‘I Am Really Thankful for This Opportunity to Expand My Knowledge’
Friederike Augustin is a second year Master’s student in Comparative Social Research double degree programme with Free University of Berlin. After reading European Studies for her Bachelor’s she enrolled in an Eastern European Studies programme to have the opportunity to spend some time in Russia.
I was not so interested in Russia before because I thought that it is so big—a super power—and I was more interested in smaller countries, so I spent several months in Ukraine and Kazakhstan. I got interested in post-soviet societies and mentality and at some point I thought that after seeing some countries around Russia it was probably time to finally go TO Russia.
What I did in my Bachelor was much more Political Science-focused. The programme here is more Sociology-oriented and even more specific. This was all new to me. I had to take some crash courses in Statistics, which was a bit challenging. But I see that it’s extremely useful and I am very thankful for this opportunity because I know that my institute back in Berlin does not have the capacity to teach quantitative methods and statistics in the way HSE does. I didn’t know that but it’s been a useful surprise.
I was a bit surprised by the actual content of the study programme because I didn’t know that it would be so specific. I thought it would be a broad sociology programme. In my programme in Berlin we can choose a specific track—I chose Sociology. But unlike here, where sociology is the core and it’s about learning methods and theory, in Berlin it’s much more applied. We are studying social movements and civil society. So, before coming here I lacked some basic theoretical knowledge of sociology. I am really thankful for this opportunity to expand my knowledge. The courses here complement our courses in Berlin, although the focus is slightly different here.
I didn’t have many methods seminars in my Bachelor’s so I feel that everything that I do here is very useful. I’m focusing most on different research methods, qualitative and quantitative. I can choose courses that are most useful for me. In the first module I took, for instance, Contemporary Sociological Theory course.
I’ll end my Master’s with at least the basics of every aspect of sociological research and what I need to know. For instance, one thing I’m glad about is that when I write my CV in the future, I’ll be able to write that I have experience working with ‘R’ statistical package, which is amazing. In the first module, we started working with R and in the second module we learnt more specific techniques. It was not something very sophisticated but for somebody from a non-statistical background it was still kind of mind-blowing.
I’m most interested in sociology – in terms of understanding society. For my master’s thesis, which I will be writing under the supervision of HSE Assistant Professor Lili di Puppo, I’m going to research feminism and anti-feminism in Russia. I am still in the early stages of planning my research but I know that I’m going to use a qualitative method – do interviews. I was really lucky because I got a one year visa which means that I will probably come back in spring to do the interviews during the period of 2-3 weeks. I think I will do about 10 interviews. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to focus on feminist activists or on the opposite side, which is a more conservative group. I am not sure I will be able to do the interviews in Russian so I will probably have to rely on sources who speak English.
I’ll be defending my Master’s dissertation in October, via a Skype conference—it’s good that Berlin students have the option of deferring their defense till autumn.
What I would like to do most in the future is to work in a think tank—a small research institute that works on a project basis. I had a student job in this kind of institute before I came here and I’m also going to return there so this is really nice because they are doing a lot of research on EU – Russia relations, which is political science focused. There are also other projects. For instance, they are helping social sector in Ukraine to implement EU association agreement. It’s a mixture of giving workshops or working practically but also working with content that’s very interesting for me. In the long term I might do a PhD but first I need to write my Master’s thesis and see how that goes.
Living in Moscow
My expectations regarding the city were quite precise—I was not overly surprised. That is probably because I have lived in post-soviet context before so I was familiar with different aspects of daily life, so there was no culture shock. I could get around speaking Russian and I didn’t seem very lost in the city, although Moscow is very big. In Berlin I also move around a lot, so I was prepared for long distances but there I often go by bike everywhere while in Moscow I have to rely on public transport. I was really happy to see that the infrastructure works really well. I expected something more chaotic and was pleasantly surprised. All the apps work well and you can get informed online about everything—metro, bus system, taxis.
Big plus is the amount of support international students have at HSE University—I can always email the programme manager and she will take care of all the issues. She is always approachable, which is great. All the procedures are very well organized at HSE Unviersity – everyone who works with international students speaks English well and you are not lost. It’s very helpful for international students.
Russian or English?
I spend a lot of time with international students, but I communicate with Russian students as well. In Comparative Social Research we have about 1/5 international students and the rest are Russians—it’s a good mix. We have a Telegram group, which is really great because even though we might not have so much time for talking and going out for a coffee, chatting on Telegram still gives a feeling of belonging to one group, a nice group vibe.
Our programme is taught in English so we communicate in English as well, but I also get to use my Russian, which I have been studying Russian for quite a while now—I started in my Bachelor’s programme. I read a lot of posts on social media in Russian, for example, several Russian Telegram channels on feminism. I also have Russian language classes here at HSE—about 5 classes every week. My teacher of Russian is the best teacher I have ever had. Her approach to teaching is very good. We have about 10-15 people in our group and we are at B1/B2 level at the moment. In my daily life I always speak Russian—I communicate with the landlord in Russia, do the shopping in Russian, etc. I only switch to English if I am really interested in the topic and want to have an in-depth conversation, for which my Russian might not be enough.
Admissions to HSE’s Master’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: email@example.com, or via WhatsApp at: +7 (916) 311 8521.
Multiple factors determine how well immigrants can adapt to living in a new country. According to research, the key factors are social capital, i.e. having friends who can help with housing, employment and other basic needs, and the immigrant's approach to becoming part of their new community and culture (i.e. acculturation attitudes and strategies). A team of HSE researchers examined the relative importance of social capital and acculturation strategies for successful adaptation of immigrants from Central Asia and South Korea living in Moscow.
People’s values of personal choice, suсh as their attitudes towards abortion, divorce, and premarital sex, are usually determined their level of education, age, religiosity, and social status. At least this is the case in many countries such as the US and those in Europe. In a recent study, HSE sociologists found that in post-Soviet countries, personal values are most determined by people’s level of patriotism.
More than 500 large families in three Russian federal districts were surveyed to explore reasons why couples choose to have many children. Five main patterns were identified, driven by values (partner trust and religious beliefs), socioeconomic circumstances (income and education), and availability of support from extended family and friends.
The turnstiles and entrance gates used in municipal transport not only ensure that passengers pay, but also structure their behavior according to age, body size, ability and speed. Many people must maneuver themselves to pass easily through the rotating arms or swinging gates of an Automated Passage Control System (APCS): passengers cannot be too large or too small and must not walk too quickly or too slowly. Sociologists studied how turnstiles impose uniformity on passengers’ physicality and behaviour.
Although HIV infection rates are high among the transgender community in Russia, many transgender people know very little about the virus, as well as their own health status. In Russia’s first study to examine transgender people as an at-risk social group for HIV transmission, demographers attribute these high infection rates to the community’s social stigmatization and isolation, as well as a lack of access to medical services. The study’s findings have been published in the HSE journal, Demographic Review.
Advice from Above: Sociologists Have Assessed the Impact that Priests Have on How Their Parishioners Vote
Political preferences of at least 21% of Orthodox voters in Russia may be influenced by the clergy and their fellow believers. Based on an online survey of 2,735 respondents, HSE University sociologists Kirill Sorvin and Maksim Bogachev concluded that religion has a considerable impact on people’s political choices. The scholars assume that the share of those who vote ‘in an Orthodox way’ may be higher: many respondents were under 34, and young people are a minority among Orthodox believers in Russia.
The greatest fear of young women living in big cities is that of sexual violence. It is not necessarily based on the actual crime rate in the city but often instilled by family and society. As a result, women tend to carefully pre-plan their behaviour and movements in 'suspicious' places based on safety concerns. HSE researchers interviewed a group of young women about certain aspects of their fears and strategies they use to deal with it.
Couples with three or more children often feel that others judge or refuse to understand them. Their decision to have many children seems to annoy their extended family, neighbours, colleagues, health professionals and government bureaucrats. Very often, other large families are the only one who offer them support. Based on findings from in-depth interviews, HSE researchers describe the effect that social interactions can have on fertility.
A flexible schedule is one of the main advantages of freelance work. But don’t rejoice in your freedom just yet: self-employment often disrupts the balance between life and work and takes up more time than traditional office work. HSE University researchers Denis Strebkov and Andrey Shevchuk investigated the downsides of independent work.
The main channel for transmitting the value of volunteerism in Russia is from parents to children, HSE University researchers have found. Younger generations in families begin helping others as they grow up, following the example set by their elders.