‘I Feel at Ease in Russian Class’
Since September of this academic year, the HSE International Prep Year (IPY) programme has offered a supplemental Russian language course for international students studying at HSE. It is designed for students who have successfully graduated from the preparatory programme and are now studying in undergraduate or graduate programmes at HSE on Russian government scholarships. The HSE News Service spoke with students about the course and learned how it is helping them in their studies at HSE.
Many foreign students come to HSE’s IPY programme with no prior knowledge of Russian. Upon entering the University, they therefore do not yet possess sufficient mastery of the language to study in a Russian-taught programme at the same level as a native speaker. To solve this problem and help foreign students adapt to the academic Russian-speaking environment, the programme decided to organize additional training in Russian for first-year international undergraduate and graduate students.
‘The new supplemental Russian language course provides additional training for international students,’ says Alexandra Nazarchuk, Director of the International Preparatory Year. ‘When developing the course, the organizers were primarily guided by students’ needs and weaknesses. The main goal of the programme is to make sure that students speak Russian at a sufficient level that allows them to study in their chosen area alongside their Russian peers.’
The course focuses on deepening students’ knowledge of the Russian language and familiarizing them with Russian academic style and register
Students develop their skills in academic speaking and scholarly writing in addition to practicing their ability to understand and outline scholarly material specific to their area of specialization.
After completing the course, students will be prepared to pass the certification exam in Russian at the TRKI-2 (B2) level. The course meets four times a week at a time convenient for the students. Group instruction takes place both face-to-face and online.
Wan Jiachen, originally from the small Chinese city of Jianyin, is currently a first-year Master’s student studying Muslim Worlds in Russia (History and Culture). He began studying Russian as an undergraduate student at the Capital Normal University in Beijing, and now he is additionally studying Russian at HSE on Wednesdays remotely.
‘In class, we study grammar, vocabulary, and prepare for the B2 exam,’ says Wan Jiachen. ‘For me the hardest thing is distinguishing between Russian words that are similar to each other. But learning new words is very interesting. Our teacher Elena Alekseevna pays great attention to colloquial speech. We learn not only words from books, but also popular expressions. In class, we also read social and political texts and listen to audio recordings of news reports. All of it is extremely useful.’
Xu Hantong, a first-year Bachelor’s student of Philology, is from Harbin. She began learning Russian in school, and it was then that her teacher recommended that she study in Russia. She also studies online for several hours a week in a free Russian language course at HSE.
‘The course helps us get used to reading Russian literature. Studying philology always means mastering a large number of books, so it’s not easy for me,’ says Xu Hantong. ‘The Russian language is challenging; there are many unfamiliar words, and I often get confused about what word to use in what situation. But our teachers help us overcome these difficulties, using interesting techniques. For example, they show short videos, play songs, and show infographics. So I feel at ease in Russian class.’
Elena Aisakova, Visiting Lecturer, HSE International Preparatory Year
It has long been noted in the methodological literature that upon reaching an advanced level of proficiency in a foreign language, when a person understands almost everything and can express himself quite freely, his motivation for further study drops sharply, and there is often a great temptation to quit classes. Students taking the IPY supplemental course do not lose their desire to improve their knowledge.
Since September, we have formed friendly multinational groups that bring together both undergraduate and graduate students. Their starting level was about the same, but their linguistic interests were somewhat different: some were more interested in vocabulary, others wanted to focus on syntax. As a result, there was a mutual enrichment. Students got each other interested in aspects of the language that they otherwise might not have wanted to learn much about.
The main quality of our students is diligence. Every week they come to class with new questions about the language, and the amount of complex language problems that we must overcome together does not scare them at all. I am amazed by their desire to understand subtleties such as, for example, numerous verb prefixes or the stylistic characteristics of words. They are making progress in mastering the Russian language, and I hope that they will continue to study it in the future.
‘Every Word and Grammatical Construction That I Learned in the Preparatory Year Is Very Useful for Me’
Though born in Ukraine, Roksana Ramirez has lived all her life in Bolivia. A native Spanish speaker, Roksana came to Russia with no knowledge of Russian. She is currently studying at the Graduate School of Business in a Russian-taught Master’s programme in HR Analytics. In an interview with HSE News Service, Roksana describes how HSE’s Prep Year programme helped her become proficient in Russian and how she is now mentoring current prep year students to help them adjust to university life.
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 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.
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.