The Student Initiative Support Centre and the HSE Faculty of Humanities are jointly organising free guided tours around Moscow. The tours are designed by final year students. Most tours are in Russian but the organizers are ready to schedule additional English-language tours for international students.
‘It was Tatyana Dubova, the Director of Student and Alumni Affairs, who came up with the idea,’ says philologist Vladimir Fayer, one of the curators of the project, ‘and we were delighted to give her our support. The main aim is to help first years from other cities and countries to find their bearings in Moscow. Usually guided tours take you to the famous sites but we have other priorities - firstly, to help them with practical knowledge of the geography of the city and secondly to learn about its cultural, changing side. Everyone’s looking for Red Square but how do you find nice places to go for a walk, or to read or study? Which theatres are worth a visit? The student guides were given carte blanche and so the excursions are all very different from one another. There’s a completely novel excursion about Moscow in the 1990s based on research by our master’s student, and the English guided tour of the metro, which has finished now. I’m sure the students will make their own interesting discoveries during the project and reveal Moscow’s hidden side.’
A competition was announced and applications came from students on all sorts of courses but mostly from the Faculty of Humanities. The students whose proposals were selected by the experts carried on working and tutors from the expert jury were allocated to each project.
‘Adaptive courses is an experiment. It was gratifying to see that it provoked a response among students and although we only announced the competition in June, we had more than a dozen project proposals,’ says one member of the jury, historian Boris Stepanov. ‘I think the organisers were right not to impose strict thematic limitations. Students were allowed to present their own views of the city and its environment. The project goes back to the idea of the University Open to the City programme where we found that not only can we open the university up for the city but also open up the city for the university, make the city a friendly and exciting space for students, jam-packed with interesting things to do.’
One of the first excursions was Moscow Books, organised by the LibGuide student project team (Cultural Studies students). They said that they covered the entire course of libraries and interesting, easily overlooked places nearby. ‘The weather has been so good recently that we’ve even wandered off our path and simply enjoyed being out and about,’ said Anastasia Ryzhuk, one of the guides. ‘We talked about where you can work quietly, undisturbed (that was the main purpose of the tour), but also about studying at HSE in general, about the cultural studies course and intercultural communications, and gave the students mini-guides to the Moscow bookshops. I think it was useful for both sides - we are sharing the knowledge we’ve acquired through three years of study and they had the chance to learn about the lifehacks for university and the city from people who have been through it too.
If enough people are interested the curators will consider organising English language versions of the tours.