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Making a Home in HSE’s Cities

For foreign scholars who come to teach and conduct research at the Higher School of Economics, whether temporarily or on a permanent basis, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod all provide a variety of interesting opportunities to enjoy a quality life. We spoke with several international scholars who now make these cities home about their experiences and the advice they would share with others who may be considering a move.

 

Moscow – A City of Endless Opportunities

‘The comparative advantage of Moscow is the wide range of choice available’, said Dr. Tim Jaekel, Assistant Professor in the School of Public Administration, who moved to Moscow in early 2015 after having served at the German Research Institute for Public Administration Speyer and the German University for Administrative Science Speyer. ‘I was impressed by the sheer size of the city, which became obvious to me the very first day travelling from Sheremetyevo airport to the HSE Professors’ Hotel. The comparative advantage of Moscow is the wide range of choice available. Fitness clubs serve as an excellent example. Over the last two years I have been doing sports in three different clubs from two big chains. Moscow is a city of endless opportunities’.

Dr. Mark Taylor, Post-Doctoral Researcher in English Literature in the School of Philology, originally from Lincoln, England, agrees with this assessment, emphasizing the cultural opportunities Moscow has to offer. ‘In the three months I've been working at HSE, I've seen a number of great art exhibitions, concerts and theatrical performances’, he said. ‘Just last weekend, for instance, I was at a small concert of Russian folk music given in complete darkness - this was a really new experience for me’.

Despite the wealth of opportunities in Moscow, successfully adjusting to life in the city and enjoying all it has to offer does require a certain level of dedication.

‘Living a decent life in Moscow requires two essential investments’, says Dr. Jaekel’, ‘acquiring basic Russian language skills and spending money on proper clothing. Without at least basic Russian language skills you are going to lose the battle with Moscow. And the same goes for a winter without furred coat and cap’.

Regardless of how long they have been here, nearly everyone could name favourite places in Moscow and the neighbouring suburbs.

‘Bauman Garden in the summer, and the ice rinks in the winter. The soup restaurant at Belorusskaya all year’, said Frank Fischer, Associate Professor in the School of Linguistics, who came to HSE in 2016 from the Göttingen Centre for Digital Humanities.

‘I really like Gorky Park: after it was done up a few years ago with lots of nice cafes and bars, it's become a very pleasant place to spend time - both in summer and in winter’, says Dr. Taylor. ‘My first years working in Moscow were spent in Zelenograd’, he notes in reference to a section of Moscow about forty kilometres from downtown. Its name translates into English as 'green city'. ‘It really has the character of a small city in its own right. It's mostly full of large apartment buildings - though there's a lot of green space preserved in the city, and the forest is always close wherever you are’.

As for advice they could offer visitors, virtually everyone agreed that Moscow’s Metro provided the best way to get around the city quickly and inexpensively.

‘I think Moscow is the rare big city where transportation is inexpensive’, says Satoshi Kondo, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Mathematics who came to HSE in 2014 after moving from his native Tokyo.

Dr. Jaekel agrees: ‘I advocate for commuting underneath the streets of the capital: Moscow Metro combines the fascination of a breath-taking underground transportation system serving millions of community members with astonishing architecture below the surface. It is hard to overestimate the fascination that arises from the logistics of more than 200 stations and thousands of trains clicking like clockwork every day; safe, clean, with virtually no waiting time, and lost-cost prices’.

 

St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod – A Different Vibe but with Equally Rich Offerings

Nathan Marcus, Assistant Professor in the St. Petersburg School of Social Sciences and Humanities (Department of History), came to HSE in September 2014. His research and teaching focuses on the economic and financial history of Modern Europe, particularly on Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

‘I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne and grew up in Berne, Switzerland’, he said of his background. ‘Moving to St. Petersburg, I was very impressed by the city's architecture and history’. He mentions the National Library of Russia on Nevsky Prospect and Errarta, the largest private museum of contemporary art in Russia, as being among his favourite places in the city.

Rajarshi Mitra, Assistant Professor in the Department of Economic Theory and Econometrics at HSE Nizhny Novgorod, has been at HSE for nearly three years since moving from his native city of Kolkata, India.

‘My stay in Russia has been comfortable’, he says, ‘I felt the people are friendly and helpful. As for the drawback, it could be the extreme cold weather, mainly because I am not used to it’.

A fan of the city’s park’s in the summer, he recommends that people a day out and visiting the outskirts of the main city – and that people outside Russia come to visit the country anytime.

Prepared by Anna Chernyakhovskaya for HSE News Service

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