• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

‘My PhD Taught Me about Life, Professionalism, Research, and Controlling My Emotions’

Olga Volosyuk and Wai Yan Phyo Naing

Olga Volosyuk and Wai Yan Phyo Naing
Photo courtesy of Wai Yan Phyo Naing

Wai Yan Phyo Naing first came to HSE University from Myanmar to enrol in a master’s programme at the Faculty of World Economy and World Affairs in 2015. After graduation, he decided to pursue a PhD at the Doctoral School of International and Regional Studies. On February 16, 2023, he successfully defended his dissertation on ‘Evolution of Myanmar’s Policy Towards China (1988–2020)’.

Photo courtesy of Wai Yan Phyo Naing

Following a Childhood Dream

I heard about HSE university from my friend. I checked the university’s website and was impressed with its outstanding academic achievements and image in international university rankings. Therefore, I decided to apply to the Master’s in Socioeconomic and Political Development of Modern Asia in 2015.

Studying at a foreign university was my childhood dream. My professors, classmates and the administration teams were very supportive, charming and friendly to international students. I never lost those first impressions

After the master’s, I decided to pursue a PhD at HSE since I was delighted with the academic training here. Applying was a heart-pounding experience, since I heard that the HSE’s PhD admission process is tough, especially for scholarship students. In 2018, over 400 students applied for the PhD scholarship, and only 199 students were awarded scholarships. I carefully organised all the necessary documents for the admission process. I also closely discussed everything with the supervisor of my master’s programme and followed her advice. However, since I had finished a graduate programme at HSE, I did not have a difficult time with the interviewers and I answered all their questions.

HSE is the most outstanding academic university in Russia, and it is located in one of the world's most beautiful architectural cities. Every student can enjoy a higher education and the charm of Moscow

Life in Moscow

I was not familiar with Moscow before I applied for a Russian scholarship, so I tried to learn about Russia and Moscow before arriving. When I landed, the fresh Moscow air made me realise I was really here now. After a month, Moscow felt like a paradise for tourists.

Photo courtesy of Wai Yan Phyo Naing

The thing I like most about Moscow is its metro system. If I had a superpower, I would create a similar one in Myanmar. Moscow’s metro is a masterpiece of Russian architecture and world heritage. Another thing I like here is the big parks. Moscow’s parks have fresh forest air and lovely flowers in the summer, while ice skating is popular in winter.

Since I studied on an international programme, I did not learn the Russian language seriously. That was a huge mistake in Moscow.

The university provides one free semester of a Russian language course for all international students. For me, the Russian ‘r’ is the most challenging letter—I still cannot pronounce it correctly

Living Libraries

The best thing about my journey at HSE has been the outstanding, kind, and intelligent professors and lecturers. They are gurus and ‘living libraries’ in their respective fields. One professor in my master’s classes never used any books or presentations during his teaching, yet he never forgot the essential facts about his subject. We never felt bored during his class, since he used discussion methods and storytelling more than one-sided teaching.

In my time at HSE, my supervisor Olga Volosyuk is the person who impressed me the most. As a student from a third-world country, I needed to learn more than my classmates in Research Methodology and other complex subjects. She spent a lot of her own time explaining to me ‘how to do research, think and study’. When I was struggling with the PhD, she told me to think carefully, listened to my feelings, and advised me how to deal with bad feelings and unpleasant times.

I learned a lot about life, professionalism, research, and how to control my emotions during my PhD

PhD Thesis Tips

Before reaching the last defence, I had to pass many pre-defences in the department and a dissertation committee with outside experts in my field.

Photo courtesy of Wai Yan Phyo Naing

There is one main thing I want to share with those who are starting to write their thesis now: please do it step by step. I learnt that from my supervisor. I wanted to finish everything as soon as possible, and ended up making many mistakes with my research.

Based on my experience, I want to advise future PhD candidates at HSE to take their time with their research. If you spend at least six hours a day on research, you will see enjoyable progress within six months

Another important thing is making notes. In my experience, you cannot write anything if you don’t have proper messages for your research. If you are doing eight hours a day, you should give yourself at least six hours to read literature and make notes. You might feel that you are spending a lot of time reading and making notes, but you will find that writing a thesis is not difficult and does not need to take much time if you have good notes.

Plans for the Future 

Currently, I am working as a Programme Consultant and Field Technical Officer at the Raks Thai Foundation. I am also continuing my research on Myanmar politics, Myanmar-China Relations, Southeast Asian politics, and migrant workers in the Southeast Asia region.

My life goal is simple: I want to be an international expert in my research field. I want to do research and share my research until the last day of my life

See also:

Zaruhi Hakobyan Shortlisted for HSE Alumni Awards

Zaruhi Hakobyan, master’s graduate of the HSE University Faculty of Economic Sciences and research scientist at the University of Luxembourg, is involved not only in research but also in organising academic events for young scientists and students. As a foreign graduate of HSE University, Zaruhi was nominated for the HSE Alumni Awards ‘for her tireless enthusiasm in popularising economic science, teaching, and research at the international level’ and made the shortlist.

‘My Research Has Evolved into A Broader and More Encompassing Vision’

Seungmin Jin, from South Korea, is researching the field of Explainable AI and planning to defend his PhD on ‘A Visual Analytics System for Explaining and Improving Attention-Based Traffic Forecasting Models’ at HSE University this year. In September, he passed the pre-defence procedure at the HSE Faculty of Computer Science School of Data Analysis and Artificial Intelligence. In his interview for the HSE News Service, he talks about his academic path and plans for the future.

‘Studying at HSE Was a Chance for Me to Get to Know Some Supportive Seniors, Knowledgeable Professors, and Wonderful Friends’

On August 4, 2023, a pre-defence of the thesis on ‘Refugee-Host Community Conflict over Assimilation, Integration, and State Legitimacy: The Case of Rohingyas in Bangladesh’ by Md. Reza Habib will be held at HSE University. The preliminary defence will take place at a joint meeting of the HSE School of Sociology and the International Laboratory for Social Integration Research. Md. Reza Habib shared his experience of studying and preparing his PhD with the HSE News Service.

‘At HSE University, We Receive Substantial Support for Our Research’

Wenrui Zhang, from China, is a recent graduate of theMaster’s in Economics and Economic Policy at the HSE UniversityFaculty of Economic Sciences. Having successfully defended his master’s thesis on the impact of COVID-19 on the incomes of vulnerable groups, Wenrui has set his sights on publishing his research and enrolling in adoctoral programme at the university. The HSE News Service interviewed Wenrui about his achievements so far and his goals for the future, and also spoke to Prof.Elena Kotyrlo, his academic supervisor.

‘I Hope to Make Meaningful Contributions to the Academic Community’

Why do international students at HSE University decide to pursue a career in academia? What fields in economics are relevant to PhD students? Richard Asiamah from Ghana and Alesya Bukreeva from Uzbekistan are current master’s students at the Faculty of Economic Sciences, but have already received scholarships from the faculty to continue their studies as doctoral students at the university. Below, they share their experiences, while Denis Melnik, Academic Director of the Doctoral School of Economics, suggests some tips for the application process.

‘It’s a Very Small Area of Political Science, and Working to Redress That Is Very Satisfying’

On March 15, Judas Everett defended his doctoral dissertation ‘The Effect of the Patterns in the Dissolution of Communism on the Transition to New Systems in Eastern Europe’, which investigates the relationship between the demise of communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe and the quality of democracy in the post-communist regime. The defence took place remotely. His academic supervisor was Professor Andrey Akhremenko of the HSE University School of Politics and Governance at the Faculty of Social Sciences. In his interview, Judas talks about the topic of his research and explains why political science is more important than ever.

1,700 International Participants Named Winners of Open Doors International Olympiad

On March 16, the results of the Open Doors International Olympiad for master’s and doctoral applicants were announced. The competition is organised by the Association of Global Universities with the support of the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia and the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo). HSE University is one of the Olympiad’s organisers and the site of its distributed project office.

‘Working in Academia Is My Lifelong Desire’

Majid Sohrabi is a 28 year-old student from Iran currently enrolled in a doctoral programme at the HSE University Faculty of Computer Science. Before starting his PhD, he graduated with honours from the university’s Master of Data Science programme. In addition to studying, he also works as an assistant at the School of Data Analysis and Artificial Intelligence and a research assistant at the Laboratory for Models and Methods of Computational Pragmatics.

‘HSE University Gives You Everything You Need to Manage the Research Process’

Ion Frecautan chose to pursue his doctoral studies at HSE University because of its reputation as a leading research university and its extensive academic infrastructure. With the latest enrolment campaign for doctoral schools now underway, we spoke to Ion about his green finance research at the Faculty of Economic Sciences, his activities as a lecturer, and more.

Graduate Admissions Webinars: PhD Programme in Economics

On February 1, 2023, HSE University will open admissions to its doctoral schools. The Doctoral School of Economics has held a webinar for prospective students, which attracted participants from various parts of the world. Materials and feedback from the webinar, as well as information on applications, are now available on the Faculty of Economic Sciences website.