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Regular version of the site

'Just fill in a form, get a visa, and come'

On December 17th the graduation ceremony for the HSE School of Russian Studies programme entitled took place at the HSE. For the last six months international students have been studying the specifics of Russian politics, economics and culture and have been acquainting themselves with the peculiarities of studying, working and living in Moscow.

The 'Autumn Semester' programme was created by the School of Russian Studies in 2005. Every year since then, students from European and American universities have come to study in the HSE. Among the participants in the programme there have been undergraduate students and future PhDs;people who already knew Russian to a certain extent, who have studied Russia and decided to prepare fora career in our country, as well as those who knew nothing about Russia before arriving. Over a six month period, professors of the Higher School of Economics deliver lectures in English that cover different aspects of Russian internal and foreign policies, the economy and culture. In addition to this, participants of the programme also take an intensive Russian language course.

Shortly after the graduation ceremony the graduates of the ‘Autumn Semester'will head home:to the Netherlands, USA and France, and celebrate Christmas and New Year. But perhaps some of them will now link their life with Russia and return to the HSE, a hope expressed to them during the graduation ceremony by Leonid Ionin, Dean of the School of Russian Studies, as well as Maxim Braterskiy and Vladimir Zuyev, teachers of the programme.

Leonid Ionin, Dean of the HSE School of Russian Studies
Leonid Ionin, Dean of the HSE School of Russian Studies
Leonid Ionin, Dean of the HSE School of Russian Studies, told us about the students of the current, 5th, class of graduates.

- Are the current graduates in any way different from the previous?

- Yes, and the difference is that all these students are third year undergraduates. Previously most of the participants of this programme have been postgraduates. This year most of them are students of Wharton Business School, Penn State University, but there is also one student from the Netherlands. According to the requirements of their universities'curriculum, they have to spend one semester studying abroad. And we host those students who chose Russia.

- Do graduates of the ‘Autumn Semester'programme usually link their future career with work in our country?

- Their motivation is very different. I think that many of them come to have a look around here perhaps with a view to later working here. We provide an opportunity for professional training for them. This year they received practical training in banking and stock market organizations. By the way, I must mention that the HSE Banking Institute and in particular its director, Vasily Solodkov, have provided a great deal of help in this matter. Last year we organized work placements in media companies for the students. In general, the participants are very active and independently try to find some opportunities to work and participate in some projects while they are here.

- But this probably only relates to those who already know Russian?

- Of course, many of our students already have some knowledge of Russian before coming to Moscow. But this year one of the programme participants, Ryan Morgan, worked in Calyon Rosbank with virtually no knowledge of Russian. There is a great deal of demand among Commercial companies for English-speaking employees. Most of our students have some connections with Russia:either through relatives, or perhaps they have studied Russian in their university as a specialization. But some of them come to Russia without really knowing anything about it.

- What should an international student do to become a participant in the programme?

- Simply fill in a form on the SRS website (www.hse.ru/srs), get a visa and come. It might not be quite as straightforward as it sounds though, so we at the School of Russian Studies give visa support and advice, since most of the coming students often are in the position of foreigners who know nothing about Russia and officials can sometimes be less than helpful.

- Over the five-year history of the programme you have probably worked with a wide variety of people. Who has been the most memorable?

- The first graduates were the most exotic. Among them was a major from the US Marine Corps who was going to take up a position in the American Embassy in Russia after his service in Iraq.


Participants of the programme shared their impressions of studying in the HSE and some of their plans for the future.

Georgina Butler
Georgina Butler
Georgina Butler, USA, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

- Georgina why did you choose this program?

I am from France, but I study in America. Back in Pennsylvania I studied art history and didn't learn economics at all. It was very interesting to study economics and see how it relates to art. I plan to specialize in business related to art and in the commerce of Russian art. For this I need some basic economics and also to know Russian and the way it conducts business.

- What courses were the most interesting for you?

The most interesting course for me was Professor Bratersky's on Russian security policy. We had to analyze some official documents in classes and this was really amazing. I had never thought that I would have the opportunity to see such papers. This course gave us some understanding of Russian foreign policy and governmental practices.

- Do you think Russian politics differs from American and European politics?

Russian politics is quite different from both European and American. It really interesting to see how one or two men can lead a country and entire government. Here you do not see two opposite parties fighting, rather you have one idea and just listen to it.

- What was the most impressing thing for you in Moscow?

When we arrived the Contemporary Art Biennale was taking place in Moscow. We went there with some Russian students from the HSE and spoke about modern art, the Russian perspective, the American perspective and the European perspective. It was very interesting for me. I liked the food, it is very good, despite being quite heavy. There are interesting dishes like "pelmeni"or "piroghki". Also I felt very strange in Moscow. When you are in Paris, you hear English or Spanish, but here you only hear Russian everywhere.

- Do you understand Russian?

I don't really know Russian. I studied it for two years, but I can only read it. I had no problems with the language here because most of the students speak very good English.


Ramon van Bruchem
Ramon van Bruchem
Ramon van Bruchem, Radboud University, Nymegen, the Netherlands

- Ramon, what is your specialization in your university?

I am from the Netherlands, my University is called Radboud University Nymegen and I specialize in business administration but also study philosophy. I've been to Russia before and I was very interested in the culture and architecture. Last year I visited Moscow with a friend and I also visited St.Petersburg with my friend. Also it is very good for me to study abroad since it improves my chances of being accepted on a PhD course

- Was it difficult to live here without a knowledge of Russian?

I do not speak Russian but in this situation you just have to deal with it. Try using a dictionary and communicating with people by pointing  at the necessary words in there.

- Do you think Russian students are very different from those in America and Europe?

I think there are not so many differences. Western students and Russian students are quite similar. But I think that European students and Russian students are more focused on the lecturer than the American students.


Natalia Kogai
Natalia Kogai
Natalia Kogai, USA, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

- How did you get into this programme?

- I was born in Tashkent, but now my family has moved to the US. I have been living in Philadelphia since 2007. My classmates from the university told me many positive things about this programme, and said that here the communication with professors is very interesting.

- Were you working in Moscow during your course at the HSE?

- Yes, during the semester I worked for Renaissance Capital:I wanted to see if it would be interesting for me to build a career here. I am planning to work in New York, but if it doesn't work there, I might try in Moscow.


Ryan Morgan, USA, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

- Ryan, you did work here in Moscow?

I worked in Moscow, in a French bank in Moscow, one of the Professors here helped me to find the job. Working in Russia is quite different to working in the US, in Russia you can be late to work which is impossible in America. Also people here are much more relaxed at work.

- Was it difficult for you to work without knowledge of Russian?

Not at all. Many people at the HSE and in the bank spoke English. Also I found a few people who could understand my English on the street but not many. We learnt some Russian here so at least I could read a little and buy things myself.

- What was the most interesting thing for you here in Russia?

I enjoyed the program and the School of Russian Studies has been my best Russian experience. Also Moscow is a really great city with a lot of museums. The best course was Professor  Bratersky's course. All the teachers have a great passion for their subjects but Maxim Bratersky is the greatest teacher of all of them, his English is extremely good and I really wish he taught in the US. The program is very well run and I hope to return to Russia in the future.

Yekaterina Rylko, HSE News Service

Photos by Ivan Moryakov