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How to Study Abroad and What It’s Like

Image by Andrew Tan from Pixabay

The application period for the 2020 spring semester study abroad programmes is now open. Read on to learn how to apply and what it was like for HSE students who went abroad previous semesters.

Where can I study abroad?

The list of partner universities can be found in the programme catalogue, which includes universities in over 25 countries.

Please note that the application deadlines may vary from one university to another. For example, eight university programmes have moved their deadlines up by almost a month. The new application deadline is August 25, 23:59 (Moscow Time) for the following universities:

List of the universities

For all other universities, the application period is open until September 22, 23:59 Moscow Time.

How can I study abroad?

  1. Familiarize yourself with the HSE mobility programme requirements.
  2. Find a programme that interests you in the programme catalogue.
  3. Calculate your budget for the semester. Bear in mind that you won’t need to cover the programme tuition costs at the partner university, but you will need cover all other costs (e.g., visa, accommodation, insurance, etc.).
  4. Complete the online application. For this step, you will need to collect all the required documents, including your individual curriculum, approved by your study office, and a motivational letter.
  5. You will be notified via email of the admissions committee’s decision regarding your application no later than mid-November. The notification will be sent to the email address you provided in the application.
  6. Prepare for your trip. Attend orientation events where you can ask questions and get recommendations from students who have already participated in exchange programmes. By the way, you can download a pre-departure checklist of things you need to be sure to take with you when you study abroad.

What should I read before applying?

Check out the admissions statistics of previous semesters: it will help you get a sense of your chances in the admissions process.

Read through the Frequently Asked Questions page, which includes information about the eligibility of those studying in reserve officers’ training programmes, tuition discounts, and more.

You can also read on to learn about what it was like for HSE students Maria Sukhorukova, Alexandra Vasyukova, and Alexandra Suvorova to study abroad.

Maria Sukhorukova
Paris Institute of Political Studies Sciences Po (Lyon, France)

On Choosing Where to Study

I studied abroad for several years in high school, so I decided to do it again at HSE University. I chose to go to France, since I’d already spent three years there at a French Lyceum: I speak French very well and I’m familiar with the culture and local lifestyle.

I liked the Paris Institute of Political Studies right away — it’s one of the most prestigious universities in France, and it is very difficult to get in there. Fortunately, HSE students can go there for a semester without any difficulties. The only thing you need to think about in advance is the language proficiency requirement. When I applied, I already had a DELF (C1) language certificate, which is something you can’t just get last minute.

On Preparing for Departure

I had to get ready to spend a semester in Lyon, the third largest city in France. Before leaving, I watched city guide videos on YouTube and perused Instagram accounts of residents and tourists of the city. I also contacted an HSE student who went to Sciences Po a previous semester.

I found a place to live near the university, so that I didn’t have to take a crowded train in the morning during rush hour. However, I made the mistake of choosing a single room in the residence hall instead of a room with roommates. I think you adapt to the new environment faster if you have roommates. You don’t get bored as easily, either.

I was a little worried about the classes, since all the lectures would be in French. I was lucky to find an online platform where the French students there upload their notes from lectures after graduation. This is a great find for international students!

On the Programme

The university organized leisure activities for students, such as various events and trips.

For me, graduation day was the most memorable of all.  When I was there, it was the university’s 70th anniversary, and in accordance with tradition, a gala evening for the students was held in the castle outside the city. This large-scale event with the castle, the students’ dresses and tuxedos, the concert, and security was organized perfectly.

I would like to give the following advice to prospective exchange students: if you have an opportunity to take part in an academic mobility programme, take it! You will never forget this experience. For me, studying at a foreign university was my own version of living the kind of fun and entertaining student life that you see in American TV shows.

Alexandra Vasyukova
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Madrid, Spain)

On Choosing Where to Study

From the beginning I knew I wanted to go abroad for a semester, but it was too early to do it during my first year. But my second year proved to be just the right time. I really wanted to get the experience of studying at a European university, to get to know their education system, to compare it with HSE University, and to push myself and get out of my comfort zone.

I applied only for Spanish universities, because I studied Spanish in school in the past. I was able to review and practice my Spanish before departure and more or less confidently speak it.

Since I did not pass the IELTS English exam, my list of universities to choose from was narrowed greatly. By the way, for those who also decide to go abroad their second year and are afraid they’ll miss the final exam in English at HSE — don’t worry, you can pass it next year.

On Preparing

I chose two universities (in Madrid and Barcelona) and started preparing the required documents. The most difficult part was preparing my individual curriculum. Everything else was easier: you just take a couple of documents to your study office and formalize them.
After receiving a positive response from the University of Madrid, I started preparing for departure. It was hard finding a place to live — I considered various options for a long time before ultimately deciding to rent a single room in an apartment owned by a local woman.

In general, I didn’t run into any problems, but sometimes I think that I would have gotten more out of my experience and had more adventures if I had lived with other students. But I made the right decision to  live near the university — a five-minute walk to the campus seemed like a paradise compared to my one-hour commute in Moscow from home to the city centre.

On the Programme

In terms of the classes, the first thing that surprised me at UC3M is that assessment is never based on your average academic performance over the course of the term—in contrast to most Russian universities, in France there is no such thing as getting a pass from your final exams if you perform well all semester. Everyone has to take finals no matter what. I took eight subjects, and for only one of them I didn’t have to take a final exam or test, so these exams caused me a lot of stress. However, my classes were interesting, and I quickly got used to English—I decided not to risk taking courses in Spanish.

I never got bored, on the weekends we went for walks in the city centre and took trips to other cities. People in Madrid love to hang out, so you never get bored. We had a week of vacations and a few holidays, during that time we could go elsewhere — to other countries or other regions of Spain.

Alexandra Suvorova
University of Jyväskylä (Jyväskylä, Finland)

On Choosing Where to Study

I decided to participate in the international academic mobility programme, because I wanted to be more independent and get the experience of studying abroad. I prefer cold climates, so I chose a country where it's cold. In addition, I’d heard from friends that Finland is just amazing. It was a nice bonus that at the University of Jyväskylä you can get a Erasmus Global scholarship, which covers part of your everyday expenses.

I had to contact the university in Finland in order to clarify some of the issues concerning document submission. It was easy for me to prepare the individual curriculum; I quickly found equivalent courses there to meet all the requirements.

On the Programme

At first it was a bit unusual, as the Finnish university education system is different from ours at HSE. They deliver lectures differently and use a different system of assessment. But it's all right; after a while you get used to it, and everything seems simple and understandable. I can recall only one unpleasant incident during my study abroad experience: I didn’t get along with my roommates, and we had several quarrels.

Despite some difficulties, my semester in Finland was a really positive experience, I did a lot of new things, and it was like a breath of fresh air for me. I left my job and realized that there is another, in my opinion, more progressive system of education, and most importantly — a different way of life.

The country and its people influenced me a lot. Finns are very friendly and happy people. They live in a healthy society and don’t define each other’s limits. A new look at the lives of others gave me the opportunity to reconsider my own.

Living and studying in another country was a positive experience for me. I would like to study abroad again, during my fourth year, but I don’t want to miss the exams, since you can’t make them up in fall. Instead you have to make them up the following year.

By Maria Eremina and Olga Korotaeva


August 15, 2019