‘I Didn’t Ever Think I’d Download Phone Apps for Probability Distribution Functions’
At naval academy, Aleksandr Moshkov studied spherical trigonometry and built mathematical models of Earth’s surface. Now, the sea captain has dived into HSE University’s Economic Analysis programme. Aleksandr had the truly unique opportunity to study for the Master’s online without giving up his job at sea.
— What is the educational path of a sea captain?
— After the ninth grade, I enrolled in the Voronin Arctic Maritime Institute. I was inspired by the sight of huge cargo ships travelling along the Northern Dvina River and heading to different countries. When I finished my studies, I went to St Petersburg to try to apply to the Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping. By the time I arrived, there were only 27 places still available and 150 applicants. I was helped a lot by luck and by the mathematical knowledge I gained at school—my algebra and geometry teacher developed our mental arithmetic skills, and she dedicated ten minutes at the start of every lesson to it. That continues to help me in life to this day.
— You graduated from the academy with honours. What do you remember from your studies?
— I found some subjects easy—I was familiar with them from my previous studies, and we studied them in more depth on a basis of higher mathematics and spherical trigonometry. A lot of topics were based on assuming Earth is a sphere, and we applied mathematical models of Earth’s surface. Theory was often combined with practice in positioning systems (GPS, GLONASS) and navigation systems (gyrocompasses, gyroscopes). Some subjects, such as philosophy and psychology, were difficult. I found it hard to get to grips with and remember subjects where there are lots of words and not a lot of logic.
At the academy, I met renowned professors who amazed us with their intellect and their ability to convey material in lectures, explaining complex meteorological and technical processes using nothing but a piece of chalk and a cloth for the board.
— Why did you decide to take an online master’s in economics?
— I love to analyse various situations, source data, and resources for finding the optimal solution. It seems to me that this is close to economic analysis. Another factor was the ability to study online. I had to go back to my previous activities, and even far from home, my studies have never stopped. Before applying, I examined the programme website and had an online consultation with the study office. They explained to me that the programme was different from part-time learning, and there were no mandatory exams at the end of the semester.
— Is it difficult to study?
— I try to do everything on time and not fall behind—your engagement in your studies should last the whole semester, even if you study online. You can’t do everything perfectly. The only person who doesn’t make mistakes is the person who does nothing. When I get the results of tests, I always try to look through them, analyse them, find the right solution and try to remember it for the future.
The fact that my academy studies were quite a long ago does have an effect. My brain is a little creaky when studying complex things, but I figure it out bit by bit. I’d like more practical activities. The recommended problem books do not always give full information on the solutions—they often just give an answer to the task and it is not always clear how they arrived at it. So, you have to spend a lot of time looking for information online. Another difficulty is programming in econometrics. Before, we used other programming languages, and the tasks weren’t so serious. I watch lectures several times, and the internet sometimes helps. I never thought I would download phone apps with various probability distribution functions, but now I have them.
The main goal at this stage is not to fall behind in my studies. I am putting maximum effort into this. I really like HSE University’s approach to constructing the course: the extensive lecture base, as well as the digital environment and remote support for students. I would also like to highlight the openness and availability of the lecturers, their assistants, and the heads and managers of the online Master’s.
— What is the student community like on the programme?
— People are inquisitive, trying to find the way to the right solution and contacting the lecturer through the established channels. Some try to complete assignments at the last minute because they are so busy at work. We all have a desire to take part in seminars, but not everyone can—this is noticeable in the number of participants. Students of the programme are united by their determination—the point of studying—as well as a great sense of humour. Even in difficult situations, we try to find time to relax. We support each other in chat groups when someone falls behind or has difficulty with an assignment. I have also noticed that no one in the public chats asks for the answers to tests. They might ask about which area to look into or what to use to find the answer, but they don’t ask for the answer itself. Everyone tries to achieve the results themselves.