HSE Maths Student at École Normale Supérieure
Elizaveta Arzhakova, MSc student at the HSE Faculty of Mathematics, shares her impressions of the semester she spent at École Normale Supérieure in Paris.
Our Faculty has a lot of exchange programmes with various international universities. This means our students can spend a semester in another country and study there without paying for tuition. I’ve always been enthusiastic about the idea of studying in a foreign country. I have always dreamed of going to Paris, because France has produced so many great mathematicians, and Paris can rightfully be called today’s European mathematics capital. I was able to see my dream come true, and early this semester I went to the École Normale Supérieure. The university was founded as a symbol of the French Republic and is located on the left bank of the Seine, in the very heart of the Latin Quarter. École Normale Supérieure is France’s most prestigious university and leads in both social and natural sciences. Its graduates include 13 Nobel Prize laureates (including eight physicists) and 10 winners of the Fields Medal (something like the Nobel Prize for mathematicians). It boasts dozens of highly respected alumni in the social sciences, so I’ll limit myself to mentioning Jean-Paul Sartre and Michel Foucault. Nicolas Bourbaki, who every mathematician knows, also worked at ENS.
My academic supervisor at ENS was Bertrand Deroin, Professor at the Department of Mathematics. Under his supervision, I started studying a rapidly developing and cutting-edge area in mathematics, the Teichmüller theory, and then applied this new knowledge to solve a topical problem related to isoperiodic foliations of moduli spaces. I truly enjoyed spending hours leafing through vast mathematical texts in the university’s old oak library. Globally renowned universities such as Jussieu and Diderot, which offer a wealth of courses in various areas of mathematics, including very specialized ones, are within walking distance of the ENS. This means that you can compile a curriculum specifically focused on your research. The Henri Poincaré Institute is just across the street from the ENS, and I would often go there to attend presentations by renowned scholars and young and ambitious researchers. After the presentations, the participants usually went to a café on the Ulm Street to discuss their research in a more informal environment.
ENS also hosts a wide variety of sporting and cultural events, such as an Irish dance festival, and a morning barbecue at the university’s courtyard. Every Thursday, the students get together in a small bar in the Ecole’s basement, and there you can meet students from various departments and make new friends. ENS students are very committed and hard-working, that is quite contagious!