From Russia with esteem
On December 18, the HSE School of Russian Studies graduates received their diplomas. The SRS Dean congratulated Dana Nenova, Serge Morrella, and Alexander Chernyak on successful graduation. The HSE News Service interviewed them.
— Leonid, how long has the HSE School of Russian Studies existed?
L. Ionin. It was established in 2005 as a new HSE department for foreigners involved in Russian studies. More than 170 students have studied at the School of Russian Studies. English is the language of tuition. The best HSE tutors, professionals in economics, political science, sociology, and history of culture are all involved in the teaching.
— Who are the students of the School of Russian Studies?
L. Ionin. There are two groups of foreigners. The first is students from foreign universities coming for one-term studies, full-year studies, or summer (winter) school in Russia. The second group is made up of foreign professionals employed in Russia.
— What is the selection procedure for students?
L. Ionin. Nothing complicated. Candidates fill in an application form and come to us. It is relatively expensive, but in terms of selection there is no need for any special procedure. I find it hard to believe that an uneducated person would pay money and visit Russia to study at the HSE without a good reason. Students from leading foreign universities come to us. Students of the Wharton Business School (University of Pennsylvania) and the Harvard University are among the School of Russian Studies alumni. There was one unexpected situation when a major from the US marines came to Russia after the Iraqi military operation.
— Dana, could you tell us why you wanted to study in Russia and why you chose the HSE?
D. Nenova. The HSE is one of the best liberal Russian Universities. Today there are many global economic problems. They are the same for the entire world. But Russian and American approaches differ greatly. I want to adopt an alternative to American vision on this urgent issue. The SRS programme appeared to be worth studying. All of the courses were connected with Russia. They revealed the Russian outlook on the world system and the Russian approach to research. As a result, I got a personal vision of Russia as a whole.
— But what is the reason for your interest in Russia?
D. Nenova. I was born in Bulgaria and the "Russian topic" has always been vital for my family. My relatives visited Russia. I studied at a Russian school till the 7th grade. So ties existed. In recent years, attending courses in economics at an American university I realized the great prospects for Russian economic development and became interested in the country.
— So is Russia a subject for your scientific research?
D. Nenova. Me and S. Morrella (the Wharton Business School) had adopted ad hoc program. There are two specializations within it: business and international studies. My sphere of interest is connected with Russia and Eastern European countries.
— Did studying at the HSE meet your expectations?
D. Nenova. Before coming here I had no particular expectations. But I hoped for support and I've found it. I spent so much time in this room, sitting at my computer.
— What about teaching at the SRS?
L. Ionin. A strong academic program has been developed. It includes history, economics, politics, and culture. Professional courses are focused on Russian business peculiarities, local legislation and taxation, state and local regulation and corporate management in Russia.
D. Nenova. This year only three students attended the School of Russian Studies. Each of us has personal, professional, and scientific interests. We were able to communicate with the tutors individually and thus receive what we wanted.
L. Ionin. Special courses are included into our personal curriculum. There were similar courses within the curriculum, but we have the opportunity to work with each student personally since there are not many of them.
— What is your reason for coming to Russia, Serge?
S. Morella. My parents were born in Russia. They often told me about their happy student years. So I became eager to taste it for myself. Also the SU HSE is a well-known university. The fact that the Minister of Finance and members of the Russian Academy of Sciences teach here arouses a natural interest. This is one of few places in Russia where a tutor and a student can communicate as colleagues. And I really could always share my experience and impressions with the SRS professors. We had a small group so there were more opportunities to speak about one's professional problems and interests. Also you can always ask questions during lectures.
— Will the SRS certificate be of any use in the US?
S. Morella. We will receive ECTS credits for our second specialization - International Research in former USSR and Eastern Europe. Studying at the SRS corresponds with our programme well. One of the essays I wrote here is to become the background for my diploma project. I wrote a paper on Russian investments abroad and hope to go on with this topic and to stay in contact with professors Vladimir Zuev and Sergey Afontsev. They taught us economics and assisted me in my research.
— What was the most important thing you learnt in Russia during this term?
A. Chernyak. All the experience I got during the studies could be relevant. I specialize in problems of diversification. In order to understand global issues it is insufficient to use only the American experience; a comprehensive approach and studying different worlds is necessary. I approve of the programme very much. I believe it is a good opportunity to communicate with tutors. Also my Russian language skills became much better.
— What are your plans for the future? Do you plan to visit Russia again?
A. Chernyak. I don't have any particular plans right now, but I think I'll come to Russia in the future. I tried so hard to learn Russian. Russia is a very good country that has always occupied an important place in the world. I like Russian people and I think Russia has a great deal of potential.
S. Morella. I am also very fond of Russia and think that it has a great potential. But it is only potential that can be realized by strong efforts. I'll study at the university for a year and a half. And then I plan to return to Russia or to go to the Ukraine. We have been taught to work anywhere in the world. I don't know where I'll work but I am ready to be employed anywhere.
— Did you find anything surprising or shocking in Russia?
D. Nenova. Moscow itself seems like a miracle to me!
L. Ionin. What do you mean?
D. Nenova. I was surprised that Russian people are prone to close interaction. When they consider a visitor not an ordinary passer-by, but a person who is to be near, they open very quickly. I learnt my neighbour's family story after just two weeks of living together. At first I didn't know what to answer or how to speak about politics. In the US and Bulgaria we adopted a particular vision of the situation in Russia and Putin - Medvedev`s policy as well. But here another view prevails.
D. Nenova. Moscow is a very large city. It is hard to get used to the great number of people and fast pace of life. There are many policemen and other uniformed officials in Moscow. When City Day was celebrated it seemed to me that there were more policemen than people on the streets. It was strange for me. The policemen are not doing anything. They just sit and watch. Another strange thing is the number of metal detector units, turnstiles and other stuff like that everywhere, even at museums and theatres. Even if you only want to visit someone's office you need to receive a special permit and pass through a security checkpoint.
A. Chernyak. Russia is very interesting country. It differs from the US greatly. This term was difficult for me because I was afraid to speak Russian. But then I got used to it and everything became easier.
Moscow has its advantages and disadvantages, like all large cities. But I prefer to see the positives: it is a beautiful city with interesting people.
Ludmila Mezentseva for the HSE News Service.