Different Perspectives and Different People in HSE’s ‘Semester in Moscow’ Programme
Adrian Murillo Ramirez-Moreno is from Mexico City and is currently a third-year student at Universidad Anáhuac México where he studies International Relations. Nicholas Viggiano, from New Jersey, USA, is a third-year student at the University of Maryland, where he is pursuing a double degree in Russian and Environmental Science. Both are studying in HSE’s ‘Semester in Moscow’ Programme. The programme not only allows students to study Russian language at any level, but to design their own curriculum—students have their pick of any English-taught courses they choose, regardless of field. Students are accommodated in the HSE dormitories and receive an official transcript upon completion of the semester.
HSE News Service sat down with the two students to talk about their impressions so far of the programme and living in Moscow.
Adrian Murillo Ramirez-Moreno
© Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE
Adrian Murillo Ramirez-Moreno, Universidad Anáhuac México
Out of all the countries I could choose for studying abroad, for me Russia was the perfect choice. A friend of mine from my university in Mexico did this same exact programme one year ago, and she couldn’t stop talking about it. And I had always thought about Russia, because, as an international relations student, I am interested in learning all perspectives on world issues. Unfortunately, in Mexico we only get Western points of view. So coming here for me was just a logical way to deepen my knowledge and enhance my career opportunities.
Most of the courses I’m taking here are related to energetics. This module I am taking courses on World Energy and International Security, and next module I’ll be taking courses on Politics and Economics of International Energy and the challenges of global poverty. So it’s a mix of energetics and different aspects of the world, such as poverty and international security, which I’m just really enjoying so far, because the perspective of Russian academics on these issues is a little different than the way I’m used to. My favorite class is called ‘Media and Social Institutions’, which analyzes how world media and different media platforms are shaping the governments of the world and their institutions. And that’s quite interesting. Seminars are with our instructor Volha Verbilovich, and the main head of the course is Professor Iliya Kiriya (Head and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Communications, Media, and Design).
What is also different is the way in which they teach the courses here. Unlike in Mexico, where lectures and seminars can blend together—professors encourage students to interrupt and start debates, regardless of the class format—here seminars and lectures are very different from one another. Seminars are for discussion and debate, while lectures are for listening and taking everything in. Lecture is once a week, and seminar is once a week. And I kind of enjoy this strict division.
Adrian Murillo Ramirez-Moreno and Nicholas Viggiano
© Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE
I’m loving Moscow. I like how I can go to any museum in Moscow for a really low price because of the student discounts, or even for free—I think I’ve been to the Pushkin Museum 4 times in the last 2 months! Moscow is such a big city; you never feel like there’s nothing to do. There is always something to do, there is always somewhere to go, something new to see, and for me I don’t feel homesick at all, because I am used to living in a big city. And Moscow is actually quite similar to Mexico City—it is packed with people, but also the metro system is so efficient. I can go just anywhere and not be worried.
Besides all the great things there are to do here the amazing thing for me is the snow. In Mexico we don’t get snow, except in the mountains, so that has been quite an interesting change in life itself. Everything is different—from the way I dress to the way I interact with the city—so all of that has been a great new experience. I really enjoy going ice skating here at the beautiful ice skating rinks.
Living in the HSE dorms is certainly different from living at home. There are people here from all over the world and all different cultures. One moment I’m in the kitchen talking with a guy from Albania and then 5 minutes later I’m having a conversation with an Italian and an Austrian who are fighting about whose coffee it is that’s been left in the kitchen. It’s good to have this mashup of different cultures. One can learn a lot by getting to know people from everywhere in the world, and also one learns that we are not so different.
© Mikhail Dmitriev/ HSE
Nicholas Viggiano, University of Maryland, USA
Since I am pursuing a double degree in Environmental Science and Russian, I wanted to come here to improve my Russian and also to see if I could find ways to combine my two academic interests—because there’s not really a clear link between Russian and Environmental Science when you first think about it. So that was one of the biggest goals. I’d also been to Moscow before and really liked the city.
When I found out about this programme, I knew I wanted to apply, because I’ve never really seen a programme like this, where the students have so much control over their own study abroad programme. Most of programmes have a set list of courses and that is what you take—you have no say in the matter. At HSE, on the other hand, you get complete control over what courses you’re taking: you even have a couple weeks where you get to try out different courses and see what you like and what you don’t like and change around your schedule. It’s really nice, because you don’t get stuck with a class you don’t enjoy.
I’m taking two elective courses offered by the Russian Language department—one’s about Russian literature and theater, and the other is a course on Russian in Business and Mass Media which I figured would be helpful if I ever decide to come back to Russia and work here. I’m also taking a course on Russian politics. My favorite course is probably Green Economics: From Theory to Practice with Professor Georgy Safonov (Director of the Centre for Environmental and Natural Resource Economics), which discusses environmental policy and environmental issues in Russia. I’m really enjoying the course since it combines my two fields of study.
It’s been especially interesting studying Environmental Science here. I think Russian environmental scientists have the same ideas as those in the US, but the way they need to approach things is different because the way in which society here responds to environmental issues is much different. In the US, sustainability, and the whole Green Revolution are such huge things right now and society as a whole is aware of it and trying to make better choices, whereas in Russia people generally don’t think about it as much. Every week our class has a guest lecturer who deals with a different sphere of environmental policy or environmental science, and the ways in which they have to approach things is not so clear—it’s not so simple as, ‘oh we have this issue and here’s the solution, so that’s what we’re going to do.’ Instead you have to find creative ways to get society to introduce the solutions to society.
I actually started studying Russian in 9th grade, and after my junior year in high school I came to Russia for the first time in 2014. I studied in Nizhny Novgorod for 2 months, and then in 2017 I came to Moscow for an internship. So I have experience with living in Russia and Moscow in particular.
This time around, it’s been a particularly unique and interesting experience to live with people from all over the world in the HSE dorms. It’s a lot of different perspectives and a lot of different people.
And generally, I like how there’s always something to do in Moscow. One day you could go to an art exhibit and the next you could go ice skating, and the next day to the movie theater. Some people say they don’t like the busy nature of Moscow, but I like it. I never worry about whether I’m going to be bored. It’s impossible to be bored in Moscow.
Applications for Fall Semester 2019/20 are open until June 15, 2019. You can find all the necessary information about the application process on the programme website.
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HSE’s family of international students grew even larger in January when over 50 students arrived to study for the duration of the spring semester. They come from all over the world — Europe, Asia, North America, and even the Caribbean.