‘Everything Was New and Amazing Here in Russia’
A group of 37 students from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology visited HSE’s Faculty of Economic Sciences in January 2018. The visit was part of a study trip to Russia organized by HKUST Global Business Program. The students visited Dobrolyubov Public Library, New Economic School, SKOLKOVO School of Management, as well as offices of Novartis Pharma, Yandex, and Moscow Stock Exchange. At HSE they met with Russian and international students who told them about the university and introduced them to Russian culture and traditions, dispelling some of the most popular myths about Russia.
Professor Emily Nason, Program Director, Global Business Program, HKUST
We have been organizing winter study trips for the past ten years. Places that we have visited include Seoul, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Kyoto, Melbourne, etc. The aim of these trips is for the students to gain a more global perspective by visiting different countries, companies, and universities and learn about doing business in other countries as well as get to know more about the social, historical and cultural background of the country.
The study trips are open for all Global Business students from all years. I think that many our students chose Russia for their study trip because they are not so familiar with it. Although news about Russia is all over the media, what exactly is going on in the country in the socio-economic scene and in Russia as a nation is a very interesting topic that we would like to explore more. Moreover, Russia is one of the emerging markets that will be playing an important role in the future economy. So this study trip was a firsthand experience for our students to understand Russia.
We hope that from the company visits and the guest lectures, they learnt about the Russian business environment and the challenges ahead, as well as how companies are reacting to different challenges. We also hope that they have been able to make friends with the Russian students and got to know more about Russian student life. In addition, the cultural visits to, for example, the Kremlin and the cathedrals helped them understand the historical and religious background of Russia.
The visit has been such an enjoyable experience. Everywhere we went, we met a lot of kind and passionate Russians - we were so overwhelmed by their hospitality. And we have learnt so much about Russia!
We especially would like to thank Oxana Budjko from the Faculty of Economic Sciences of HSE for being such a great host - in receiving us for the university visit and lining up different company visits. This trip wouldn’t have been such a great success without her help! We definitely would like to encourage our students to go to Russia for overseas internship opportunities.
Chris Ho (first year student)
Since we are in the Global Business Program, it is important for us to gain international insights and exposure. As a first-year student, I was really excited to be able to go on a study trip, so I made sure I did not miss out on this opportunity. The Global Business study trip is open to all Global Business students, and a lot of seniors participate in it. It is always a good chance to strengthen bonds with other Global Business students and get to know them better.
Moscow is not one of the popular destinations for trips: it is in Russia, the flight time is long, it is freezing here - there are numerous reasons people do not go to Moscow. However, that is precisely the reason I decided to go. I simply did not know if I would ever go to Moscow if I did not go now, and after joining the study trip, I really liked it here and hope to return to Moscow in the future.
I realized Russia is more popular as a destination for studying abroad than I thought. There were Dutch, German, and Austrian students coming to Russia to study. I was expecting to meet stern, boring Russians in the universities and companies, as the stereotype goes. It turned out Russians are just as serious as people think they are, but also a lot more fun. They kept surprising me with their hospitality and amazing presentations. I was also expecting Russians to be proud of their country and present to us how great they are, but I was shocked when a professor in the Skolkovo School of Management spent two hours telling us about the economic problems in Russia.
I simply did not know if I would ever go to Moscow if I did not go now, and after joining the study trip, I really liked it here and hope to return to Moscow in the future.
The trip has proved very interesting and useful. Everything was new and amazing here in Russia, I wish I could explore more. Also, I gained a lot of insight on doing business, different industries, and presentation skills. The visit to Novartis group was one of the most inspiring visits I have had. The speakers were so intelligent and vivid that I could not lose focus. Last but not the least, I was able to see the working environment at Yandex, which is the Russian Google, and I was just in awe how it was designed to make their staff comfortable and feel like home.
Hong Kong companies do not really care about what is happening in society when doing business, while Russian companies try to solve societal problems that relate to their line of business. For example, Moscow Exchange has been working with the government closely to increase financial literacy in Russia, and Novartis has been providing patient support so that people can get the right medicine at the right time. That really impressed me.
One of the most spectacular things about Moscow has to be its buildings. They have unique styles and delicate designs, unlike the boring buildings in Hong Kong which look all the same. HSE was just as bright as I thought it would be, although I did not get to see the whole campus, which is a pity. The students there did not disappoint me, they were truly brilliant. Most importantly, beautiful girls are everywhere in Russia! It was a pleasure walking around even in the cold.
Poh Lyn Low (from Malaysia, fourth year student)
Russia has always been a very intriguing place for me. I have read and heard a lot about Russian culture and I wanted to personally experience it during this trip. In the modern globalized world, it is important to understand and appreciate our differences and create meaningful relationships wherever we go. The programme allows me to explore this place not just as a tourist. I could engage with local students and companies and gain a better understanding of their lifestyle, motivation and life philosophy. People at HSE are so welcoming and eager to share their stories. They are also eager to listen to others and to learn. It has been very inspiring talking to them. I was able to further understand the Russian heritage and beliefs.
Minor cultural differences aside, it is interesting to know that both Russians and people from Hong Kong are culturally very risk-averse. We tend to favour state-owned companies or well-established multinational ones. But it is encouraging to see that both countries are very supportive of startups and are pushing for more entrepreneurial activities in the country.
My favorite part of the trip has got to be my visit to the Armory Chamber where I got to marvel at the craftsmanship and intricacies of silverware, clothes, carriages used by the Russian royalty in the 18th century and before. That was really exciting. I was also impressed with how the old and new architecture in Moscow can beautifully complement each other. It may not be special but it is a rare sight in Hong Kong or Malaysia where I come from.
It is interesting to know that both Russians and people from Hong Kong are culturally very risk-averse. We tend to favour state-owned companies or well-established multinational ones. But it is encouraging to see that both countries are very supportive of startups and are pushing for more entrepreneurial activities in the country.
I thought that Russian food would not be palatable to my taste, because I am a true Asian who lives for and loves Asian food, but I enjoyed it thoroughly! My favorites have got to be the vareniki (dumplings) and honey cake. Also, the weather is more bearable than I expected.
Caspar Chan (first year student)
The main reason for taking this trip is that it’s a golden opportunity to explore this country. Moscow is quite mysterious to me. People usually don’t travel to Moscow, but rather to other places like Japan, Korea, etc. Besides, I wanted to see how business is developing and to know more about the culture, history and life in Russia.
Moscow is such a wonderful place. I can say that it’s really cold, but I do love this kind of weather. In Hong Kong, it will never be so cold in winter and it will never snow. So, it’s nice to experience a ‘true winter’ here in Moscow. I used to think that Russians were not afraid of the cold weather, and that they would wear thin clothes like t-shirts even in the winter. However, everyone actually needs thick coats. We found that people in Moscow are really friendly. It is quite interesting that Russians don’t usually smile, that is they don’t smile without a purpose. But whenever we didn’t know how to get to some places and asked for help, people were willing to help out. Even though most of them don’t speak English, they still try their best to use body language to show us the way.
As far as HSE is concerned, I know that it’s a prestigious university in Moscow with students who have received excellent academic results. Also, there are so many clubs and students societies in HSE, which shows that university life at HSE is wonderful and students are having great fun there. It was great that Hong Kong students and HSE students could get together and have mingling sessions to exchange thoughts about university life in two places, share their opinions on different international issues and make friends. Through students from HSE, we learnt more about the authentic side of Moscow.
As far as HSE is concerned, I know that it’s a prestigious university in Moscow with students who have received excellent academic results. Also, there are so many clubs and students societies in HSE, which shows that university life at HSE is wonderful and students are having great fun there.
The company visits here were really beneficial. They helped me to understand business in Moscow better and learn more about the differences between business practices in Russia and Hong Kong. First, working hours in some Moscow companies like Yandex differ from those in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, companies usually have fixed working hours. Companies like Yandex have really flexible working hours. Staff members can work until really late whenever they want. Then, the working environment is more pleasant and relaxing. There are cafe corners and game corners where there are lots of board games for staff to enjoy. The working environment in Hong Kong is more stressful. Employees will have lots of work to do and such relaxing corners are not that common in Hong Kong.
I was also able to immerse myself in the Russian culture. I also made friends with HSE students. All in all, my horizons have been greatly broadened because of this meaningful, learning-oriented and enjoyable study trip. And I learnt that Russians don’t keep exotic animals as their pets or drink vodka during their meals!
Photos by Mikhail Dmitriev
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