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‘High Grades Open Up Many Opportunities for You Here’

Bai Xinyi

Bai Xinyi
Photo courtesy of Bai Xinyi

Bai Xinyi, 24, comes from Ankang, a small city in China. She is pursuing a master’s degree in Economics and Economic Policy, with a focus on Behavioural Economics, in the HSE Faculty of Economic Sciences. Below, she speaks about the application process, shares some details of her favourite courses, and reminisces about talking to friendly passers-by in the streets of Moscow.

Choosing the University for a Master’s Degree

I majored in Financial Mathematics at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE) in China for my bachelor’s degree. After graduating from SWUFE, I had planned to apply for computer-related programmes in European universities and received some offers. But then I met someone in an online application group who told me about his experience of applying for the Economics and Economic Policy (EEP) programme at HSE University.

I started researching HSE University in detail on the Internet and discovered that the university has a great reputation for its research in the field of economics and is highly internationalised

In addition, the EEP programme offers a scholarship of 15,000–25,000 roubles/month based on academic performance, as well as a tuition waiver, which rekindled my academic dream. If I could study in a two-year programme that focuses on economic research without financial pressure in a place with a strong faculty, this would give me a deeper understanding of whether I was suitable for academic work. On the other hand, I was curious about Eastern Europe. I had read many translated works from Russia, such as Nikolai Ostrovsky’s How the Steel Was Tempered, Mikhail Sholokhov’s And Quiet Flows the Don, Alexander Pushkin’s If by life you were deceived..., Maxim Gorky’s Childhood; In the World; My University, and so on. I was looking forward to experiencing another kind of life in this country.

Application Process: Clear and Convenient

I applied to the EEP programme through the HSE official website. I simply submitted my portfolio and waited for the results. However, some applicants do require going through additional interviews.

The application process was straightforward, clear, and convenient, similar to those of British and American universities

Therefore, I actually spent very little time preparing my materials. I would like to express my gratitude to Oxana Budjko from the International Office, who answered any questions I had quickly and efficiently. She also organized several meetings for new students before the start of the school year, which gave us a better understanding of the EEP programme and life in Moscow. In addition, the seminar ‘Preparation for Arrival and First Days in Moscow’ held by the International Student Support Centre helped me to understand the procedures I had to follow in Moscow.

In short, at HSE, you can always find a department and staff member to help you with any problem you may have

Studies: Professional, Responsible, and Serious

The teachers of the Faculty of Economic Sciences are very dedicated to their teaching. It is not unheard-of for them to still be answering our questions or sending notifications at two o’clock in the morning. Often, seminars are taught by doctoral students, who serve as the bridge between the lecturers and the students. They better understand the challenges that students may face throughout the course, and thus emphasize more practical information on these points. In short, I admire the teachers’ professionalism in their respective fields, and they are my role models for learning.

The EEP programme consists of compulsory courses such as Mathematics, Advanced Macroeconomics, Advanced Microeconomics, Advanced Econometrics, Python, and Methodological Research Seminar, as well as elective courses according to the research direction of interest. I am interested in the micro direction, so I chose courses such as behavioural economics, game theory, matching theory, etc. Among them, the most impressive one is the Methodological Research Seminar, which is taught by four professors. Each lecture explains the writing content and skills of one or two parts of an English paper, then assigns homework, and in the next seminar the students give presentations. This course helped me fully understand how to write a standard English paper. Another course that I enjoyed was the Random Assignment Problems course by Prof. Behrang Kamali Shahdadi, in which we had to select two top-journal papers relevant to the course, give presentations, complete an exam, and finally write a research proposal (RP). In this course, the professor guided us in exploring the main research methods and results of the Random Assignment field. The personal presentation allowed us to articulate clearly from the perspective of the paper writer, and the final RP reflected my thoughts on this direction as an output process.

This course, besides the knowledge itself, taught me how to independently research and explore a direction of interest

Overall, the EEP programme has a solid curriculum design, which may pose some difficulties for undergraduates who do not have an economics background; however, this is an effective test of whether they are ready to pursue a PhD in economics.

Student Community: Finding Friends

I feel a sense of belonging to the student community. There are not many students in our behavioural economics track, and, with the exception of myself, they are all Russian, so we chat online on VK. I also joined a Telegram group for international students, where we plan camping trips and other fun activities. In addition, I belong to the WeChat group for Chinese students, where we have dinner parties and attend events organized by the Chinese Embassy in Russia and the Moscow authorities.

I took part in HSE’s buddy programme and made a good friend. We still keep in touch. I learned about the buddy programme from the International Student Support website. All I had to do was fill in my personal information.

Bai Xinyi
Photo courtesy of Bai Xinyi

Life in Moscow: Winter and Summer are Two Different Worlds

I live near the Kurskaya metro station, which is very convenient. Moscow is a beautiful city, and its winter and summer seasons are like two different worlds. In winter, the day is short, and there is snowy salt everywhere, which is soft to step on; while in summer, the colours are more vibrant, and many shops have outdoor seating, which is very refreshing. During this time, all the buildings show their original colours. I love dusk in Moscow, the sunset is beautiful. In summer, I leave my home, walk to Red Square, and then follow the Moscow River towards Gorky Park, which is my favourite route. The Moscow River is sparkling, bands are playing rock music, the breeze is gentle, and families are sitting on the lawn drinking, chatting, and sunbathing, very cosy. Moscow also has many beautiful estates, such as Kolomenskoye. The most interesting part of the city is the Moscow metro, which often has beautiful surprises, thanks to the designers and workers who built them, making every station full of wonder.

The Moscow citizens I have met are mostly very friendly.

Once, when I was buying yoghurt, there was a lady who saw me using my phone to translate and choose, so she pointed out which yoghurt was the best choice

Another time, while buying kvass, there was an elderly woman who tried using simple English to make a recommendation, saying ‘this produce in Moscow, good!’. And when I went to the supermarket, there was a staff member who smiled and said ‘Nihao’ to me in Chinese; walking on the street, there were also elderly men and women who smiled and spoke with me, but it’s a pity that I can’t speak Russian well, so most of the time I couldn’t understand them and could only respond with a smile.

Plans for the Future and Advice to Future Students

I am planning to pursue a doctoral degree and hope to return to China to work as a university lecturer in the future.

I would like to share some advice with the future HSE master’s students.

HSE is a school that will exceed your expectations. If you are accepted and want to pursue an academic career, please do your best and study hard

High grades will open up so many opportunities for you here, such as teaching and research assistant positions. These jobs can help you gain more academic experience and funding, and they will also be very beneficial for your future doctoral applications. By the way, good grades can also help you find great teammates in the courses.

For students who do not want to continue in academia, there are many practical activities here. Do not squander the resources that HSE can offer you out of sheer laziness. Students from the same school have very different levels of achievement. One’s abilities are more important than degree itself.

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