects it offers you.
I heard that HSE University offers a 100% discount for tuition fees to Olympiad winners, and this motivated me to work even harder. I considered several universities but chose HSE, particularly due to the fact that my friends kept saying how hard it is to study at HSE. The more often I heard this, the more I wanted to go there: this has become a real challenge and an opportunity to prove for myself what I am capable of.
Why HSE University
I’m from Kazakhstan, so Russia is a close and well-known country for me, where I won’t be stressed by an alien environment or language difficulties. For me, an academic experience is more attractive than an international one. But in the case of HSE’s International College of Economics and Finance (ICEF), I can have it all: receive a degree from the University of London, study in English at a high level, and do in-depth research.
I know that ICEF admits strong students and winners of the Russian National Olympiad for High School Students. For me, it was important that I be in a competitive environment that motivates me in my studies and other aspects of life and allows me to see where I can grow. I decided that Russia could be a great place to study and start a career, since a good university provides a lot of opportunities to challenge myself in the field, to go for internships at various companies, and talk to professionals.
Now I receive a mailout with job opportunity listings from the ICEF Career Centre, and I dream about submitting my CV when I’m in my last year of study, and then I worry about getting the job
I imagine myself going to an interview and getting a taste of office life—it is thrilling and inspiring.
I was also drawn to ICEF due to the serious workload it gives students, but also its focus on applied skills and preparing you for a career. This means that I can choose an area of studies at any time without losing anything, since I don’t yet understand clearly what I want to do after graduation. I believe that in these four years, I’ll be able to try different internships and understand what is better for me. I’m now thinking about teaching and an academic career; I’m interested in the opportunity to do research at ICEF Academia during my third and fourth years, and learn from researchers who have PhDs.
How International Applicants Are Different from Russian Ones
The school curriculum in Kazakhstan is not much different from that in Russia, so we have about the same background as Russian students. International students can get tuition discounts at Russian universities thanks to Olympiads, and in my case, the International Economics Olympiad. I got admitted to the double degree bachelor’s programme at ICEF with a 100% discount.
Language is a different story. But in double degree programmes, all students are equal, since the curriculum is internationally-oriented, and all classes are taught in English. We get admitted on the same terms as students from Russia – this is true for the dorm and other things. The only difficulty we have is the paperwork: we have to do much more of it. For example, we have to get notarized translations of various documents.
Or, for example, this year there was a minor issue with getting my online entrance test results approved: I had to do a little more work, but it didn’t impact the final results. I must say, in the context of urgently switching all exams to an online format, the admissions process went smoothly, and everything was very well organized, such as international student support on all issues at the International Admissions Office.
When I became an international student, I was added to groups on HSE social media, where all pressing issues are solved immediately with the help of ICEF administration and senior students. This includes issues with mock exams in the first module, arrival, dorm accommodation, and more.
I haven’t yet had a chance to see HSE University in person, take classes on campus, or live in a dorm. Starting in the second semester, when I come to Moscow, I’ll have many more questions, but I already know who to ask.
Getting to Know HSE Online
When I took the online entrance exams, I was confident that the borders would be re-opened by September, but events have kept preventing me from coming. I already have a ticket for January, I already know a lot about HSE University, and all I have to do is come and see it with my own eyes. First of all, I met my classmates over Zoom. I felt anxious, but was surprised by how supportive and friendly they were. My classmates who managed to study on site in September sent videos from campus, told us about the teachers who will be especially interesting to meet, and talked about how we will discover Moscow together.
I know that when I arrive, there will be familiar faces there to greet me; I won’t be starting some scary new life from the very beginning. I’ll be continuing something I’ve already started
The HSE campus is what I’m most curious about. I’m excited to arrive as soon as possible. Despite the remote learning, I haven’t missed out on opportunities to participate in events held by ICEF and HSE University at large: I’ve been able to attend open lectures, conferences, and career meet-ups. I’ve been happy to learn that HSE has a lot of country-specific student associations: for example, there is a community of students from Kazakhstan. While studying remotely, it was the place where I got a lot of useful information on logistics, insurance, and academics, as well as just moral support from knowledgeable people who have already travelled this path. I ended up not even needing the Q&A on the university website: fellow students told me everything I needed to know. I have already become part of the HSE community, albeit remotely.
After the Olympiad, I had a good knowledge base; in addition, my high school provided me a good background in mathematics and statistics. A few of the topics we studied during the first semester were familiar and easy for me. Due to remote learning, there were not many opportunities for electives in the first module: I chose only Calculus++, and it turned out to be complicated. I have to work hard on it. During my second year, I would like to attend as many classes as possible. For example, I want to take one more foreign language and enter ICEF Academia. I would like to get to better understand finance and trade during my first year, as well as be able to better choose which additional courses are right for me, from software development to soft skills.
I’ve heard a lot of stories about how ICEF students get admitted to master’s programmes at top universities and receive scholarships as best applicants. I’m not going to stop at a bachelor’s degree and would like to study as long as possible, as long as I have the opportunity. I’m going to choose a university for my master’s studies, and only then will I think about how and where to start my career and get professional experience. I definitely have an interest in doing research, but I’m afraid I’ll get too into it, and if I choose to pursue a PhD, that I’ll reach a point of no return to applied work. After the master’s degree, I’ll have more freedom in choosing an area. I believe, when I choose my major during the second year, the next steps will become clearer.
HSE University welcomes applicants from all over the world and offers not only different levels of study, but also different formats in English and Russian, online and offline. International applicants can apply for Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes in a separate admissions process for foreign applicants and receive scholarships with full or partial tuition fee coverage.
When applying to a Bachelor’s programme, including five English-taught programmes in Moscow, it is possible to submit international certificates you have received in English and mathematics, such as IELTS, TOEFL, A-Level and other international exams and they will be recognized by HSE University, so taking entrance exams in relevant subjects will not be required.
Undergraduate applicants can test their chances of admission now by taking mock tests. Master’s applicants also have the opportunity to get a preliminary assessment of their portfolio and communicate with their programme of choice online.