‘I See that Senior Students and HSE University Staff Are the Kind of People You Can Rely on’
How do I find my way between numerous HSE campuses? How will I survive if I don’t speak any Russian? What is a polite way of addressing my professors? These are only a few of the questions international students have when they come to study at HSE University. At the beginning of the new academic year, HSE University is running a series of Orientation Sessions for new international students to address these questions and help them settle into their life in Moscow.
The presentations are run by the International Student Support Centre together with the Visa and Registration Centre and cover visa and migration regulations, student documents, and tips on safety and everyday life in Moscow. The Culture Shock workshop on the psychological and cultural challenges of moving to another country has a special place on the Orientation Session agenda.
Attending the Culture Shock workshop is a good idea for every newly arrived international student.
We originally designed this workshop for international exchange students, but starting from this academic year, we offer it as an Orientation Session to all international students starting their studies at HSE University Moscow.
The workshop is based on team activities, making it a great opportunity to make new friends (even if you’re an introvert) and help yourself adjust to living and studying in a new environment.
At the workshop, we create a safe space for voicing any worries or frustrations students may experience before or upon coming to Russia. How will I survive if I don’t speak any Russian? What is a polite way of addressing my professors? What if I don’t like my dorm roommate? How exactly do I use a washing machine? How do I find my way between numerous HSE campuses? Surprisingly, our peers share exactly the same worries, and feeling overwhelmed is a natural stage of our adaptation to a new environment.
We work in teams to come up with various solutions to the issues that come up. As the saying goes, ‘Two heads are better than one’. At the workshop and during all their studies, every HSE student can count on the support of a big community of international and local students, as well as HSE staff offering professional support with issues varying from visas and studies to psychological support.
Finally, I have been able to enrol in the most prestigious researched-based, top-class university in Russia. After my preparatory enrolment, I did online classes, and on December 22nd, I stepped foot in Moscow. I already had some ideas about Russia and Moscow, as my mom also got a scholarship and studied her MBBS in Russia. So after hearing stories from her, I was very excited, interested and impatient. After arriving at the airport, I couldn’t wait to get out and see it all for myself.
I had never experienced snow or such a big culture before, so I was immediately astonished and started making plans to visit different cultural and historical places and make new Russian friends.
I attended an event called ‘Culture Shock’ in which the primary goal was to describe how it might feel or what type of experiences we might have after some time in a new culture and society, as well as how to get over it, face your problems and join in discussions. There were also group games where we had to guess different pictures shown to us on paper. It helped us to learn some major information about key Russian cultural elements.
The most interesting part was playing games in groups: it showed how much the group, teachers, buddies and most importantly HSE University care about all their students. Also, the most useful thing was getting information about what to do if I face different issues in Moscow.
I came to Moscow on August 24, but it was only later I truly realised I was here. Before the journey, many friends told me that Moscow is a noisy, cold and unfriendly city. But it turned out to be untrue: I had a lot of questions about how to get to the dorm and how to get around there, and I got lots of support from the students, the administration, even strangers and staff of the metro station (for some reason, my ticket failed to open the pay gate). Of course, the architecture is incredibly beautiful in Moscow, and the city undoubtedly inspires you to think big!
At the orientation session, the HSE University staff told us what culture shock is, what factors may cause it, and the means to overcome it. We talked about the specifics of Russian culture and everyday life: from the traditional dish, solyanka, to unusual abbreviations.
I loved the interactive format of the event: we sat at tables with students from various faculties, solved problems, and simply chatted about how we got here and what we were going to do in the future!
My adaptation to Moscow is going rather smoothly, since my culture is similar to that of Russia. But for me, a seemingly obvious idea proved to be very useful: don’t be afraid to ask! Most of the people at the university are ready to help and explain the complicated issues, so we shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.
Before applying to HSE University, I had never been to Russia before. My main fear of this trip was that Moscow is a big city: its size might be frightening to a beginner traveller. I was impressed with the numbers: the population of Moscow alone is bigger than the population of the whole of Belarus. I came to Moscow after August 20.
Good weather, friendly people, good organisation by the dorm and university staff (I would like to particularly thank International Student Support), together with the beauty of the city—these things have helped all my fears and doubts to dissolve.
The educational session on culture shock and psychological adaptation was as good as it could be. I met a lot of fellow first-year students. We were divided into groups, and together we discussed issues that international students might face. Belarusian and Russian cultures are similar in many ways, but I, too, had certain questions I wanted to clarify and discuss.
We compiled a list of difficulties one could face when they move to a new country and a new city. The best thing was that we invented ways to solve these problems together, which means that all sorts of problems are solvable and we need to remember that there are always people out there who we can ask for help.
I see that senior students and HSE University staff are the kind of people you can rely on and ask for help in a difficult situation.
I also liked the game in which each participant was supposed to imitate the previous one’s movement, without seeing the initial movement. It was funny and exciting.
I came to Moscow on August 22. My first emotions were the fear of the unknown and at the same time, inspiration at the beginning of a new life. Starting from scratch, in a new city, where you know almost no one is hugely uncomfortable.
But you have to overcome obstacles to reach the summit! This is how I motivate myself, trying to concentrate on the positive side. Now, after some time has passed, I feel calm and inspired. So many new and interesting things lay ahead that I don’t want to think about anything bad.
At the session, we looked at the culture shock problem: what it is, how to deal with it, and what the consequences might be. The meeting had a friendly atmosphere. As part of some games, we got to know HSE University and its traditions, as well as found some solutions to culture shock. At the end, we exchanged contacts and got Handbooks for International Students, which contain all the essential information.
If you have recently arrived in Russia, you are welcome to join one of the Culture Shock workshops. Sign up for the next session here.
When: Friday, 23 September from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm
Where: 11 Pokrovsky Boulevard, building R, 3rd floor, room R306