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HSE International Summer University in Full Swing

Every summer, HSE’s International Summer University attracts students, graduate students, post-docs, and professionals from around the world who wish to spend several weeks in Moscow to deepen their knowledge in a variety of fields. With the programme entering its second month, HSE News Service sat down with several students to talk about their impressions of it so far.

Camila Cordova, Mexico
HSE University/ Mikhail Dmitriev

Camila Cordova, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, Mexico

I decided to come here because my school has a partnership with HSE University and at my university in Mexico there are a lot of students from HSE. So, when I was deciding which summer school to go to and asked one of my professors for his opinion, he told me that the HSE students in Mexico are really sharp and that HSE’s educational standards arequite similar to those at my Mexican university. That influenced my decision to come here.

I’m a political science major. During my month here in Moscow, I’m taking three courses – ‘Human Rights Law’, ‘Advances in Decision Making Theory’, and ‘Fake News, Post-Truth and Digital Media’.

I initially chose ‘Advances in Decision Making’ because I thought it would be devoted wholly to game theory and would be more theoretical, but it turned out to be more on the math side – I learned new math approaches in game theory, and not the applied methods I already knew from my political science courses. The course was a bit complicated, because it was run by several teachers, each of whom showed a different method. However, we didn’t go deep into math and the purpose of the course was to give us a general idea of what the models were about.

The course was rather intensive – we had a lot of homework. I think I will be able to use the new methods in the future.

The Fake News course was a surprise for me, because I thought it would be more about the media, but it actually was more political, closer to my field, which I really liked. Professor Kiriya was really good. It was a short course, just one week, but I really enjoyed it. We talked about authors I’d already read, and it was interesting. I am particularly interested in the political psychology aspect of the course - how the masses react and vote. For this course we had to write a case study analysis essay – I chose a story about the Mexican presidential elections one year ago, when some video footage was released just prior to an important presidential debate falsely accusing one candidate of money laundering. The video went viral, polarizing the vote.

As for the last course, ‘Human Rights Law’, I chose it because I really like the legal side of things. In Latin America human rights are not a thing, like in Europe.

I was intrigued to learn how Russia perceives human rights law.

Professor Continiello is truly amazing. She is very knowledgeable. Her class was different from the other two – much more interactive. She also organized some excursions. To pass the course, we were expected to make a presentation and to write an essay on a human rights case – mine will be on the discrimination of housekeepers in Mexico, which is really a case of modern slavery, because these people work without health benefits, social security, fair wages or any kind of legal protection.

Overall, student life at HSE University is pretty similar to what we have at our university back home. The only new thing for me was interacting with people from so many different countries. I didn’t know there were so many African students here. I lived in the dorm and I got along with the people living there quite well. Not knowing Russian was of course a bit of a challenge because not all people here speak English, but the Summer University office has been very helpful. I’ve never been to Russia before and I must say it’s beautiful. I am really impressed.

Thomas Ledet, Denmark
HSE University/ Mikhail Dmitriev

Thomas Ledet, University of Aarhus, Denmark

I have actually lived in Moscow before – that was two years ago when I did an internship at the Danish Embassy. I had a nice stay then and liked the city very much. I thought that Russia is a very interesting place, and Moscow is an interesting city to live in, so I wanted to come back. 

At the moment, I’m doing my master’s in political science. In December last year I was checking the internet for some study opportunities in Russia, and I found HSE Summer University – it was in fact the only programme that I found. I signed up for five courses.

The first week I took the ‘Russian State and Russian Space’ course by Professors Suslov and Kanaev. After that I took courses on fake news, BRICS, and Russian soft power. My last course is ‘EU – Russia Economic Relations’. I am not taking any language courses because I only came to Moscow for 4 weeks and I felt that 5 courses would be enough for me. I do know some Russian – from my time in Russia and also because I took some Russian language classes in Denmark after my internship, but I don’t speak the language well. Still, it helps me get around the city. However, I must say, this time around I see more signs in English, especially in the metro, which is probably thanks to the world cup held last year.

I didn’t know what to expect regarding the academic level of the classes but I was pleasantly surprised to actually learn new things even though I have already spent four years studying international relations

It was interesting to learn about the Russian perspective on different international relations issues. It is not that it is completely different from what we see in Europe, but I have noticed that there are some differences between what is considered as facts on both sides. This is another reason I wanted to go here.  I study international relations, and this area is often Western-centric, so I wanted to see what it looks like from inside Russia. I think it’s important for me as a student of international relations.

I have a more nuanced view now and a better understanding of the Russian situation

For the fake news course I wrote a paper on a news piece from Fox News where they compared social systems of Denmark and Venezuela and came to an astounding conclusion that the situation in these two countries was not that different, which is certainly not the case. Generally, I believe that politicians have a huge responsibility nowadays – to uphold the facts and not to twist the facts to suit their narrative. It is also very important to do the fact-checking and verify the validity of the sources.

Moscow is an exciting city for an international student – there are so many museums, and it’s nice that there are student discounts. There are also good parks with free workout areas, pubs, restaurants, sports facilities. The city has everything that you need. I have also been to a lot of classical music concerts and ballet performances because I like this very much, and Moscow has a lot to offer in terms of theaters and concerts. The production of ‘Swan Lake’ at the Stanislavsky Theatre was very nice.

Alex Arnold, USA
HSE University/ Mikhail Dmitriev

Alex Arnold, University of Kansas, USA

I've been studying Russian at my university for the last year. I know a little bit of it. I had a friend who was studying abroad, and that really piqued my interest into looking at different countries to go to. So, having studied Russian, I thought it would be really cool to come here and work on my language as well as study and get a different view on many different topics.

I came to Moscow for a month and I’m taking three courses at the HSE Summer University – ‘Russia’s Soft Power’, ‘EU-Russia Relations’, and ‘Global Actors in Public Policy’. At University of Kansas I am majoring in political science and I'm looking into a minor in Russian.

I certainly got a different perspective, especially with the EU-Russia Relations course. I definitely changed my opinion about interactions between the two. As for the global actors course, it helped me identify true analytics for what it means to be a global actor. With ‘Russia's Soft Power’, I learned about a different aspect of diplomacy and foreign policy, which was also very useful to me as a political science major.

The Global Actors class with Professor Belyaeva was probably the most intensive class, because we had to write a five-page paper and make a little presentation. For our paper we had to identify and analyse a global actor. Initially I chose an organization in the US that cleans up oceans, but it was more of a private business and not really an organization. I chose again and I picked an institution for scientists that works with different policymakers to include the right wording for science development policies. 

In the other two courses, we had lectures followed by an oral exam—which was different for me since I've never had an oral exam in the States. I guess it was more difficult than a written exam.

Although the courses are all in English, living at the dorm has really helped me work on my Russian – I got to use Russian more and rely less on my translator app

This has been very beneficial for me. I use Russian outside the dorm as well when I go to a grocery store or move around the city.

It is my first visit to Moscow. I absolutely love everything about Russia and Moscow. I definitely am looking to come back. During the first few days here, I went with my buddy to different parts of the city, including Red Square and the GUM shopping mall. I also just walked around Moscow, which was very interesting. By now, I've learned my way around the city. I can use the metro confidently and know how to get from one side of the city to the other very fast. I absolutely love the metro - I really enjoy how the metro looks, and also the street musicians that perform there.

Valeria Michelle Ruiz Arce, Mexico
HSE University/ Mikhail Dmitriev

Valeria Michelle Ruiz Arce, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, Mexico

I've been interested in Russia since I was a child. I was thinking about doing an exchange at HSE University, because my university, ITAM, is a partner university of HSE. I was working at the international office at my home university, and I thought, well, if there is an opportunity, a partnership, why not? I’m finishing my bachelor’s degree now, and I thought it would be a nice experience to take my last two or three courses abroad. And I thought, why not do it in Russia?

I’m taking a Russian language course here. I started to learn the Cyrillic alphabet and listened to a couple of Russian songs before coming here, but I didn't understand anything. Once you understand and memorize the alphabet, it gets easier. But then, the next stage is when you have to read everything and listen. As long as you keep practicing, reading becomes easier. Then, you have to also learn the vocabulary, which is completely different, although there are some words that are really similar to Spanish. I still have to learn a lot, and I would like to keep learning Russian. But it's more difficult to learn Russian than English.

I feel that I've progressed. I still don't understand a lot, but I really try to push myself to learn some words, to try to communicate with others. It's really difficult, but the language course was very helpful and the professor is really nice

In addition to the language course, I took 'Russia-EU Relations' and 'Politics and Economics of Energy', which is an amazing course. I'm really interested in the topic and Professor Zuev knows a lot about energy and pushes us to be innovative. After the class was finished, he gave us some parting words of encouragement, which was really great. He is an expert in his field sharing his knowledge with us, and he knows how to do it. Another course I’ll be taking is 'Behavioural Economics'.

Although I sometimes had courses six hours a day, I still had some time to do sightseeing. Moscow is a big city, but Mexico City is also huge. I was born and live in Mexico City, so I'm used to it. Here, everything looks so huge, and I really like it. Compared to Mexico City, Moscow has more historical buildings. In Mexico City, there is a historical part and a modern part. But they are both big cities with a lot of things to see and to do. There are many restaurants, and I am amazed but food markets in Moscow—I really love them. As for Russian food, I really like vareniki (traditional Russian dumplings with different stuffing). And I love the Black Star Burger place near HSE’s main building.

I'm actually planning to come back again to do part of my master's or maybe get a degree. I'm really interested in getting to know the culture. For my master's, I'm really interested in the field of energy. Professor Zuev told us about a master's programme on world economy with a specialization in energy, and I also know about the master's programme in STI Governance and Technology. I'm really interested in that as well.

From June 20–August 20, participants take courses of their choice in international relations, law, history, Russian studies, business, computer science, and a number of other areas in the social sciences and humanities. Many of the courses, taught in English, focus on the politics, history, economics, and culture of Russia and Eurasia.

See also:

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