Online Courses and Psychological Assistance: How HSE Volunteers Are Working During the Pandemic
On March 18, the Older Generation Support Centre opened at HSE University. HSE News Service continues to interview students and employees of the university who are helping senior citizens through the difficulties of self-isolation by delivering medicine and food, sharing useful information, and holding online classes. Today, volunteers who teach foreign languages to pensioners speak about how they have become volunteers.
Arina Fedorova, first-year master’s student, Faculty of Humanities
I began volunteering when I was a first-year bachelor’s student, so I’ve had a solid five-years of experience. I taught English to children of refugees, then I was involved in deciphering manuscripts in the archives of the Tretyakov Gallery. I am currently a volunteer of both the Memorial Human Right Centre and the HSE Older Generation Support Center.
I try to help people whenever I can. I submitted an application to participate when I saw the email newsletter saying that volunteers are needed to support older people. Moreover, I told my younger sister (she is an HSE student, too) about the project, and she is going to join it.
I mainly teach French. There aren’t many volunteers who can teach this language, so I decided to give it a try. All university studies have been suspended, but students of the HSE Moscow Longevity project want to continue their courses online. Currently, I’ve got three female students. I have one-on-one online classes with each of them twice a week. We discuss things, study new words, and analyze grammar.
All the women I’m teaching live very active lives. They have hobbies: they are keen on sports, they adore going to the theatre and art galleries, and they study foreign languages. It is not easy for them (as for all of us) to stay at home, being trapped between four walls. So I believe simple human communication is vital in this time.
It is important to be able to distract people from coronavirus concerns and help them focus on positive things and normal, everyday news
Teaching is quite helpful for me too, as it gives me a good opportunity to improve my language skills. Besides, each of my students is an interesting person to talk to. Each of them has a lot of fascinating stories to tell me about her life, so I love chatting with them. I would like to continue teaching them when the pandemic is over. I will be happy if any of them would like to go on with the classes.
Yelena Plotnikova, 63 years old, Arina’s student
Arina teaches me twice a week. Each online class lasts 15-20 minutes. We discuss various topics in French. We have talked about Paris and we’ve learned something about each other (first Arina answered my questions about herself, then it was my turn to answer her questions). Next class, we will be talking about professions. We both want to continue our sessions.
It is great when volunteers can help older people. I have classes with Arina and I’m supported by volunteers of the Moscow Longevity project: the students share videos on gymnastics and yoga, telling me about other useful things I can find on YouTube. HSE offered me some help too, but I declined because I didn’t need anything else.
Victoria Popova, third-year student, Faculty of Social Sciences
The pandemic has affected almost everyone in the world. Now we realize that we are all hostages of the same problem and that we can only solve it together. Not only heads of states, but also medical workers and ordinary people should stand together to fight the virus. Unfortunately, older people appear to be the most vulnerable group of the population. Many of them are staying at home all alone, and they are being bombarded with sad and scary news. This can’t help but affect their emotional state. Foreign language classes are a wonderful opportunity to forget about one’s problems—at least for the time being—and to relieve psychological stress.
I teach English to some elderly people who live in Moscow. We meet online twice a week using either Skype or a messenger. My students have different levels of English proficiency, which I always bear in mind, and I try to meet their needs: some of them would like to brush up on grammar, while others just want to have some speaking practice.
Online learning is our future. It is good that older people in Moscow have sufficient levels of information literacy skills, and they feel pretty comfortable using special programmes and messengers.
I like working as a volunteer. I’ve made friends with some very interesting people. This has been a valuable experience volunteering, communicating in a foreign language, and helping others learn English. Today everyone has a wonderful opportunity to do something useful to others.
Russia is becoming an increasingly popular study destination for African students, and HSE University is actively seeking to attract more students from African countries. Bakary S. Sonko, from Gambia, is a master’s student at the Graduate School of Business and an active member of the volunteering community both at HSE University and beyond. In this interview, Bakary recounts his achievements as a volunteer and talks about how African students at HSE have built a supportive and welcoming community for each other.
Sheripher Dinala, from Malawi, is a student of the Master’s in Political Analysis and Public Policy at HSE University in Moscow. With her busy summer over and the new academic year in full swing, Sheripher shares her stories of moving into a university dormitory, volunteering at international conferences, and nighttime dancing by the Moscow River.
A team of researchers, including scientists of the HSE Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology, have analysed the evolutionary path of the coronavirus from the Wuhan variant to Omicron. Their findings indicate that many genomic mutations in SARS-CoV-2 are shaped by processes occurring in the intestines and lungs, where the virus acquires the ability to evade the inhibitory effects of microRNA molecules. The study findings have been published in the Journal of Medical Virology.
From August 7 to 9, the annual All-Russian Forum of Medical Volunteers took place at HSE University’s Cultural Centre. The event was held for the seventh year in a row. This year, 300 medical volunteers from all over Russia took part.
HSE researchers, in collaboration with their colleagues from Skoltech and the Central Research Institute for Epidemiology, have uncovered the mechanisms behind the emergence of new and dangerous coronavirus variants, such as Alpha, Delta, Omicron, and others. They have discovered that the likelihood of a substitution occurring at a specific site of the SARS-CoV-2 genome is dependent on concordant substitutions occurring at other sites. This explains why new and more contagious variants of the virus can emerge unexpectedly and differ significantly from those that were previously circulating. The study’s findings have been published in eLife.
The Green HSE student organisation recently held the ‘Green Conversation’ festival at the Cultural Centre on Pokrovsky Bulvar. At the event, participants discussed the planet’s main ecological problems and the steps required to start building a green future today.
HSE University is known for its active extracurricular life. There are many student organisations at the university, so everyone can find something for themselves. Anna Lulikyan, fourth-year bachelor student in Sociology, told the HSE News Service about the Best Buddies HSE volunteer club.
HSE University researchers together with colleagues from Erasmus University in Rotterdam and the University of Pennsylvania examined the determinants of episodic volunteer satisfaction and its impact on the motivation to continue volunteering.
HSE University graduates and the Nochlezhka charity organisation have launched a social media project called ‘Gde-to ryadom’ (‘Somewhere Nearby’) about volunteering to help homeless people. The project offers a look at volunteer work from various perspectives through personal stories, expert opinions, and interactive cases.
HSE Rector Nikita Anisimov met representatives of the HSE Situation Centre to discuss the results of its volunteers’ efforts. The meeting focused on new forms of support and the problems faced by students.