‘HSE is the Place Where Dreams Come True’
Olamide Oyelami, winner of the Open Doors: Global University Olympiad and Master’s student of the Strategic Corporate Finance programme, talks about her experience of studying in Russia. Registration for the Open Doors Olympiad is open until December 10, 2022.
‘I expected it to be cold, but even that didn’t prepare me for what I experienced’
The cold wind slapped my face as I stepped out of the airport. I had expected it to be cold; that was about the only thing I knew about the country I had agreed to come to, but even that didn’t prepare me for what I experienced. Along with over seventy other students, I ran to the bus arranged to take us to Voronezh, my home for the next five years.
I had been a beneficiary of the scholarship offered by the Bilateral Education Agreement between Nigeria, the Federal Scholarship Board and Russia.
Studying economics was my desire, so it was no surprise when I selected it as my course of study during the scholarship application. The scholarship committee did their research and thought it best to send us to Voronezh State University.
‘Hard work, faith, and growth’
I remember my first class experience. I was seated in the second row. There weren’t many students, maybe because they wanted the teacher to have ample time to take us through the critical stage of learning the language. Our outcome for the remaining years rested on the foundation laid by a one-year preparatory class.
We had to start by saying our names. The teacher asked if anyone had a little experience with the language, maybe from personal study. I did not; I was too preoccupied preparing to leave my family for another country, miles apart.
We started with the Russian alphabet, and soon we were making sentences like ‘Это он’ and the like. Soon, we were writing tests and conversing with our teacher in Russian.
I would summarise my experience of studying Russian as ‘hard work, faith, and growth.’
The Voronezh Chapter of the Association of Scholarship Students in Russia
For extracurricular activities, I participated in the international festival at the school a few times. There, along with some others, we represented our countries by singing, dancing, and making presentations. I soon became a leader in the Voronezh chapter of the Association of Scholarship Students in Russia and was occupied with helping organise events to make the students feel at home in a foreign land.
‘You are HSE worthy’
The years went by quickly—different teachers, different subjects, summertime, and spring again. But one thing I will never forget because it is instrumental to where I am today was a course we had in our final year. My teacher, Gennady Chigarev, never ceased to mention HSE University. Anytime a student answered a difficult question in his class, he would say ‘you are HSE worthy’. That piqued my interest. I knew about LSE; it was my dream school. But what about HSE made my highly respected teacher, who later became my thesis supervisor, speak so highly of the university?
I did my research, and I understood why he held the school in such high esteem. There was no question that I would apply to the Faculty of Economic Sciences. They had a partnership with LSE!
‘God indeed answers prayers!’
All I knew about the school was from the website. It was user-friendly, and I found every critical piece of information there on the site. With little or no assistance, I began my application process.
The application process was seamless, but having perfectionist tendencies and wanting so badly to get into HSE with a full scholarship because I could not afford the bill, I took my time to perfect my application. Sadly, when I finished taking my time and having a good score on my portfolio, there was no more room for a full scholarship. They told me this during the interview, and I had to either take this step of faith or back down and watch my dream pass.
I took the step of faith while seeking other means to make up for the partial fee I had to pay, which was still an enormous amount of money. Then came Open Doors.
Open Doors is a Russian scholarship project that gives students from all over the world the opportunity to enrol in a master's programme in Russia. First, I had to submit my certificates for the portfolio competition, and then I had to take exams. I was elated to find out that I was one of the prize winners for 2022. ‘God indeed answers prayers!’ I cried in excitement.
‘HSE is the place where dreams come true’
Studying Strategic Corporate Finance as a full-scholarship student is a blessing, but not one without issues. My main problem was transitioning again from learning in Russian to English. It seemed like two different worlds of learning processes, but it was an easy hurdle to pass because English is my first language.
The course itself was challenging. There was a whole lot to cover, so many assignments to catch up on, and I did not have much help because I did not know anyone who had gone through the course.
It was also a little strenuous adapting to the size of Moscow; everywhere seemed to be at least an hour away from every other place. I am grateful my hostel is only forty minutes away.
These hurdles were menial compared with the benefits of studying the course.
My teachers teach with expertise, willing to pour their knowledge into us. During office hours, teachers are available for questions one might not understand in class. The school also assists students through peer tutors, who can help students navigate the courses to some extent. The reputation of the school is also a huge benefit. HSE is keen on furnishing us not only with schoolwork, but also with webinars and activities to make student life richer and fuller.
Lastly, I have had the opportunity to study with my Nigerian classmates. Although they tease me by saying I am a foreigner, it has been a great pleasure creating synergy with them and having the opportunity to experience a tiny bit of what studying in Nigeria is like.
I have to bring my story to a close here. But before I go, I must tell you one more thing: HSE is the place where dreams come true.