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Regular version of the site

HSE Day: International Students and Faculty Get into the Spirit of University Life

The Higher School of Economics is becoming more and more internationalized. It is for this reason that HSE Day, which took place at Gorky Park, reached an international level as well. Among the numerous activities at the event were ones that featured English as their main form of communication. Thanks to this, international students, foreign instructors, and all guests of the celebration who wanted to speak English were able to feel they could take full participation in the events.

By the start of the new academic year, the HSE had already welcomed over 100 international students (of a total of about 200) and about 50 international faculty members and researchers. These international guests took part in HSE Day alongside their Russian counterparts, and the Day’s organisers, hard-working volunteers, and the Department of Internationalization made every effort to make sure the Day was a success.

Volunteer 'buddies' welcomed foreigners in Russian folk-tale tradition: three hosts played the roles of Tsar Saltan and his two daughters, Vasilisa the Wise and Elena the Beautiful, inviting them to 'pass through the fire, water, and brass pipes' – i.e. to take part in a quiz about Russian history and culture. The international students showed they had quite a good understanding of both.

The international participants showed particular interest, ability, and bravery, during the traditional Russian game 'Whose soul do you want', which saw them split into two teams who joined arms and faced each other. Taking turns to break the opposing side's line, success meant winning a member of the other side while whoever failed had to join the other side themselves.

Some students set off to explore Gorky Park aided by the HSE Day map, but most joined the HSE Open Talks lecture series, held this year for the first time.

Four speakers, all of whom were University staff, took to the stage to talk on a wide range of disciplines. The lecturers all shared international experience and English language, rather than a common theme.

Yuval Weber, Assistant Professor, Faculty of world Economy and International Affairs, spoke about the concepts of work and immigration, drawing on his own personal experience, and about different political and social responses to the phenomenon in Canada, the United States, and Russia. Michael Rochlitz, Assistant Professor, Department of Politics, gave an overview of his research comparing regional officials’ performance in Russia and China. Sarah Busse Spencer, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Sciences, followed them with her lecture entitled ‘Social Capital and Friends: How Sociology Helps us Make Sense of the World.’ She talked about sociology’s importance in real life, and about how this discipline helps us understand the world around us. Valentina Kuskova, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Management, closed the HSE Open Talks event, with her lecture on the various different approaches to management – from managing oneself to running a business – and how much depends on the approach taken.

With its pies, buns and hot tea, the Russian Tearoom proved a particular hit with the international guests. But in order to enjoy the food and drink on offer, visitors had to successfully pronounce a Russian tongue-twister, speak good Russian to the people manning the stall, or get the right answers in the ‘How Russian Are You?’ quiz.

International students also took part in an English-language game of Uni-mafia (a version of the game Mafia, but about the University), speed-dating, dance-offs, and other entertainment laid on at HSE Land. In the evening they headed over to the Green Theater for the Bi-2 gig, which closed HSE Day.

Here is what international students say about HSE Day:

Thibaud, a student from France

‘The HSE day was really well organized, I really enjoyed my day. The welcoming was perfect; the activity prepared hosted by the Tsar and his daughters was funny and enjoyable.

It allowed me to get to know and communicate with some other international and Russian students too. I am really impressed by the financial resources that the HSE have: in France, even the biggest private business school or the most prestigious state university don't propose that type of event.’

Anastasia, a student from Germany

‘Most memorable were dance battle, tea house, climbing at a wall. It was a very good day!'

Ivan, a student from Croatia

‘I liked it very much! The activities for the international students in the beginning, the Tea Room, the concert… and just lying down in the park and enjoying the nice weather with friends – all was great.’

Phumjai, а student from Thailand

‘The most impressive moment of HSE Day for me is the English Session in the park. It's very innovative method to give lecture in a very relaxing, fruitful, and relax manner. I really think that I can gain a lot of knowledge because I really paid attention to the guest speakers.’

And here are the opinions of HSE international faculty:

Yuval Weber, Assistant Professor, Faculty of world Economy and International Affairs

‘I very much enjoyed the experience. It's always a pleasure to speak publicly and interact with the audience. The students were great and it's a lot of fun talking to them in the informal setting. I think it was a good idea to open the HSE to the Gorky Park and to the city in general. Institutions thrive on openness and transparency and HSE should be proud to show off how awesome it is.’

Nadia Moro, Associate Professor, Faculty of Philosophy

‘It was an excellent opportunity to meet new colleagues and students. I discovered how far some colleagues are coming from and how many faculties HSE has. Together we visited the Russian tea zone where we had to earn our tea by answering questions from the quiz “How Russian are you?” We did our best to recollect the information about Russia and I am sure that next year we will be able to answer more difficult questions to earn our “chai” and biscuits. It was also good to meet the families of our colleagues and get acquainted with our local faculty. After the tea area I visited the platform with lectures given by our international professors and I could see the entertaining way of speaking about management by Valentina Kuskova who was giving small presents to everybody who answered her questions correctly. I also climbed – it was a good opportunity to think back of my alpine background in Italy and see the climbing equipment and strategies used in Russia. I think we all enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere in the sunny park under the auspices of the HSE crow!’

Satoshi Kondo, Associate Professor, Faculty of Mathematics

'We listened to some lectures – given by Yuval Weber and Sarah Spencer. Both speakers mentioned some cultural differences between Russia and the USA. They managed to express those differences in just a few paragraphs. It was a good way of putting things together and that was useful for me to know.'

Thomas Bitoun, Research Fellow, Faculty of Mathematics

'We had tea – 'chai' in Russian – and we played. Students asked us questions about the Russian culture and only after answering them we could get some tea. It was a good way to meet the students!'

Ksenia Shomnikova and Natalia Rubanova for HSE News Service