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‘My Prep Year Experience Has Been Phenomenal; I Would Repeat It All over Again if I Could’

The International Preparatory Year programme held its graduation ceremony in July. This academic year, 125 students from 50 countries were enrolled in the programme. They will continue their studies at Russian universities, most of them pursuing bachelor's and master's programmes at HSE University. The graduation was organised as a quest, where the students were able to demonstrate their achievements in learning the Russian language. Graduates from Ecuador, Syria, and Mexico shared their impressions with the HSE News Service, Deputy Director Polina Shanko talked about plans for the coming year, and mathematics teacher Vladimir Gordin gave his advice to future students.

The largest numbers of students came to the Prep Year from China (26), Turkey (8), Iran (8), Egypt (7), India (6), and Thailand (6). A total of 90 students will be admitted to HSE: half to bachelor's and half to master's programmes. The most popular fields among Prep Year graduates are economics and international relations.

For obvious reasons, some students faced difficulties coming from distant countries this year. Several students were unable to come or had to return to their home country—they continued studying on an individual study plan and took exams online. The ratio of students from different countries is also changing.

Nada Mohamed, Syria

© HSE University

I’ve been accepted to study for my master’s degree at HSE University in Financial Economics, on a scholarship provided by the Russian Government. The programme is fully taught in English. I got my bachelor’s degree in mathematical statistics back home in Syria.

I chose to study in Russia due to several factors. First, many of my family members studied and graduated in Russia. Second, my mother has Russian ancestry. I moved to Russia after graduation and started searching for universities to continue my academic journey. There are many good universities in Russia, but I chose HSE University because it focuses on economics. I graduated from a university that is economics-related, and I chose to continue my studies in Financial Economics.

Before coming here, I was able to say a few words in Russian, the bare minimum for any foreigner. Before enrolling in the Preparatory Year, I had lived here for one year, which gave me an advantage. I knew some of the language, but it was not academic.

During the Preparatory Year, I learned more about the structure of the language, its grammar, and how it works

Mathematics wasn’t hard for me because I’m familiar with the topic, and I can say that I’m a mathematician. In History and Social Science, we learned a lot of theoretical information. But most of all, I enjoyed the Russian as a Foreign Language course, because I was excited about its practical focus. I can’t say I had any major difficulties with studies: all of the teachers and our office were helpful and supportive whenever we had any issues.

I’m in love with Moscow. I feel a personal connection to this city, and wherever I go in Russia, I still feel that Moscow is the best

When I started thinking about getting a master’s degree, I had a plan to upgrade my knowledge, to make a career shift. I’m a mathematician, but I dream of working in banking and finance. I’m not sure yet, but maybe I will stay in Moscow, because this city and this country have given me a lot. I’m thinking about giving back to Russia by working here and being an active person.

Carlos Hernandez, Mexico

© HSE University

In September, I will begin studying for a bachelor's degree in Economics at the HSE Faculty of Economic Sciences. I will be studying in Russian.

I started learning Russian on my own in Mexico four years ago when I was 15 years old. After watching the American movie Bridge of Spies about the Cold War, I became interested in discovering more about the USSR and Russia, so I decided to start learning Russian to get acquainted with Russian culture and history.

I studied Russian through YouTube videos and textbooks.

For those who want to study the language, I can say that learning Russian is a long process, but the most important thing is practice

Without practice, it is not possible. I downloaded apps where I found native Russian speakers and started communicating with a Russian girl. She helped me practice: we would talk for 2–3 hours every day. She was very helpful to me, and we became close friends. It is also good to buy a textbook if possible, because in addition to practicing with people, it is necessary to use books to study grammar.

After finishing school, I decided that I wanted to study economics and even got enrolled in a university in Mexico. But I also applied for a scholarship in Russia through Rossotrudnichestvo and received it. Studying in Russia was my dream, so when I got the scholarship, I did not hesitate. I chose HSE because it is the best university in Russia for economics.

I am interested in the financial sector: I have always been curious about how the economy works because everything comes down to economics. I am also interested in how the stock market operates.

I really enjoyed the process of studying Russian during the Prep Year. HSE University has very good Russian language teachers who help international students. Russian language is very difficult, and to master it at a high level, you need the help of teachers.

The main difficulty I faced upon arriving in Russia is bureaucracy. As foreigners, we need to arrange various documents: migration card, registration, fingerprinting, medical tests. And at first, it is very difficult because you have to understand everything in Russian and communicate with the employees of these organisations in Russian. It requires a lot of patience. It took me five hours to complete the fingerprinting process at the Sakharovo migration centre. Getting medical tests took about three hours. Obtaining a migration card and registration went fairly quickly. HSE has a buddy programme, but unfortunately, in my case, my buddy could not help me. As a result, I received all the documents myself, managed to do everything on time, and even helped other students with their paperwork.

I really like Moscow. It is a very convenient city for studying and working. I am from the capital of Mexico, Mexico City. This city is similar to Moscow, but in reality, it is more convenient here: there are many different apps that let you order absolutely anything. Mexico doesn't have that yet.

People in Russia seem a bit different at first. In Latin America, people are very warm and friendly, while here people communicate differently. But I have never encountered any xenophobia.

I have made a lot of friends here, both Russians and foreigners

After completing my bachelor's degree, I want to apply for a master's degree, but not right away. First, I would like to work in Moscow—you can get a good job and gain valuable experience here.

Daniel Freire, Ecuador

I heard about HSE University from my father, who does business with Russia. He did a lot of research about universities in Russia and strongly recommended HSE, so I followed his advice. I started the HSE Preparatory Year after finishing high school in Ecuador, and now I’m enrolled in the bachelor’s programme in Economics and Data Science. The programme combines a lot of things that are important for the future. There are more and more jobs related to informatics and data, and it’s essential to be able to work with these areas today.

My mom is Russian, so my conversational Russian is alright, but I decided to go for the Preparatory Year to improve my writing and reading skills. My experience in the programme has been phenomenal: I met incredible people from all over the world, I don’t have any regrets and would repeat it again if I were able to.

The professors were amazing—they were some of the friendliest people I have ever met. They helped us to feel at HSE University like at home

I have always been into history, so I enjoyed the history course on the Preparatory Year. And even though I have applied for Economics and Data Science and I like math, it doesn’t come easy to me. Russia is very strong at math. It is a powerful school renowned across the world, and I had a bit of struggle there. But with enough perseverance, I have been able to make it through.

When I arrived in Russia, the big change seemed a bit scary, because you are going from something familiar to something completely unfamiliar. But as I mentioned, the teachers were incredible and helped to ease this tension.

Moscow is an incredible city. It’s very modern and diverse

It is one of my favourite cities thanks to its incredible atmosphere that can’t be replicated anywhere else. I managed to survive the cold winter with a lot of hot tea and sleeping in warm clothes. I had no issues with transportation in Moscow; I fell in love with the Moscow metro. In the current political situation, there are certain problems with money transfers and international travel, but they can be solved. It’s not like the country is closed.

After getting my bachelor’s degree, I would like to continue my studies at a master’s level, but I will see what my experience on the bachelor’s programme is like. Then, I’ll decide whether I want move towards economics or data science.

Polina Shanko

Deputy Director of the HSE Preparatory Year programme

This year, a lot of students took the final exam in the form of certification test in Russian as a Foreign Language (TORFL). In addition to our certificate, they will receive an international certificate confirming their level of Russian, which can also be used as an entrance exam to HSE University.

The teachers regularly held conversation clubs where the students played games and discussed student life and life in Russia. There was also a regular film club where students watched and discussed short films in Russian.

The Russian language teachers provided a cultural programme for their classes, and this year we paid special attention to that. The participants travelled to cities across Russia, visiting museums, theatres, and even a circus. We organised creative workshops, including a culinary workshop.

Each class had a cultural event every month, providing an opportunity to practice Russian outside of the classroom and bond with classmates

Our students participated in the International Conference ‘Scientific Initiative of International Students and Postgraduates’: two students went to present their papers to Tomsk, and two more spoke online. Prep Year students also went to the ‘We Welcome All Flags’ festival at Tula State University, where they participated in the exhibition and performed songs on stage.

Both scholarship-based and paid enrolment are planned for the 2023/24 academic year. Enrolment for paid positions is still open.

Currently, we are developing our own textbooks for the subject ‘Russian for Subject-Specific Purposes’. This course introduces students to academic speaking and terminology and teaches them how to apply and use it in university studies

For example, as part of this course, each student defends a project on a chosen topic in Russian. Our team of teachers has been writing and testing materials throughout the year, and now they are finalising it into a textbook format, which we plan to publish in the next academic year.

Vladimir Gordin

Research Professor at the Faculty of Economic Sciences Department of Mathematics, teacher of mathematics at the International Preparatory Year

Sometimes, you have to choose between being comfortable and getting knowledge. I can help you with the latter. Mathematics is taught at a high level at HSE University. That’s why I highly recommend that future students start preparing before the beginning of classes at the Prep Year. If you have a few months before coming to Moscow, get some textbooks and find online materials. You can also write to the HSE study office and we will send you such materials. That way, when you come here, it will be easier for you to study.

Learn more and apply for the HSE Preparatory Year. The application deadline for the 2023/24 academic year is August 13, 2023.

See also:

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Russian Speaking Club: Practicing the Language and Meeting New Friends

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‘The Graduation Ceremony Was the First Time We Saw Each Other’: 2023 MASNA Graduates Celebrate in Person

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‘Russia Is a Land of Openness and Possibility’

Lorenzo Trufolo graduated from Bologna University and is studying in the HSE International Preparatory Year ahead of his master’s studies in international trade at HSE University. In his interview, he talks about his studies in Russia, participation in academic conferences and competitions, and the challenges of living in Moscow.

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‘We Want to Make Sure that International Students Have Fulfilling Academic and Personal Lives’

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HSE Prep Year Students Present Their Research Papers at International Conference in Tomsk

From April 25 to 27, a scientific student conference was held at Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU). It was attended by international graduate students and postgraduate students from 57 countries, including four students from the HSE Preparatory Year programme. The HSE News Service talked to the conference organisers and participants about their impressions of the event.

‘The 4th International Economics Olympiad—My Journey’

Oghogho Joy Isibor came to HSE University after earning a scholarship from the Faculty of Economic Sciences for her performance in the International Economics Olympiad. She is one of several foreigners to apply via the same competition. Oghogho is currently studying on the HSE University Preparatory Year Programme before starting her Economics degree. Read on to find out about her experience of the Olympiad, adapting to life in Russia, and the challenges of learning Russian for her future studies.

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Okro Soup, Bubble Tea, and Relleno: International Students Share Their New Year's Traditions

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