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Regular version of the site

‘I Heard Russian People Don't Like to Smile. That's a Misunderstanding’

Sophia Cao is an international student taking a semester at HSE Moscow. She attends courses at the World Economy and International Affairs Faculty and at the Public Policy Department. Back home she is a fourth year bachelor’s student at the Central South University in China and her family lives in Harbin. Sophia chose to take a semester in Moscow after she joined the AIESEC global citizen programme, which aims to empower young people to make a positive impact on society. She told HSE News how one thing led to another.

‘I participated in the AIESEC Explore Russia cultural project in Moscow last summer during the vacation with 30 foreign volunteers from 14 countries. HSE is our partner university so we had a lot of events in their premises. During our final meeting, some teachers came to introduce us to HSE, I could see that it is a really nice university, and I could imagine myself coming to study on the exchange programme here.’ And so Sophia opted for the semester to discover Russia for herself. ‘It changed a lot of my mindsets,’ she said. ‘I love Russia so much now I live here with so many lovely people. I’ve made so many Russian friends here, they really take care of me.’

The city of Harbin is not far from the border and has a long history of connections with Russia. Sophia says, ‘So many people ask me, why I chose Russia, not US or UK. Maybe it’s because of my grandparents,’ she explains. ‘They can speak a little Russian because in Soviet times, they studied Russian as a second foreign language, and when I told them I would study in Russia, they said, ‘That's great, you can go to study at the city of our old Soviet Union Big Brother.’ They have a great affection for the Soviet Union, and we, the new generation in China, want to develop this great affection with Russia more deeply. I believe in the near future, in the world’s emerging market economy, we can get together to make a bright future!’

Sophia’s first impressions of Russians have been extremely positive, contrary to what she had been told to expect. ‘I heard Russian people don't like to smile. That's a misunderstanding,’ says Sophia. ‘Even when I help someone in the metro, or I just wear my Panda hat, I see people smile at me in a very friendly way.’

Sophia reads and speaks Russian and has many Russian friends who are studying Chinese who always help her with any problems. She is especially pleased with HSE staff, ‘I really, really, really appreciate the managers in the international support office and international admissions, and the visa office,’ she says, ‘they are really patient for us, although we always have so many questions, they help us a lot.’ Sophia lives in an HSE dormitory where she mixes with other students from around the world. ‘We always cook together and share foods and we talk about culture and even languages. Sometimes I feel I am in a mini United Nations.’ Sophia has studied Russian language and literature, business and journalism. She chose the courses in International Relations and World Economy as a new challenge. ‘It's a little hard for me because I don't have the background knowledge, but thanks to all my professors - they send me lots of reading suggestions, and always answer my questions patiently, I am reading and trying to catch up with them.’

The semester at HSE has given Sophia a real taste for studying in Moscow - she wants to apply for a Master’s programme in Russia, ‘For sure I will only apply to my lovely HSE,’ she says. ‘Before I was thinking I would apply to Lomonosov MSU, but after this semester, I really want to keep studying here. HSE is a really competitive university, not just in Russia where it is one of the best, but also in the world. I am preparing to apply for the international business master’s programme here, in English. I can study more easily in English, but I can also learn Russian in life. And I will also find some internships between Russia and China. I’ve just been accepted by Caixin media company. I will be a reporter intern to participate in world news and report financial and business news and information. And I want to show Chinese people and the world the real, beautiful Russia, to show Russian culture, so more people know how kind Russian people are, to clear up misunderstandings.’ 

See also:

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Karina Kuzhanova, third-year student at the Faculty of Law, and Anna Yatsenko, second-year student at the Faculty of Economic Sciences, moved to Moscow from Kazakhstan to study at HSE University. They shared their impressions of studies and student life with the HSE News Service, as well as talking about some of the most inspirational things in the Russian capital.

In Pursuit of the ‘Russian Perspective’

Emilie Flamme is a third-year student at Amherst College (USA), where she is a double major in Architecture Studies and Russian. She just completed a semester at HSE Moscow, during which she took Russian language and content courses. HSE News Service caught up with Émilie to talk about her studies at HSE, her thesis, and her life in Moscow.

International Spring School on Human Rights Debates Issues of Religion, Identity and Freedom of Conscience

In May, the HSE Voronovo Learning Centre hosted the International Spring School on Human Rights, a five-day educational retreat organized jointly by the HSE Department of Public Policy, the University of Bologna and the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

HSE Becomes Member of Erasmus Student Network

HSE’s volunteer organisation, which is made up of student ‘buddies’ who help foreign students adapt to life in Russia, has become a part of the Erasmus Student Network.

Studying Software Engineering at HSE

The Master’s programme in System and Software Engineering aims to provide students an opportunity not only to acquire the knowledge and experience they need in their chosen profession, but also to help them generate a systemic view on bringing resolutions to the difficult professional challenges they are certain to face in the future. Academic Supervisor Dmitry Alexandrov talks about programme features and international students share their experience of living and studying in Moscow.

Dutch Student Investigates Languages of the Caucasus

Samira Verhees, a Ghent University alumna and doctoral student at the HSE School of Linguistics, spoke about her Caucasian studies.

Students Come from Far and Wide to Study Big Data Systems

The Master’s programme in Big Data Systems at the Higher School of Economics focuses on the value aspect of big data for large enterprises and the implementation of big data technology in enterprises. Two current students of the programme share their thoughts about what drew them to HSE to study big data, what they hope to gain from the programme and what advice they would give to prospective international students.

French Delegation Visits School of Business Informatics to Discuss Cooperation in Big Data Studies

In March 2016, the School of Business Informatics (Faculty of Business and Management) at HSE was visited by a delegation from France’s University of Évry; in late 2015, a student exchange agreement was signed between HSE and this university. The delegation brought 19 students from the Master’s programmes in the field of big data at the University of Évry to Moscow.

Spring School Provides Italian Students Intense Exposure to Russian Culture

‘Texts and Places: Introduction to Russian History, Language and Culture’ (I testi dei luoghi: introduzione alla storia, alla cultura e alla lingua russa), an international Spring School at HSE organized jointly by Julia Ivanova, leading research fellow at the Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities, and the University of Eastern Piedmont Amedeo Avogadro, took place from March 15 to 23.

American Student Does Mathematical Research at HSE

Nicholas Howell is a PhD student at University of Oregon. He came to HSE Faculty of Mathematics on the invitation of his research advisor Vadim Vologodsky to do research during two months. In his interview Nick talks about his time in Moscow.