By Way of Italy, Norwegian Student Lands at HSE
Like many international students who choose to study at the Higher School of Economics, Martin Inderhaug, a native of Bergen, Norway, boasts a rich background marked by a diverse set of interests. Although he has been at HSE for only six months since enrolling in the Master’s programme in Politics, Economics and Philosophy, his interest in Russia goes back to his days serving in Norway’s military in the country’s far north where he would gaze at the ‘unknown East’ across the border with Russia.
‘We were never allowed to cross the border’, he said recalling his time in the military following graduation from high school. ‘An unfulfilled interest in Russia aroused a sense of curiosity that has stayed with me ever since’.
Pursuing a Career in Food
After completing his 12 months of military service, Martin decided to pursue an interest in food and nutrition by moving south to study at the University of Gastronomical Science in Bra, Italy. The university is a unique institution that combines both practice and theory in a way that teaches students everything about food – except cooking – in courses covering history, biology, sociology, agriculture, economics, law, philosophy and semiotics.
‘The university shares its philosophy with the Slow Food movement — an organization with more than 100,000 members around the world that fights for good, clean and fair food’, Martin said. ‘Being particularly interested in the global unjust food system, where almost 1 billion people are starving while another 2 billion are overweight, I gradually became more and more interested in the politics of food and in particular what remedies one can apply to relieve the paradoxes in the world of food. Upon my return to Norway, I worked three years in various food businesses, which was very interesting’.
A Longing for Academia
Eventually, however, Martin began to long for an academic life and decided to return to his interest in Russia, choosing to enroll in HSE’s Master’s programme in Politics, Economics and Philosophy after being attracted by its interdisciplinary approach and innovative teaching methods.
‘In particular, I am very grateful to be a student of Professor Boris Kapustin, a professor who has inspired me to look at the world in new ways through his classes of Critique of Political Violence and Research Seminar’, Martin said. ‘I also want to highlight Professor Leonid Grigoryev, the programme’s academic supervisor, Professor Oleg Ananyin and Professor Mikhail Ilyin, who has taught very interesting classes covering comparative economic systems, intellectual history and methodology. That said, mathematics and economics have been a challenge for me, as I have little previous experience in those topics. Helpful classmates, good teachers and academic databases have helped me to get good results, however’.
Like many other foreign students who choose to study at HSE, Martin laments the lack of understanding that people in the West have about Russia. Many of his compatriots view Russia with a mix of suspicion and intrigue, set apart by its different culture, mindset and indeed politics.
‘After staying here for six months now, I have come to realize that there are more similarities than contrasts, and it is not so 'far away' — both geographically and culturally speaking’, he says. ‘I believe the deteriorating relations between Russia and the West are unfortunate for both parties, and the need to bridge the two is, and will be, highly relevant for the future’.
An Exotic Experience
‘My experience in Italy was in many ways a more comfortable lifestyle’, Martin said, recalling his numerous study trips across Europe and around the world. At HSE, he finds he has less free time, spending more time studying and in lectures. ‘It is tougher here in several aspects, but also more challenging and intellectually stimulating’.
During his short time in Moscow, Martin has already devoted what free time he does have to exploring Moscow, especially the banya, the city’s diverse restaurants, and concerts at the Moscow Conservatory, the Kolobov Novaya Opera and the Rachmaninov Concert Hall. In February, he plans to join the ESN (Erasmus Student Network) on a trip to Kazan.
‘My six months so far has been very intriguing, thought-provoking and engaging’, he said. ‘Coming from the second biggest city in Norway, I came to realize it is actually very small, and if Bergen would be located in Russia, it would be the 70th biggest city. In fact, Moscow itself is almost three times bigger then the whole of Norway. Living in such a big city itself is a rather exotic experience for me’.