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‘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.

The International Preparatory Year programme has taken place at HSE University since 2014. Annually, it enrols about 200 students who study on Russian government scholarships or on a fee-paying basis. After a year on the programme, students continue their studies on degree programmes. The Prep Year offers three profiles: Economics, Humanities, and Engineering and Technology. The course includes Russian language training, as well as special disciplines. For example, students of Economics study mathematics, history, social science, and academic writing.

Alexandra Nazarchuk

Aleksandra Nazarchuk, Director, International Preparatory Year 

The world is changing, but luckily, the desire of young people from various countries to get degrees in Russia, to get to know Russian culture, history, and literature, stays unchanged. And they start to get this knowledge from the first days of their studies in the programme.

The HSE International Preparatory Year is a vivid example of diversity: this year, it has enrolled students from over 40 countries, including China, Turkey, Thailand, Macedonia, Serbia, Iran, Egypt, Italy, Japan, Greece, and Brazil.

Paulo Alejandro Nieto-Barrera, 33, Colombia, student of the HSE International Preparatory Year

I’m a professional in business and I have a master's degree. I plan to study a Master’s degree in Sociology. I found out about HSE by looking at international university rankings, and I decided to study in Russia because of my great admiration for this country, culture and people. I chose HSE because of its international prestige and its position in the field of sociology.

I have not been to Russia before. It is quite far from my country and it is not a common destination for Colombians. Russia has been an important actor in the world throughout history, and although I need to deepen my knowledge, I know about important historical moments such as the formation of the country, the time of the tsars, the Soviet Union, and recent years.

In the Prep Year, I must learn Russian and study subjects related to the humanities (for the master's degree I want to do). This year, I hope to master the Russian language, and in my master's degree, I hope to learn tools and methodologies for the study of societies.

HSE is structurally beautiful, with very professional and kind people (teachers, students and staff). Moscow is a majestic reflection of Russia’s historical achievements. 

In addition to compulsory courses, Prep Year students are invited to participate in such extracurricular activities as the Cinema Club and the Russian Speaking Club.

The Cinema Club is conducted by teacher Olga Lavochkina. Participants of the Club watch short films (5–15 minutes), then complete exercises set by the teacher, discuss the film, invent a continuation for it, and play out the characters’ dialogues. The goal of the Club is to develop the students’ speaking skills and let them talk about things they find important and interesting—something not always possible in regular language classes.

Olga Lavochkina, Tutor at the Cinema Club

It was important for me to make sure the students leave the class with a new feeling, able to look at the problem from a new perspective. For example, one of the girls decided to visit parties sometimes instead of only studying, and a young man realised that girls can flirt without saying anything. Language and emotions, personal and deep communication are essential for me in these classes. Watching films together and discussing them can be the beginning of a good friendship.

Future topics of the Club include love, job hunting, lockdown, passing exams, and loneliness. Students who already have some proficiency in Russian, as well as early beginners, are welcome.

Aleksandra Bogdanovska, 22, Macedonia, student of the HSE International Preparatory Year

I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Psychology this summer and am now studying Russian language in the HSE Preparatory Year. I plan on joining the Master’s programme ‘Counselling psychology. Personality studies’ next year.

My late professor and mentor Blagoja Janakov recommended HSE as one of the most prestigious universities in Russia. He spoke Russian fluently and was amazed by Russian scientific achievements in psychology.

I come from a country that has a lot of western influence and I believe that we lack an eastern perspective. Russia is world-known for its important scientific discoveries in the field of psychology; personology, one of the most important subjects in psychology, is very well developed here. The grandsons of eminent psychologists work at HSE, and having the opportunity to learn from them is a big honour for me.  

I want to be able to distinguish certain ‘parts’ of the human psyche scientifically and understand the dynamics of the personality. I would like to be able to offer psychological counselling, describe the exact state a person is in, and know what kind of treatment or support they need.  

On my first day here, I was amazed at how well-mannered and helpful Moscow people are—everyone was offering to help me. I have the impression that the people live a highly individualistic way of life and are alienated from their true needs and desires. I think that loneliness is very common, but self-organisation and responsibility are very high. From my experience so far, I can understand why Moscow is called ‘the business capital’.

The Russian Speaking Club was founded by a group of Prep Year teachers in 2021. They organised monthly meetings on different occasions: New Year, Students’ Day, Maslenitsa, etc. The students not only spoke Russian, but drank tea with Russian national treats and participated in creative workshops. For example, Cosmonautics Day was celebrated with a Best Space Suit contest, while on Passover, the students coloured eggs.

Polina Veselova, Tutor at the Russian Speaking Club

This year, we are going to continue the monthly Speaking Club meetings, but we want to start talking about more serious topics, such as ecology, generation gaps, etc. On October 26, we had our first meeting. It was dedicated to stereotypes. We discussed how stereotypes evolve, whether they help or hinder, and if they are an obstacle, how we can destroy them. We are also going to continue celebrating holidays—New Year is coming up!

The club welcomes students with all levels of Russian, including beginners. The organisers try to create a friendly and positive atmosphere: they believe that Russian language can unite people. They are also open to new ideas and suggestions.

Carlos Eduardo Garcia Tavares, 28, Mexico, student of the HSE International Preparatory Year

I'm only interested in learning the Russian language at the moment, so I contacted different schools with language programmes. HSE University was the only one that actually answered me and offered me what I need now, even though I'm not interested in a degree.

I'd love to learn the language and find opportunities to develop my skills here in Russia. I expect to learn sufficient communication skills to find a job in Russia to pay for my future studies in ballet methodology. HSE is the only institution that offers an approach to my future goal.

The university is very modern. The administration is very attentive to my needs and they are clear and concise with the information they provide.

It's my first time in Russia. At first, I only knew that Moscow is a very big, clean city and that the Bolshoi Theatre is here. Now, I know that there's a mixture of cultures from different places and that not everybody is blonde with blue eyes. It's very similar to Mexico, just with a different combination of people.

The city is very big. It feels so calm compared to Mexico City or New York. The sky is mostly grey, the metro is very pretty, and I love how clean everywhere is. What surprised me most is how supportive and welcoming people are—it reminds me of Mexican people. I love how different but similar we are.

Daria Barra Oleynik, 18, Burkina Faso, student of the HSE International Preparatory Year

I am Burkinabe and Russian but I have lived most of my life in Burkina Faso. I plan to join a bachelor’s programme at HSE. I found out about this university from my family and I chose it for its professionalism and its ability to supervise students and prepare them for a fruitful professional life. While I already knew Russia quite well before coming to study here, Moscow amazes me and inspires me with the joy of living. HSE University immerses me in a professional world while keeping its educational side, which pleases me enormously.

See also:

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‘My Prep Year Experience Has Been Phenomenal; I Would Repeat It All over Again if I Could’

The International Preparatory Year programme held its graduation ceremony in July. This academic year, 125 students from 50 countries were enrolled in the programme. They will continue their studies at Russian universities, most of them pursuing bachelor's and master's programmes at HSE University. The graduation was organised as a quest, where the students were able to demonstrate their achievements in learning the Russian language. Graduates from Ecuador, Syria, and Mexico shared their impressions with the HSE News Service, Deputy Director Polina Shanko talked about plans for the coming year, and mathematics teacher Vladimir Gordin gave his advice to future students.

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‘Russia Is a Land of Openness and Possibility’

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‘We Want to Make Sure that International Students Have Fulfilling Academic and Personal Lives’

The Council of the International Student Association (CISA) works to ensure that international students can live and study comfortably at HSE University and in Russia in general. At present, CISA consists of nine international students and its Chair. Its current activities include dealing with border closures, arranging vaccinations, and creating information channels for international students.

HSE Prep Year Students Present Their Research Papers at International Conference in Tomsk

From April 25 to 27, a scientific student conference was held at Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU). It was attended by international graduate students and postgraduate students from 57 countries, including four students from the HSE Preparatory Year programme. The HSE News Service talked to the conference organisers and participants about their impressions of the event.

‘The 4th International Economics Olympiad—My Journey’

Oghogho Joy Isibor came to HSE University after earning a scholarship from the Faculty of Economic Sciences for her performance in the International Economics Olympiad. She is one of several foreigners to apply via the same competition. Oghogho is currently studying on the HSE University Preparatory Year Programme before starting her Economics degree. Read on to find out about her experience of the Olympiad, adapting to life in Russia, and the challenges of learning Russian for her future studies.

‘I Made a Lot of Friends and My Speaking Level Improved’

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Festival in Tula Welcomes Future HSE University International Students

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