‘I’m Happy That I’m Studying Law at HSE’
Ramin Babaev is in his second year of the Master's programme in Law of International Trade, Finance and Economic Integration. He came to Moscow from Baku, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Jurisprudence at the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Ramin shared his impressions of life and academics in Moscow with the HSE News Service.
Deciding to study at HSE
Back in the summer of 2018, after I finished my third year of undergrad, I thought about continuing my education. I liked studying law and wanted to deepen my knowledge in one or several branches of it. Even in high school I was interested in international relations and developed an interest in world politics; I closely followed the meetings of world leaders. In addition, while studying civil law, I realized that I wanted to study issues of economic regulation, investment, and trade law more in depth.
I was interested in the possibility of obtaining a Master’s degree in many countries, including the Russian Federation, and I researched universities online. In a ranking of the best universities in Russia, HSE University immediately caught my attention for several reasons. Firstly, being a relatively young university, HSE has been able to establish itself as an educational institution that provides the highest quality education with opportunities to attend additional seminars, complete internships, study on exchange programmes, and participate in active extracurricular activities. Secondly, the Faculty of Law announced a recruitment campaign for the Master's programme in Law of International Trade, Finance and Economic Integration, which looked very interesting. On the programme website, I learned that there are scholarships for international students: upon successful completion of admissions and entrance exams, it is possible to have your tuition covered by the Russian government. For more information, I emailed the programme academic supervisor, Vladislav Starzhenetsky, with questions about the programme itself, the course offerings, potential opportunities, and so on. Here I would like to highlight Professor Starzhenetsky’s kindness, respect for others’ desire to learn, and ability to motivate, since it was he who, having answered all my questions in detail, made me even more interested in this programme.
In the fall of 2018, a delegation from HSE’s Faculty of Law, headed by Deputy First Vice Rector Evgeny Salygin and Deputy Centre Head and Professor Fatima Mammadova, came to our Academy in Baku (I would like to highlight Prof. Mammadova’s role separately: she helped me both in the admissions process and after). At the meeting of the delegation with the undergraduates, I asked a few questions about the programme. After the meeting, Professor Salygin, seeing my strong interest, once again put me in touch with Professor Starzhenetsky. When I learned that the programme would be fully English-taught starting in 2019, I became confident that HSE was my top choice.
On admission and adapting to life in Moscow
Professor Starzhenetsky explained what the programme’s admissions process entailed, and by December 2019, I had finalized all my application materials and was preparing for the Skype interview. A few weeks later, I saw in my online HSE account that I had been recommended for admission with a state-funded place in the programme. I am sure that my excellent academic performance and fluency in English and French, as well my intermediate-level proficiency in Chinese and Spanish played a strong role in my admission. When I learned that I had been accepted to the programme, I started preparing for the move to Moscow and studying at HSE by deepening my knowledge of international law.
In my opinion, HSE’s admissions system is very user-friendly. Thanks to the kindness and candidness of the programme supervisor, I cannot recall any serious difficulties or problems in the admission process
One piece of advice I have for incoming international students is that you buy your plane tickets in advance by the beginning of the academic year, because you need to be able to register with the University in time, and tickets by that time are almost completely sold out.
At the end of August 2019, I arrived in Moscow and checked into the Sevastopol Hotel (a dormitory). The hotel offers excellent living conditions, it’s clean, has a calm atmosphere, a friendly administration and friendly building supervisors — all for a minimal fee and within walking distance of the metro.
I cannot say that I have faced any difficulties in adapting to life in Russia. Life in Moscow is not much different from my life in Baku. Getting around the city is pretty easy, food prices are reasonable (with the exception of fruit, which, of course, is much more affordable and of higher quality in Azerbaijan). I can only note that the cold sets in in Moscow much earlier, there is little sun (which you need to get used to), and people often use words and expressions that are not always immediately understandable even to Russian-speaking people from the countries of the former USSR. It's funny, but I, for example, had to make sure not to use words from the Azerbaijani language in my speech, since in Baku, we, even speaking in Russian, often mix the two languages.
The University helped me a lot with transitioning to life in Moscow since they allocate a special week for new students to get oriented before starting classes. At any time, you can contact the university administration if there are any problems with your dorm, classes, etc.
First impressions of the programme
At our cohort’s first meeting, I was pleased to see how international our group is: we have students from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Jordan, Sudan, Brazil, India, Norway, Germany, and Italy. Moreover, many of my classmates are lawyers who have already been practicing for several years.
The courses of the programme are very interesting and absolutely necessary for an international lawyer. It is difficult to single out a particular class, since, in my opinion, I learned a lot of new things in each and every one of them. However, the lectures on intellectual property law, WTO law, and the critical perspective of global communication were the most interesting, practice-oriented, and highly motivating for further independent study of the topic. Most of our classes have an independent format, since they involve studying a large amount of material and familiarizing yourself with various sources. Special attention is paid to the practical side of the subjects.
The programme courses are not about memorizing and reproducing information from books.
In our classes, we discuss a lot of challenging issues, share our opinions, organize team projects, and hold moot courts. Even written works (essays) are usually given to us in the form of a memorandum, that is, an analysis of a specific practical situation
Therefore, I can say with confidence that my academic expectations were fully met, and some teachers even exceeded them.
Useful information for future students
I am happy that I am studying in this programme at HSE and have the opportunity to meet smart, talented, and kind people. I look forward to starting a career based on the knowledge and practical skills I acquired at HSE. I sincerely recommend this programme to other international applicants – for its interesting and practical courses, flexible study schedule, opportunities for self-realization, friendly atmosphere (in the dorms, the university, and among the students), as well as for its extracurricular activities (sports teams, dancing, conversation clubs, etc.).
At the same time, applicants should not forget that HSE is a serious educational institution that approaches the learning process both creatively and rigorously. Students must be prepared to complete assignments, be able to show and improve their skills, and study dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of pages of complex material. I would also advise applicants to prepare for the admissions process in advance and get in touch with students and alumni of the programme you want to apply to. And during your studies, I recommend approaching written assignments with creativity, and not shying away from defending your point of view, even if it is generally incorrect. After all, often you will be appreciated not because you are right, but because you, as a lawyer, know how to prove and argue.
There is no need to be afraid or discouraged if you find the programme difficult at first. Gradually, you will settle in and get a feel for the system. It is important not to be afraid to ask teachers questions. In my memory, not a single teacher has ever refused to answer a question or, worse, ridiculed anyone's question.
Remote learning and future plans
At the moment we are studying remotely, and I have returned to Baku where I am working at a law firm. The knowledge I’m gaining at HSE helps me with my work, as I often work with intellectual property and contract law. Skills in completing written assignments (studying cases, writing memoranda) made it possible in a practice sense to work in my area of specialization, since this was one of the most important criteria of the firm that hired me.
HSE continues to support me. I could not return to Moscow due to the border closures, so HSE ensured that I and other foreign students could continue our studies online and that we were exempted from any dormitory fees for the period we are not in Moscow (even though many of us still have our belongings in the dorms). We are also able to take our exams online, which not only ensures the transparency of the process, but is also fun, since most of the exams are about solving a practical problem—a case or a research paper. I especially want to emphasize the freedom we have in selecting research topics, so long as they correspond with the course syllabi. So, for example, in several classes, as well as for my master’s thesis, I chose to work on certain processes in Azerbaijan. Not a single teacher objected to this, although I expected that I would be required to study the international component without going into national peculiarities.
In the future, I plan to work at the Ministry of Economy or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan so that I can contribute to Azerbaijan’s accession to the World Trade Organization.
HSE University welcomes applicants from all over the world and offers not only different levels of study, but also different formats in English and Russian, online and offline. International applicants can apply for Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes in a separate admissions process for foreign applicants and receive scholarships with full or partial tuition fee coverage.
When applying to a Bachelor’s programme, including five English-taught programmes in Moscow, it is possible to submit international certificates you have received in English and mathematics, such as IELTS, TOEFL, A-Level and other international exams and they will be recognized by HSE University, so taking entrance exams in relevant subjects will not be required.
Undergraduate applicants can test their chances of admission now by taking mock tests. Master’s applicants also have the opportunity to get a preliminary assessment of their portfolio and communicate with their programme of choice online.