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Festival in Tula Welcomes Future HSE University International Students

In December, HSE Preparatory Year students travelled to Tula to attend an international student festival. They got to know the ancient Russian city, presented their cultures at the festival, and participated in a student concert. Students from Macedonia, Syria and China shared their impressions about the event with the HSE News Service, while Russian teacher Anastasiya Zinchenko spoke about how such trips broaden the students’ outlook on the country and make them a better team.

The festival was called ‘We Welcome All Flags’ after a quote from Alexander Pushkin’s poem about Peter the Great, The Bronze Horseman. The event took place as part of the First International Conference ‘Outside Perspective: Russia in the Eyes of Foreigners’, which was organised by the Tula State University Institute of International Education.

The conference aims to develop Russian language skills in foreign students, as well as introduce them to Russian cultural heritage and Russian cities with their ancient history, comfortable urban environment and modern educational venues. Ten HSE Prep Year students participated in the festival.

The event consisted of three parts. The first one was a conference, where two HSE Prep Year students presented their reports. The second event was an exhibition, where students demonstrated traditional national artifacts from their home countries. HSE University had representatives from some countries that no other universities had, such as the Netherlands, Macedonia, Mongolia and Mexico. Some of them also brought local treats: waffles from the Netherlands and spicy sweets from Mexico. The third part was a concert, where a Syrian HSE student sang ‘The Horse’ in Russian, and an HSE student from Mongolia sang a love song in Spanish.

Bojana Smilevska, Macedonia

I'm currently studying Russian language on the Preparatory Year Programme, and next year, I am going to study International Business at the HSE Graduate School of Business. I decided to come to Moscow because Russia was my first choice for education even before high school. I checked all the programmes at different universities in Russia, and I figured that HSE University is the best fit for me.

In Tula, I read my essay that I wrote on the topic ‘The Story of One Foreigner: How I Got to Understand and Love Russia’.

My impressions about the festival were really pleasing. Most of all, I liked the way we interacted with others and practiced our knowledge of Russian, knowing that we are still not fluent speakers and our group has a level of A2/B1. Getting to know other people and different cultures was really appealing.

For the whole day, we had a programme that we needed to follow. First was the conference (where I read my essay), then we had a presentation (in which our group participated) where students showed different things from their countries, and the last part was the concert—the most fun part. My groupmates sang and other students danced, read poems, and showed off their university and country at the same time.

At the end, they gave us all a special diploma for participating. I also received one for my essay, together with some gifts. We learned a lot and had an amazing day.

Excerpts from Bojana Smilevska’s essay ‘The Story of One Foreigner: How I Got to Understand and Love Russia’

People say, ‘When you work on your dreams, they come true.’ And this is true, because all of my dreams are slowly but surely becoming a reality. Russia is the biggest country on our planet, and that means a lot. Where else but in as promising country as Russia could you find such a powerful and good way to continue your education?

My country—Macedonia—and Russia are connected in many ways. For example, they are both predominantly Slavic and Eastern Orthodox countries and both use the Cyrillic alphabet, which originated in Macedonia. What is more, some famous intellectuals and scientists from the Macedonia region studied in the Russian Empire, including Konstantin Miladinov, Krste Misirkov, and Dimitrija Čupovski.

It is amazing how another country can sometimes give you even more than your own. This is the point of moving abroad in search of something that you could not find where you were before. I love my country, but I also like learning about new cultures and habits and meeting new people.

When I bought my ticket to Moscow, I counted down the days. I had a list of everything I wanted to do from the first day, and two months later, my list is still very full. You simply can’t get enough of Moscow.

Dareen Abd Alhak, Syria

I’m from Syria, but I'm also half Russian. That is why I decided to study in Russia, as this is my second home. Even though I'm half Russian, I've only been here twice my whole life, and only when I was young. Currently, I’m in my Russian Preparatory Year and then I'll be pursuing a master’s degree in Business Informatics

I love meeting international students and getting to know interesting things about their country and tradition, so this event was absolutely amazing. The international students really did well at representing their countries, whether through their costumes, dances, food, or songs. The vibe and enthusiasm of all international students had the most glorious effect on the festival.

The most special part was the feeling of welcomeness among the international and Russian students. It made us feel united and safe

At the concert, I chose to sing a Russian song named ‘The Horse’. I chose it because it shows how much I love Russia, that I feel safe and welcomed in this country.

Back home, I always sang Russian songs in the Russian cultural centre in Damascus at different kinds of events. So, coming here to the land that I always sang to felt like an honour, and I feel privileged to have sung in front of many people who have come to Russia out of love for it and to pursue their dreams in it. 

I plan to make memories in Moscow as much as possible, singing everywhere I can, attending and participating in various events, travelling, and meeting interesting people. 

Sun Zhenjun, China

I'm from China, Inner Mongolia. I am going to study at HSE because I think it is a very good university and I like Moscow.

The festival in Tula was very interesting. Through this festival, I got to know many different cultures and made many friends from different countries. We participated in an exhibition, saw everyone dance and sing songs. I enjoyed the participants’ enthusiasm.

Anastasiya Zinchenko, teacher of Russian as a Foreign Language at the HSE Preparatory Year programme

The ‘We Welcome All Flags’ festival was an interesting and useful experience. Some of the students have only been to Moscow, while others have travelled in Russia before, but have seen only Moscow and St Petersburg. This time, they had an opportunity to see another Russian city and get to learn its culture. The atmosphere in Tula is completely different, and students noticed it while we were going to Tula University. They were looking at everything around them—the architecture, the transport, the people. After the trip, the students resolved that they need to get acquainted with other Russian cities and towns, not only the capitals.

Some of the students used the Lastochka high-speed intercity train for the first time. They didn’t know how everything works, and it was good to do it in a comfortable way with their classmates. They also said that the trip made them a better team: they were supporting each other at the concert and at the conference presentations.

At the event, the participants made some new friends and were actively communicating in Russian. It was nice to get some gifts from Tula University: diplomas, t-shirts, a huge gingerbread cake, and souvenirs.

The students wanted to shop for some gifts, and we had time to do it. Although none of them had been to Tula before, they all knew Tula is famous for its gingerbread and samovars. We had learnt about the city before the trip, which is useful for their history lessons: the historic Kulikovo Field, where the Battle of Kulikovo took place in 1380, is in the Tula region today.

When we were waiting for the train back to Moscow, some other students from the festival joined us, and one of them had a guitar. Our Syrian student, Dareen, sang a beautiful song to a guitar accompaniment. It was a wonderful conclusion to our Tula trip.

The International Preparatory Year programme annually enrols about 200 students who study on Russian government scholarships or on a fee-paying basis. After a year on the programme, students continue their studies on bachelor’s or master’s programmes at HSE University or other universities in Russia. The course includes Russian language training, as well as special disciplines in three profiles: Economics, Humanities, and Engineering and Technology. Enrolment for academic year 2023/24 will open in spring 2023. Please follow the updates on the Prep Year website.

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