‘I Really Enjoyed This Summer School Experience’
The HSE International Summer University completed its 2020 session on August 20. Due to the pandemic, the programme was held online for the first time. Students from all over the world met on Zoom to study Russian language as well as take a variety of subject specific courses and participate in informal activities.
HSE Vice Rector Ivan Prostakov praised everyone involved in the International Summer University for their commitment to the project. ‘Despite all of the doubts that the organizers had, they decided to try an unusual experiment – to transfer the Summer University entirely to an online format. Our wonderful teachers supported them, and in the end, they received the support of the students as well, who affirmed their willingness to study online in a completely new format. In order to take their classes, some students had to wake up very early while others had to go to bed quite late due to big time differences. Students of this year’s session were from thirteen countries, from Mexico and the USA, to China, Brunei, and Indonesia.’
Vice Rector Prostakov expressed hope that the course offerings proved interesting and useful for the students.
And most importantly, we hope that the Summer University became a bridge, if you will, connecting people from different countries—people who now wish to continue their friendships and meet – why not? – at our university. We look forward to seeing you again at HSE!
Despite the online format, the participants had an opportunity to not only study but also get to know Russian culture and traditions. For the past two years, the Summer University team has been joined by students of the Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication Bachelor’s Programme. Usually, HSE students provided support for foreign students throughout their stay in Moscow, by serving as assigned ‘buddies’ and helping them adapt to life in Russia. Every week, the students held orientation sessions for newcomers, hosted walking tours in English, and put on a variety of other social and cultural events. In addition, the students even gained some experience in teaching as they led Russian language classes.
As one of the supervisors of the project, Red Bushetara, Visiting Lecturer at the School of Foreign Languages, says, ‘This summer was especially challenging for the students due to the online format. They had to adapt and create a special set of events such as an online opening ceremony with interactive Kahoot activities and online discussion bars. Despite the distance and different time zones, they managed to immerse the international students in Russian culture. Whilst last year’s international students got to partake of Russian bubliki while learning about Slavic traditions, this year they got to learn the Uno dance by simulating a Russian disco (a.k.a ‘discoteka’) in a Zoom conference.’
Instructors and participants of International Summer University share their impressions:
Polina Malkova, Research Fellow at the HSE Centre of Comparative Law
Summer University Course: Human Rights Law
The goal of my course, Human Rights in International Law, was not just for students to complete the course and receive a good grade, to truly spark students’ interest in human rights and motivate them to keep learning about rights on a daily basis. This year, with online learning, the group was very small. Perhaps, for some students, it was not convenient to participate online. However, our small group was very international - from Hong Kong to Azerbaijan and Norway. It was an honour for me to teach, or rather, interact with these inquiring minds! I would recommend students to review the materials more and pay more attention to key points, organisations, and conventions. However, I am sure that after our fascinating discussions, in which we shared our different contexts and listened to invited experts and practitioners, my goal of sparking an interest in human rights was achieved!
Nadezhda Shilova, Assistant Professor, Department of Theoretical Economics
Summer University Course: Behavioral Economics
This year I faced the challenge of transferring my interactive course, which relies on games and active discussion, to a format in which social interaction is possible only through a computer screen. As it turns out, the more difficult the challenge, the more interesting it is to overcome. I think we managed to do it, and that it was an interesting experience for the students: they enthusiastically completed homework assignments, participated in economics games, and contributed examples to our discussions from their own lives and the countries where they live. A large portion of these examples, of course, had to do with the pandemic, and this only underscores the fact that the current situation has had an impact on our minds, actions, and emotional state.
An interesting observation I'd like to share is that this year more of the participants were from Asia. This change in geography was accompanied by a change in the usual level of student motivation. In previous years, my course on behavioral economics attracted students from the Americas and Europe. They were interested in exploring Moscow; many of them said that, after the programme, they were going to travel to St. Petersburg and other places. Most of them were students of economics or management who wanted to take the course in order to expand their everyday knowledge of economics.
In this year’s group, there were a biologist and an engineer, and the reason they chose the course was that they ‘had a lot of free time and they wanted to spend it in a productive way’.
So, as it turned out, online and offline formats attract completely different kinds of students
And I think that’s great – it means that more flexible approaches to teaching can get more people involved in it. And the more people that are involved, the more ideas.
Tong Jia, China
I study linguistics at the University of Tromsø. This year from July 20 to August 20, 2020, I decided to take Russian Language for beginners because my host university and HSE have some solid research collaborations and a special relationship, especially in linguistics. Moreover, I am interested in comparing and researching different languages and their interrelations.
Most importantly, I am drawn to the country by its rich culture, beautiful landscapes, and unique historical legacy
This summer school at HSE brought all the international students together, giving me an opportunity to not only make friends but also learn Russian language and get to know Russian culture. After the Russian course for beginners, I can communicate with basic greetings, describe time, favourite food, things I like to do in different places. I also learnt basic grammar like accusative case, prepositional case, present tense, past tense, gender cues, etc.
I was totally mesmerized by the different word endings at first. Through interactive and entertaining training online, most of us could grasp the basics of prepositional case and accusative case in word endings.
In addition, we also had some extra complimentary courses during the summer to test our knowledge of Russia through online games. All these online activities and interactions strengthened the bond between people and culture. I really enjoyed it! I sincerely hope to visit HSE in Moscow next summer.
Sum Yee Tam, Hong Kong
I am from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. I enrolled in ‘A Glimpse of Russian History’, ‘US-Russia Relations Between the Cold Wars and Fake News’, ‘Post-Truth and Digital Media’, and ‘Inquiry in Relationship between Media and Politics’. The reason why I chose to take summer courses in Russia is that I am deeply interested in knowing more about Russia (the country itself, its culture, and history) and wanted to view the world from Russian perspective.
Seeing that HSE offers courses that cater to my interests (i.e. international relations and history), I opted for this school
Despite the online format, I still found the Summer University to be impressive and fruitful. It is because professors at HSE are all really helpful and willing to answer our questions. Other than that, extracurricular activities held by HSE students (e.g. Russian Crash Hour) are very interesting and allow me to know more about Russian Language and its culture. I really enjoyed this summer school experience.