International Students Successfully Complete HSE Preparatory Programme
On July 18, graduates of HSE’s International Preparatory Programmes had much to celebrate. For many, the day not only marked the last day of a rigorous programme, but the beginning of their next step in their education journey: enrolling in bachelor’s and master’s programmes at HSE University. Students and their instructors celebrated the occasion with a festive graduation party that included awards, poster presentations, cake for all, and even a Russian folk music performance.
The day also formally recognized the graduates’ nontrivial achievement: becoming proficient in Russian within a year in HSE’s Basic Course programme. The programme is designed for international students who have little or no knowledge of Russian language but intend to enroll in Russian-taught bachelor’s and master’s programmes at HSE.
Preparatory Programmes at HSE University
Begun in 2015, enrollments in the courses have increased every year. In the 2018/2019 academic year, 250 students from 60 countries completed the programmes—that is 31% more students than when the programmes first began. Moreover, in 2018, the programmes saw 14 of their first alums receive master’s degrees from HSE University.
Up to the Challenge
Intending to study in a Russian-taught programme at a Russian university in a year (or sooner) when you have little to no knowledge of Russian may seem unrealistic or over-ambitious. Director of International Admissions, Alexander Deev, who attended the graduation celebration to personally congratulate the students, admitted it himself. Marveling at the students’ progress, he noted (in Russian), ‘Though you all came from widely different countries without any knowledge of Russian, you did it: you completed this programme, you earned your certificates, and you learned Russian. To be honest, if I were in your place, I’m not sure I could have done it.’
But many of the graduates of HSE’s International Preparatory Programmes demonstrated that becoming proficient in Russian within a year is in fact possible. And this is the aim of HSE’s preparatory programmes, which provide an immersive experience for international students. The programmes, which are taught in Russian, provide intensive training for international students and bring them to the CEFR level B1/TRKI level 1 of language proficiency, enable students to enter a full-degree programme at HSE or other Russian universities. The programmes start with an intensive compulsory course of Russian as a Foreign Language, after which students may take courses in general subjects in 3 academic tracks: humanities, economics, and engineering and technology.
The programme involves more than academics, however. International Preparatory Programme Deputy Director Dariya Makrushina enumerated the various programme activities that that helped the students get to where they are today: ‘You not only spent hours upon hours on coursework or taking exams, you participated in performances and cultural events, and you went on excursions around the city with your Russian instructors to museums and theaters.’
In her congratulatory remarks, Programme Director Alexandra Nazarchuk lauded the students who have already completed their applications to HSE University programmes. ‘Though your acquaintance with HSE University began with us, it will not end with us,’ she said. ‘It is only beginning.’
Russian: For Many, a New Lingua Franca
While English could be heard occasionally at the event, Russian was the dominant language—and, in fact, for many programme participants, it is their only common language.
When Wata Dharile Seviya, a native of the Republic of the Congo, received a government-sponsored scholarship to go abroad during her first year of university, she didn’t know what to expect. ‘When I applied for the scholarship that brought me here, I didn’t know where I would end up. The Congolese government sends scholarship recipients to different institutions with which they have cooperation agreements. I got sent here to HSE. And I’m very glad I ended up here.’
Wata has enjoyed her time at HSE so much, that she has applied to complete her bachelor’s here. 'Next year I will study media communications at HSE. I really like it here, because I can study anything I want.'
I have more opportunities here. I also really like HSE because of the people. I’ve made some great friends here who are always eager to help me if I have a problem.
Though she came here with no knowledge of Russian, it is often the only common language the native French speaker shares with her fellow international classmates. ‘I have made many friends here,’ Wata says. ‘I try to spend time with Russians as much as possible, because they help me speak Russian better. I have African friends, but I don’t speak with them that often. I want to speak Russian like a native speaker. One thing that really helps is that my roommate is Russian. Though she is Russian, she is not from Moscow. So we have that in common.’
For Phong Thu Nguyen from Vietnam, Russian is also her primary means of communicating with classmates from different countries. ‘When I first arrived, it was difficult for me – I didn’t speak Russian. But my teacher really helped me. Exams were difficult at first, but things got better after a lot of hard work. I spend a lot of time studying Russian even in my free time. And I’m glad I’m here. When I was in Vietnam, I had heard that HSE is a really good university. That’s why I chose it. And so far, I don’t regret my choice!’
One Starting Point, Different Paths
Drawn to HSE by its high position in the international rankings, Razibur Rahman of Bangledesh, plans to continue on at HSE to pursue a bachelor’s degree in software engineering. ‘After my positive experience here in the preparatory programme, I am confident that studying software engineering at HSE is the best choice for me,’ says Razibur. ‘I live in Dormitory # 8 in Odintsovo and I have made many friends there. They are from many different countries – Syria, Algeria, and also Russia. They are older than me, and some of them have already started the software engineering programme, so I talk with them about what it’s like.
And I feel like the year-long prep programme has prepared me well. My favorite course was Russian language with Nikita Muraviev.
Thang Minh Hoang of Vietnam has come to HSE University to study world economics. ‘While completing my first year at Vietnam National University, I applied for an exchange scholarship to come here. In fact, this is a return for me—I was born in Russia, but my family moved back to Vietnam when I was 6. Though I don’t really remember much of Russia—especially the language—I missed it. I am very glad that next year I will be continuing on here to study world economics. I look forward to spending the entirety of my undergraduate studies here.’
When I came, I didn’t speak Russian at all, and now I can speak pretty well.
When asked about his experience in the preparatory programme, Thang said, ‘I took mathematics, Russian language, history, and social studies. Mathematics was my favorite – mathematics has been a favorite since high school. But most of all, I liked the instructors of the programme. They are not only kind but extremely talented. They also showed us how to self-study. It’s not very difficult but it’s not easy either. It is definitely an essential skill that I will use next year.’
Admissions to HSE’s programmes are now open. International students can apply online. To learn more about HSE University, its admission process, or life in Moscow, please visit International Admissions website, or contact the Education & Training Advisory Centre at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or via WhatsApp at: +7 (916) 311 8521.
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HSE University’s International Preparatory Programme has awarded diplomas to the class of 2020. International students completed their yearlong intensive studies that included a Russian language course and a variety of subject specific courses. The aim of the preparatory programme is to help international students get ready to enroll in Russian-taught full degree programmes at HSE and other Russian universities
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Elena Aisakova teaches Russian to students of International Preparatory Programmes. Her five groups have all transitioned to distance learning. HSE News Service has asked Elena and HSE's international students what it’s like to study Russian online as well as what tips they have to help others learn effectively while being on ‘opposite sides’ of the computer screen.