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In January 2012, 13 students of the Higher School of Economics visited Singapore as part of the ‘iConnect: Connecting global Youths. Inspiring future Entrepreneurs’ exchange programme organized by the students from the National University of Singapore.

The trip was organized by the HSE Innovation and Enterprise Office with financial support from the faculties of Business Informatics, Management, Economics, Sociology and Media Communications, as well as the regional branches, who helped with the cost of students’ air tickets. The delegation consisted of the winners of a recently held contest, which involved the participation of over 100 HSE students from Moscow and other regional campuses. As a result of this competition, the HSE was represented in Singapore by three students of the Faculty of Business Informatics – Alexander Ivanov, Olga Nechaeva and Olga Vasilieva, two students of the Faculty of Management – Elena Subbotina and Arseny Zamyatin, as well as Daria Ryabchikova and Ivan Kolykhalov from the Faculty of Economics, Elena Konobeeva and Anna Kopylova from the Faculty of Sociology, Kristina Pavlova from the Faculty of Media Communications and Evgeny Lidjiev from the Faculty of Law. Two students from the HSE’s Saint Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod campuses also participated in the trip: Timur Butukhanov and Sergey Ivanov.

This year the project also attracted students from Peking University, the European Business School (Germany), National University of Taiwan and the University of Tokyo. During the week they listened to lectures, visited companies, participated in group discussions, looked at case studies and examined the specifics of entrepreneurial culture in different countries. Throughout the week, the focus was on innovative entrepreneurship.

We talked to some of the HSE students about their impressions of the country, the National University of Singapore and the programme.

‘The main thing in Singapore is not the beauty of the city, not the level of technology and innovations, but its people’, says Daria Ryabchikova. ‘Singapore is a country which has almost no natural resources. But the people of Singapore are not dependent on imports.

In this country you cannot help being possessed by the entrepreneurial spirit even during a short trip. One cannot imagine a more fertile environment for business than Singapore. The state supports not only established companies, but also student start-ups. We talked to lots of young entrepreneurs, and each one of them was a participant of an innovative project created with the support from both the university and the state’.

‘It is not only competent state support for entrepreneurship that makes Singapore different from Russia’, believes Elena Subbotina, ‘The government there seems to be more open and accessible. For example, we were easily able to Mr. Teo Ser Lack, Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry and discuss with him the problems of entrepreneurship and the political situation in Russia.’

‘The National University of Singapore also impressed us’, said Ivan Kolykhalov, ‘firstly with its infrastructure: the campus is so big that there is a special free bus service, taking students from one building to another. Leisure time at the university means sport. Our general impression was that the whole city is very keen on healthy living.’

The second part of the iConnect programme will be the visit of Singaporean students to the HSE from May 11th – 18th. The programme which will introduce them to Russian entrepreneurial traditions and practices will be prepared for them by those HSE students who went to Singapore. They will find sponsors, invite interesting speakers, organize meetings at companies, design the cultural part of the visit and solve other problems related to hosting the international guests. The programme will be dedicated to developing entrepreneurial and leadership skills in the students, teaching them the basics of business start-ups, the art of communication, negotiation and self-presentation. The trainers and speakers will be experts and businessmen from the USA, Europe and Asia. CEOs of some successful start-ups will share their experiences, including those organized by the students and graduates of the HSE.

Taking into account the interest in entrepreneurship shown by HSE students during the contest for the trip to Singapore, it was decided to widen participation in the educational part of the iConnect programme in Moscow to other HSE students. Participation in the programme will allow them to work in teams with students from other universities, including the National University of Singapore, to talk to prominent Russian entrepreneurs and to develop new business ideas.

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