Prep Year Graduates Ready to Make a Start
On July 12, HSE officially congratulated the graduates of the 2018 Preparatory Year programme. The 10-month intensive course, which was introduced at HSE in 2015, is designed for international students with little or no knowledge of Russian who wish to undertake Russian-taught full-degree programmes. The curriculum focuses on basic language skills (reading, listening, speaking, and writing) and students are able to study in their chosen academic field (humanities, economics, or engineering). This year, young graduates from 40 different countries attended the ceremony, where they were congratulated by their teachers, friends and families.
In 2017, the number of students enrolled in the Preparatory Year programme was double the 2016 intake, and 2018 has seen a further increase of 7%. This year, it was successfully completed by 190 students hailing from 40 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America and Central Asia. The majority travelled from Vietnam, Syria, China, Mongolia, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Indonesia and Turkey. In 2018/2019, 150 students will be enrolled in state-funded places on the Preparatory Year programme.
An advantage of the programme is the small class size. Russian language lessons are limited to 12 students in a group and subject area classes to 20 people. This enables the students to get to know each other over the course of the year and to participate fully in activities. According to Irina Isaeva, head of the Preparatory Year programme, the 2018 curriculum included a greater number class hours of Russian as a foreign language, in order to help more students achieve the first certification level of Russian upon completion (students are expected to possess intermediate-level language skills - CEFR level B1, TRKI level 1).
Clearly, this has paid off. At the 2018 graduation ceremony, 83 graduates were recommended for state-financed or fee-paying places in both Russian- and English-taught programmes at HSE’s campuses in Moscow and St Petersburg, as compared to 66 in 2017. This is in line with the continued increase in the number of students who wish to continue their studies in HSE’s degree programmes upon completion of their Preparatory Year.
Studying Mathematics and History in Russian
Learning any foreign language is hard work and studying subjects such as mathematics and history in this language can be even more challenging. Still, according to programme teachers, Gennadii Fedin (teacher of Mathematics) and Mikhail Pogorelov (teacher of History), the class of 2018 did exceptionally well in managing both subject matter and language barriers.
‘As teachers, our challenge is to establish the right balance’, explained Mikhail Pogorelov. ‘Students enter the programme with varying levels of knowledge of the subject, and of course, varying levels of Russian. Our goal is to make sure that the more advanced students stay involved and are challenged, and that the weaker students don’t fall behind.’
Gennadii Fedin agreed: ‘The teachers on the programme are experienced enough to manage such differences and of course, having English is a bonus. I consider myself lucky to be teaching mathematics – maths itself is a universal language. In cases where students didn’t understand, I either switched into English or relied on mathematical symbols to get my point across.’
According to Mikhail Pogorelov, it was interesting to observe differences in students’ levels of knowledge of Russian history and their particular areas of interest from a cultural point of view. ‘Most students on the programme know about Ivan the Terrible, Lenin, Stalin, Gorbachev and Perestroika. My student from Istanbul was particularly strong in Russian history, whereas some of the material was completely new for students from southern Asia. One Brazilian student, by contrast, had even read Svetlana Alexievich’s book, ‘The Unwomanly Face of War’ – that was a nice surprise.’
Despite the students’ varying levels of knowledge, Gennadii Fedin insists that, if the student is motivated, this doesn’t matter. The programme provides everything they need to catch up to their peers, and, most importantly, to be strong enough to enroll in a Russian-taught degree programme at the end of the year. ‘One example sticks in my mind’, he says. ‘Last year, I taught a student from Tajikistan. He started the programme late, and what’s more, his initial level in mathematics was very low. However, he worked hard, made excellent progress and, at the end of the programme, passed the exam with flying colours.’
Both teachers agree that communication is key. ‘I consider it my goal to build a supportive learning environment where students know that they can ask questions,’ explained Mikhail Pogorelov. ‘I also wanted to make sure that they understood what I was saying and so I often asked for feedback. It’s also important that students feel comfortable enough with their peers to ask questions and help each other. Games were one good way of creating a friendly, supportive atmosphere. Class turned out to be a place where we didn’t just study – we interacted with each other and had some fun.’
Students were also given the task of presenting their country’s history to the rest of the group. ‘This was one of the most successful activities’, said Mikhail Pogorelov. ‘It’s important to get students to relate the material presented in class to their own histories and realities – it helps them remember it. What’s more, it was a great way for the group to get to know each other better and to make the most of the culturally diverse environment.’
Ho Diem Kieu Mi (Mi) (Vietnam)
Mi was born in Russia and always knew that she wanted to return as an adult to live and study. Her father agreed with her decision. ‘My father was very glad when I announced that I wanted to do my Bachelor degree in Russia – he fully supports my decision’. While she initially found the Russian language study challenging, Mi is now one of the best Russian language students in the 2017/2018 Preparatory Year. ‘I have my teachers to thank for that’, she claims. ‘My teachers were always ready to answer my questions. Not just my Russian teacher, but my teachers for History and Mathematics as well.’
Mi is certain that it was the support of her teachers that enabled her to pass the final exams and be accepted into the HSE-University of London double degree programme in Economics. ‘Mathematics is obviously very important in my chosen field of study. Having finished the Preparatory Year, I feel ready to take on the Bachelor degree programme and I’m confident that I’ll be able to cope with the subject material.’
Diana Eid (Syria)
One of the main aims of the Preparatory Year, in addition to providing students with intensive language training, is to help participants adapt to university life in Russia. According to Diana, it did just that. She is looking forward to the prospect of spending the next 2 years at HSE as a student in the Master’s programme in Applied Economics and is already sure that she wants to remain at HSE to do post graduate studies.
‘I feel really good about being at HSE and I so want to stay,’ says Diana. ‘My experience with the students in the Preparatory Year has been so positive and we are very close. We also had plenty of opportunities to get to know other HSE students and so my friendships aren’t limited to the programme.’
Like Mi, Diana also found the Russian language classes challenging at the beginning but, after 10 months of intensive tuition, is now confident in conversation and has no trouble interacting with locals. ‘When I first arrived, I was shy and embarrassed about making mistakes. But now I have lots of Russian friends, which is invaluable in continuing to improve my language skills!’
Мa Wenda (China)
The recipient of a scholarship from the Chinese government to study in Russia, Ven Da is proud of the progress he has made in the Russian language since undertaking the Preparatory Year programme 10 months ago. Ven Da certainly did his research before deciding to come to HSE. ‘I already spoke Russian as I had studied it in China. So it was important to me to find a programme that was at my level and that would challenge me.’
Why this fascination with the Russian language? ‘I want to work as a Russian-Chinese translator’, explained Ven Da. ‘My dream is to become the translator for the Chinese President. And the Preparatory Year has set me on this path already.’
Having successfully passed the final exams in June, Ven Da will soon move to St Petersburg to undertake a Bachelor programme in Philology at Saint Petersburg University, where he looks forward to studying Russian greats such as Pushkin and Dostoevsky. He says, ‘While I would have loved to have stayed at HSE to do my Bachelor, my scholarship obliges me to do it in St Petersburg. I’ll miss Moscow and studying at the HSE, but I hear that St Petersburg is a beautiful city with a literary history. This will no doubt inspire me in my continued study of the Russian language.’
Ven Da is convinced that now is the right time for students and young professionals in Russia to seek opportunities in China. ‘Russians are eligible for scholarships from the Chinese government, if they speak Chinese well enough to study and work and in China’, he says. ‘This is all the more reason to start learning Chinese, if you haven’t already’, he laughs. ‘I am really excited about the relationship between our countries. Chinese students who speak Russian and have professional experience in this country will have a lot of professional opportunities in business and in working as translators in the future – both in Russia and in China.’
Abhinav Sharma (India) (Secretary of the International Students’ Association at HSE)
Abhinav Sharma, from India, feels a deep connection to Russia and the Russian culture, despite not having any Russian heritage whatsoever. ‘At the moment, many people in India want to go to the US and Canada,’ explained Abhinav. ‘I wanted to choose a different country where I can get to know about the real culture and tradition, and where fewer Indian immigrants live.’
Having already completed his Bachelor degree in Information Technologies at Uttar Pradesh Technical University in Lucknow, India, and now looking forward to starting a Master’s programme in Project Management at HSE, Abhinav is experienced when it comes to searching for the right university and the right educational programme.
For Abhinav, HSE was the right choice. ‘I did a lot of research before deciding to come to HSE to do the Prepartory Programme’, he explains. ‘I initially thought that I would go to MSU because it’s a very prestigious institution. But I had heard about HSE and I knew that it is one of Russia’s leading universities, so I organized to meet with the heads of the Project Management course.’
For Abhinav, it was this opportunity to talk with the teachers and programme administrators that was most important in making his decision. ‘I wanted to see how they talked about education and how they treated me. At HSE, I got an excellent impression. I very quickly realized that I would have everything I need – excellent teaching, access to the right resources, and the opportunity to build my professional network in the sphere of management in Russia.’
Abhinav is already well-integrated into the HSE environment and is active in the student community as the Secretary of the International Students’ Association. However, not only has he clearly adapted well to university life, he also feels very at home among Russians in Moscow. So much so, that he is determined to stay on and live in Russia upon completion of his Master degree.
‘It was the close-knit environment at HSE that helped me to adapt to life in Moscow’, he explains. ‘I have had very positive experiences with my teachers and peers that have reinforced my decision to live and work here. Russia and India might seem worlds apart, but we are connected by our long histories and rich cultures. The Preparatory Year programme helped me to realise this.’
Photos by Sergey Strokov/ HSE
HSE’s Preparatory Year Programme for international students includes not only intensive Russian language training but also subject specific courses. One such course is ‘Russian Literature’, which introduces international students to classic works by Russian writers such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. In the course, students read and discuss select texts in the original Russian, which helps them gain a better understanding of the Russian culture and history.
HSE Preparatory Year students not only learn Russian and get ready to enroll in Bachelor’s or Master’s programmes but also explore Russian culture and way of life, which includes trying the local cuisine, sightseeing, and interacting with Russian people. Three international Prep Year students have talked to HSE News Service about learning the language, getting used to living in Moscow, and joining in New Year celebrations in Russia.
On December 20, the students of the International Preparatory Year programme at HSE’s Moscow campus got together to usher in the New Year in true Russian style. They all first arrived in Moscow this September with zero or very limited knowledge of Russian. So, their programme started with an intensive course of Russian as a Foreign Language. Now, three months later, they have already mastered enough Russian to make mini-presentations, perform sketches, take part in a Russian culture quiz, and solve Russian riddles.
Having fallen in love with Moscow and the Russian culture during an exchange programme three years ago at HSE, Alis Maria Endres, a native of Germany, decided that she wanted to return to the university to complete a Master’s degree in management. In order to be able to study in Russian, Alis Maria first enrolled in HSE's International Preparatory Year programme.
On November 15, international student admissions for undergraduate and Master’s programmes opened. This year, prospective students can apply to two programmes simultaneously. They’ll be able to track the application process online in their personal profile on the HSE website where they will receive notifications on the stages of their application’s review and decisions by the admissions committee. The documents for visa invitation can also be submitted there.
‘Everyone Finds It Challenging in the Beginning, but I’ve Progressed a Lot, and Now I Can Speak Russian Very Well’
On July 21, 2017, the graduation ceremony for the Preparatory Year programme was held. During the ceremony, more than 170 students from 40 countries received their diplomas, which will enable them to continue their studies in Russia.
HSE’s Preparatory Year trains international students with little or no knowledge of Russian before they begin Russian-taught full-degree programs. Over 10 months of intensive study, students improve their language skills (reading, listening, speaking, and writing), study in a chosen academic field (humanities, economics, or engineering), and adapt to the new educational environment. Upon completing the Preparatory Year, students are expected to possess intermediate-level Russian language skills and be ready to enter Russian-taught full-degree programmes at HSE and other Russian universities.
On July 5, the application window closed for international students who made it through the selection process for state-funded spots at the Higher School of Economics. Those students who were not selected are still able to apply to the university for tuition-paying spots, or can enrol in the university’s Preparatory Year programme.
On June 27, the first cohort of HSE Preparatory Year graduates received their diplomas after passing the exams. Launched in 2015, the programme offers international students an excellent opportunity to develop their Russian language skills and prepare for Russian-taught programmes at HSE and other Russian universities. This year, approximately 90 people from over 30 countries studied in the programme, which included several tracks – economics, humanities and science.
On November 25, the HSE Preparatory Year programme held a special welcome meeting for its new students. The aim of the event is to better acquaint them with HSE and the educational programmes it offers.