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Regular version of the site

To Go or Not to Go

Are you thinking about participation in International Mobility Program? We conducted few interviews with ex-participants of student mobility and ready to share their interesting stories and experiences.

The Call for International Student Mobility Applications for the fall semester 2019-20 will be held from February 1st to March 1st. Due to high interest of students in the exchange programs, we conducted few interviews with ex-participants of student mobility and ready to share interesting stories and experiences that students of HSE gained during their stay abroad.

 

Anna Neznamova, Bachelor’s programme ‘Economics’ 3rd year

Studied at George Mason University (the USA)

HI: Why did you decide to participate in student exchange program? How did you choose the University for the mobility?

Anna: I have always dreamed to go to a different country to study because I think it's an amazing experience. I initially chose HSE as a University that provides students with such an unbelievable opportunity. Choosing the USA as the main priority, I did not see the point to go not to an English-speaking country to study, because otherwise all students around will continue to speak in their native language in their free time from lectures. Besides, America seems to me a very interesting country both in terms of education and culture. So there was no doubt in the final decision. Moreover, I do not like "British English, it grates on my ears and even becomes unpleasant when I watch movies. In contrast, lively American is much nicer, and maybe many will disagree with me, however, this fact also influenced the choice of the country.

As soon as I learned that two professors - Nobel Prize winners in Economics worked in George Mason, I realized “I should be there!” Additionally, the University is located only half an hour away from Washington DC - a great place not only for studying, but also as a starting point for traveling around the country, which is very important for me.

HI: What was the first shock or surprise when you came to another country and started to study?

Anna: Most of all I was struck by the organization of the whole system. I had arrived at the end of summer, and already knew the date, time and even the place of the exam at the end of the year. It turns out that such an organization of the educational process is possible in real life. It was convenient to plan everything - from going to a store to a trip, because there was an exact schedule for 6 months.

And… people smile! Everyone, anytime, everywhere. A stranger can come to you with warm smile and make a compliment just because she/he wanted to. Firstly, it was surprising and strange but then you begin to smile and make compliments back. Just like that, just to cheer up someone by saying "listen, your sneakers are so cool!”

And last but not least, what I found interesting is their style of clothing. The main thing is comfort, so students are sitting in classes with huge backpacks, with huge bottles of water and in huge sweatshirts. It was very unusual to see classmates in sportswear always and everywhere, because I'm used to the fact that the University in Russia becomes like a podium.

HI: What are the three main differences between study at HSE and in the USA?

Anna: 1) the system of educational process works perfectly

2) You can choose almost any subject, suitable time/schedule and teacher

3) You NEVER be "called to the board" and generally will not be asked to say something without your own desire.

HI: What experience and skills did you gain due to the student international mobility?

Anna: Now I am sure what really interests me in life, and even if my choice will surprise the closest people, I know that maybe it may not fit into the "framework" of others - it's still my choice. Besides, I clearly understand during my stay that opinion of others, their judgments do not mean anything, what really matters is what you want and think right. From standard skills, of course, my level of language and communication has skyrocketed.

HI: Did you have any problems with exams, credits when you came back home?

Anna: Actually, I had some… When I passed all exams, I checked my email and saw that there were changes in credits transferring system, so according to new rules I did not have enough credits to close the session successfully. So I would like to recommend everyone who is going to participate in the exchange program – carefully recheck your individual study plans by yourself and be sure to take courses for additional credits in order not to get into a similar situation as me. It is better to have an additional (not such an important or difficult subject) and no future problems with the transfer, than confusion with your own schedule in HSE.

HI: Why would you recommend others to participate in the international student mobility?

Anna: This is an amazing opportunity for self-development, for improving language skills and, most importantly, studying in a new place and changing the whole environment around you is necessary in order to understand yourself and separate your own thoughts from the imposed opinions of others. Memories, which you got during the stay, will remain forever, and all different and interesting people, who you met, is something completely unreal.

Nataliia Aleksandrova, Bachelor’s programme ‘Philology’ 3rd year

Studied at University of Bergen (Norway)

HI: How did you choose the University for the mobility?

Nataliia: I did not choose the University, actually, I was more concentering on choosing a country. There was no stick criteria for me, I was thinking about a destination where I have never been before or a place where I was and liked it much, so I took the second path and applied to Norwegian University.

HI: What would you suggest to write in motivation letter, what is better to highlight?

Nataliia: In the motivation letter, I would advise to focus more on an educational part. Write why do you need this opportunity and how do you plan to use the knowledge gained at the partner University. Do not go in many details about your extracurricular activities, stay focus on education and research work but if you have something interesting to tell about your experience outside of education – go for it!

HI: What are the three main differences between study at HSE and abroad?

Nataliia: Usefulness, freedom and cooperation.

HI: What experience and skills did you gain due to the student international mobility?

Nataliia: First of all, improving the language skills, spoken English has become just awesome. I started to learn a new language and for half a year I have learned it at a fairly decent level. Besides, determination, I came to understanding where to move in the next couple of years. Moreover, of course, I have become friends with many interesting people from all over the world.

HI: What has become the most remarkable, memorable during your stay in Norway? What was the most interesting in communication with foreign students?

Nataliia: It is actually hard to choose one. But were I to choose one, I would name unity with nature, and parties, and travel, and even ordinary dinners surrounded by loved ones.

The understanding of how different all people are, but at the same time how similar our stories are. It has always been interesting to talk about cultural differences between countries. The most interesting topics were the so-called taboo issues: religion, politics, history, etc. Because this is how you receive truthful information from native citizens about various aspects of life in different countries. It was a very valuable experience for the development of my personality and expanding my horizons. All of these have changed my worldview a lot.

HI: Why would you recommend others to participate in the international student mobility?

Nataliia: Because it is an amazing experience that would be sad to miss. Before you leave, you are the one person, during – another, and when you return – the third. Neither paper work nor problems with transferring credit system can overshadow emotions and experiences that you get in the end.

Anna Kraeva, Bachelor’s programme ‘Economics’ 3rd year

Studied at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain)

HI: Why did you decide to participate in student exchange program? How did you choose the University for the mobility?

Anna: Honestly, I decided that I want to study abroad even before I started my education at HSE, from high school I was sure that I should participate in exchange program. Consequently, then I discovered all international opportunities that our University offers, I did not hesitate to apply for the mobility. I have always had this inner feeling and desire to explore the world, different countries, cultures and people.

As for the choice of a University, it was clear for me that I would go to Spain because I studied in Spanish school, so I wanted to practice the language and learned subjects on Spanish. Additionally, I can suggest how my friends chose their best destinations and universities. The first option, check THE University rankings and QS University rankings and explore best variants in your field of study among HSE-partners universities. The second option, find people on Facebook who are studying in a University that you are thinking about and talk with them about all positive and negative sides.

HI: What would you suggest to write in motivation letter, what is better to highlight?

Anna: I think the most important is to make motivation letter individualistic, personal and do not write all basic, typical things. You should highlight why do you need this chance, what will it bring you and why did you choose exactly this or those University. Do not be afraid to go in details, show real you and your true desire.

HI: What are the three main differences between study at HSE and in Spain?

Anna: Basically, I knew that there would be not so many differences between educational systems because my academic supervisor suggested me Carlos III University and told me that our universities are quite similar in terms of study process and assessment. However, the main differences were:

  1. in Spanish there are also two forms of treatment (prefixes), one formal and other less formal, however at the University students and professors do not use formal prefixes as we do with our teachers. In general, relations between professors and students are very friendly and open.
  2. all final works and quizzes are holding in the format of multiple choice test where for each mistake you get not as usual 0 but minus score
  3. the style of learning process, for example, Spanish students take notes in A4 papers on seminars, typing all lectures on their laptops and then before exams they print all materials of the course in the format of a book

HI: What experience and skills did you gain due to the student international mobility?

Anna: First of all, I have become a responsible and independent person, I got to know how to live on my own, for the first time I gained an experience of living in dormitory and sharing the apartments with foreign students. Besides, meeting people from all other the world opened my mind and broadened my horizons. Of course, I considerably improved my language skills both English and Spanish.

HI: What has become the most remarkable, memorable during your stay in Spain?

Anna: Actually everything! I successfully combined useful with pleasant, so I studied and traveled a lot. I went and explored so many cities all around Spain with new friends. Also, I celebrated my 20th birthday there, we had a big party with many guests so it was nothing short of amazing. Besides, it was very cool to tell about Russia to foreigners, cook Russian dishes, discuss our traditions and inform international students with real facts and stories.

HI: Why would you recommend others to participate in the international student mobility?

Anna: Because the mobility will significantly develop your personality, bring many opportunities and open new prospects. You will definitely find new friends! Now I can go to many countries in the world and be sure that I will know there someone who will be happy to show me his/her city or country. To have friends in various parts of the world is so cool!

Valeria Caras, Bachelor’s programme ‘Political Science’ 4th year

Studied at Masaryk University (Czech Republic)

HI: Why did you decide to participate in student exchange program?  How did you choose the University for the mobility?

Valeria: I wanted to make my time at the University more diverse and interesting, get new experiences from studying, traveling and meeting new people. First of all, desire for change encouraged me to apply.

Choosing a University was one of the most difficult moments and initially you could easily get lost in all the options that HSE offers. First, I was looking for universities that would provide my specialty and would have the most suitable courses for my individual study plan. I also advise you to seriously address this issue (individual study plan) so that after your arrival you do not have to take a lot of subjects and pass too much exams. Moreover, you can take online courses to close the difference. Besides, I paid attention to the country, because I wanted to go to a place where you can easily start a trip. Czech Republic and Masaryk University ideally suited me on both criteria, as in Masaryk there are many different courses, reasonable prices and it is excellently located in the center of Europe.

HI: hat would you suggest to write in motivation letter, what is better to highlight?

Valeria: I advise you to reflect your interest in the chosen country, its culture and language and show why you need to go there and to this University. You can start a letter with some unusual fact that connects you with the country. For example, I wrote about reading a book by a Czech author, who inspired me a lot. Show how chosen courses at the partner University will improve your academic performance, while cross-cultural environment will develop English proficiency and communication skills, and also reflect your interest in learning the language of the country.

HI: hat were the main difficulties during your first days?

Valeria: It was the language barrier, ignorance of English by locals and my lack of knowledge of the Czech language, which was spoken by all employees of social services, shops, post office, banks and hostel. It was very difficult for me to realize that few people understand English. I think this situation can be known in many small cities in Europe.

HI: hat are the three main differences between study at HSE and in Europe?

Valeria: In many foreign universities, there is no division into lectures and seminars, this is why classes in one subject are held less often per week. In many universities the academic year is done by semesters and not modules. Besides, there is much more free time!

HI: hat has become the most remarkable, memorable during your stay?

Valeria: The most memorable has become the number of trips in which I was lucky enough took part. I bought tickets for buses to neighboring cities, went to friends in other countries and lived from trip to trip.

HI: Did you have any problems with exams, credits when you came back home?

Valeria: I was lucky so I didn't have any problems. Several courses that we had in the third module, I had even closed in the Czech Republic. Difficulties can be avoided if you choose a University based on the appropriate courses, discuss all details of an individual study plan with your study office and, if necessary, take online courses.

HI: Why would you recommend others to participate in the international student mobility?

Valeria: I strongly recommend you to take advantage of this opportunity, as the mobility combines several advantages. First, it is a chance to change scenery, environment and the ability to do what you like through communication with people and travel. Secondly, it will be a good line in the resume and an opportunity to live and learn in a foreign country.

Text by
Ekaterina Srebrodolskaya