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Two International Students Receive HSE Silver Nestling Awards

At last week’s Golden HSE Award Ceremony, the winners of the Silver Nestling Award included two international students: Yunying Pei (China) of the Dual Bachelor’s Programme in Data Science and Business Analytics, and Juan Sota (Spain) of the Master’s Programme in Medieval Studies. HSE News Service spoke to the two students about their courses, speaking Russian, and the reactions their families and friends had when they told them they won the Silver Nestling Award.

The Silver Nestling Award is awarded to current HSE students, doctoral students and HSE Lyceum students for outstanding achievements in studies and research, interesting papers, a proactive attitude, and achievements in self-development.

On Winning the Award and Sharing the News

‘I have a big family in Spain,’ says Juan. ‘I was the first of the family to go abroad, so I guess it was difficult to all of us at the beginning. Now several of my siblings have spent a year or more abroad and one of my brothers is working in the USA. Nowadays distances are not so big: I can get to Madrid from Moscow in just 5 hours! We do try to keep in contact with family and friends, so I usually talk with my parents and siblings by WhatsApp-call once a week and write them from time to time.

When I received the Silver Nestling Award, I was surprised by many of my family members and friends writing me and congratulating me, giving me their support. Occasions like this, as well as my birthday or Christmas Day, are always opportunities for us to catch-up

Yunying agrees. ‘For me, my loved ones have always been a huge support and source of motivation,’ she says. ‘They are always ready to help whenever I need it, and they support my decisions, which allows me to pursue my goals confidently. Upon hearing the news, everyone was proud and delighted.’

Juan Sota (in the middle)
© Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE University

The HSE Experience: From Medieval History…

Juan Sota is a first-year master’s student in medieval studies at HSE. ‘It is a new programme,’ says Juan, ‘and I am finding it very interesting. All the master’s classes are in the evening, so it has taken me some effort to get used to the new schedule, but now I realize that if you manage your time well, you can do lots of thing in the morning! I am happy to have made some new friends in the process. The group is much smaller than in the bachelor’s programme, so we already know everyone well. The same can be said about our teachers: it has been easier for them to learn our names, and I would say that we keep in touch even more than we did in the bachelor’s programme… They really make us feel that we are “colleagues” and that they are interested in what we have to say about their subject.’

Juan characterises medieval history as amazing and mysterious. ‘To explore the lives of people who were just like us, but had a different way of thinking, is actually challenging,’ he says. ‘Trying to understand their mentality, without judging it as “retrograde” or “primitive”, is a useful experience of putting oneself in other people´s shoes, which is something we need in our daily life.

One thing I really like about studying medieval history is that, when looking at it closely, everything is much more complicated than what we were taught in school, and much more interesting. The only thing that can really matter to historians is what happens to someone

The humanities are frequently criticized for their lack of “clear and distinctive ideas”, but is it possible to have a “clear and distinctive idea” of a person, even the one sitting next to you? People are complicated, and that is the greatness of it. Is it important to get to know people “as they were” in the past or not? The important thing, as it is with the people surrounding us, is the process of knowing them, letting them surprise and enrich us with their “alterity”.

…to Data Science and Business Analytics

Yunying Pei is a second-year student in the dual bachelor’s programme ‘HSE and University of London Double Degree Programme in Data Science and Business Analytics'. She admits that it is not easy dealing with the ever-growing amount of information that she needs to learn and master—especially since she is a perfectionist. ‘I enjoy my major, yet it is definitely full of challenges,’ Yunying says. ‘Every week we study a lot of new material in different subjects, making it hard to absorb all the information within such a short time. In addition to the lessons and materials we receive from our teachers, we have to seek out additional relevant materials ourselves in order to keep up. To be honest, it seems to me that everything I am learning now requires me to invest in big quantity of time and effort. But overall, my studies are going fine, and they are pushing me to try different study methods and become a more efficient learner.’

Yunying Pei (in the middle)
© Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE University

Favourite Subjects and Inspiring Teachers

Juan says that he is enjoying all of his courses, but he especially likes the course, ‘History of Everyday Life’, and the seminar, ‘History of Historical Science’. What he likes most about these classes is that they give him the opportunity to discuss and debate articles and medieval texts with his professors and classmates.

The number of professors who help and inspire Juan is quite big. ‘My advisor Antonina Sharova has always been an example for me when it comes to caring for students. Mikhail Boitsov has always impressed me with his ability to synthesise difficult things in a logical and clear way in his lectures. Oleg Voskoboinikov has taught me to appreciate medieval art. All of them have somehow contributed to my interest in medieval history and have supported me in my own research. I would like to mention Evgeni Akelev as well. He was one of the first to show us the “historian’s craft” during our undergraduate studies and inspire us with the reality of the historian’s job.’

Yunying Pei, too, enjoys working with her professors.

It is hard to pick just one teacher, since many of them inspire me in various ways: some with their passion towards their jobs; some with their professionalism; some with their earnestness and sense of responsibility; some with their astonishing time management ability; and almost all of them with their kindness and encouragement. I am truly grateful to every teacher who has supported and enlightened me

As for a favourite course, Yunying easily singles out economics and statistics. ‘At the current moment, I find studying economics and statistics to be the most interesting. I have a clear understanding of the importance of statistics to my future career, hence am more motivated in studying the subject. As for economics, I fancy the economic way of thinking and simply enjoy studying it.’

Moscow Life

Both students speak Russian. Yunying Pei studied in Kazakhstan and Moscow before coming to HSE, so she does not have problems communicating with the locals. Juan Sota has been living in Moscow for five years now and also speaks Russian well. As a Spanish friend of his says, he doesn’t know whether Juan speaks Russian well or poorly, but he knows that he speaks it a lot!

Yunying and Juan have both gotten to know the city of Moscow quite well. They both report enjoying Moscow’s numerous downtown parks, walking along the Moscow River, and visiting the Tretyakov Gallery. Juan has also done quite a bit of traveling past Moscow’s outskirts; he has been to New Jerusalem and Sergiev Posad.

‘In my spare time I like to meet my friends, read, play football, volunteer and sometimes play the guitar,’ says Juan. ‘I think all of these are different ways of exploring Russian culture.’ He also participates in activities run by the Basmanny Forum. ‘It is a great place where I had the opportunity to meet many new friends, and partake in cultural, volunteering, and athletic activities, and even participates in an international Forum in Rome! I wrote about it here.’

Yunying participates in the student organization NoSilence and performs in musical concerts. She notes that she has been very fortunate with friends at HSE. ‘It is thanks to them, who have been assisting me with both problems in studying and life as a whole, that my university life is very positive. Moreover, I am lucky to have lovely classmates; we study together, and they inspire me with their intelligence to work harder.’

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