'Studying and Living in Russia Is so Enriching, Fun and Interesting'
Under an agreement between HSE University-St Petersburg and the University of Trento (UniTrento), students of the Master’s programme 'Modern Social Analysis' can participate in a double degree track. Cecilia Brazioli, from Italy, is a participant of the track who shared her impressions of studying in Russia.
The double degree track gives HSE University students an opportunity to spend the second year of study in Italy on the programme 'Sociology and Social Research', while UniTrento students are able to come to HSE University-St Petersburg. Students of the double degree track who successfully complete their studies will receive diplomas from both universities. It is a great opportunity for students to experience international education and gain more skills for their future career. The double degree programme will be of great help to students who want to continue their academic career on an international PhD programme.
Cecilia Brazioli is a UniTrento student who came to Russia for the last year of her master’s degree as a double degree student. She shared her experience and impressions of studying at HSE University.
A double degree track allows you to graduate in two different countries, which, in my opinion, is itself a very good reason to participate in it. Moreover, it is an experience which can enrich you as a person—not just from an academic point of view. These were the two main reasons that I decided to apply to this programme. Moreover, travelling outside the European Union was particularly interesting to me.
I have to say that the bureaucratic aspect of the double degree track is quite harsh and starts about three months before you have to get there. There are a lot of documents to prepare and some requirements to fulfil. This period in which you have to collect all the documents is a little stressful, but both universities keep you updated on the deadlines, so, in the end, it is not that terrible.
THE STUDY PROCESS
To my mind, one of the greatest differences between Italy and Russia is the structure of the educational process. At HSE University, they have four 'modules', which means two modules per semester, one exam session per module, four exam sessions per year, one week per session, and one opportunity to take an exam. In Italy, we usually have two semesters, three sessions and around five attempts for each exam. Moreover, in my experience, in Russia they have fewer 'real exams' and more presentations and essays that are assessed as well as in-class activities. All the grades you receive during the course will contribute to the final grade. Also, the grade system is different from the Italian one. In Italy, the grades go from 0 to 30 and the lowest grade you need to pass an exam is 18. At HSE University, the grades are on a 0–10 scale and grade 4 is the cutoff to succeed.
I was surprised that the lecturers are much more available and 'near' to the students at HSE University than in Italy. However, I faced some linguistic issues and sometimes problems with how detailed the topics of the classes were, because at HSE University there are more seminars than lectures. But all in all, it is a very good university—especially in terms of its communication with its students.
ADVICE TO PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS
Apart from studies, HSE University organises a lot of interesting events and trips. You can stay updated about them on VK, which is the most popular social network in Russia. You should definitely join it. I strongly suggest getting information about museums beforehand. There are a lot of them in the city. They are very interesting and, compared to Italy, very cheap (200–500 rubles or about 2–5 euros).
Finally, since it is something that everybody asked me about, I would like to talk about the Russian winter. Before coming here, I was really afraid that I was going to be freezing, but honestly, I suffer from cold temperatures in Italy more than in Russia. But this is not because Italy is colder—in Russia, all the houses, restaurants, libraries and other places are very well heated. Of course, it is better for you to buy a winter thermal coat and to wear a lot of layers of clothes. But believe me, it’s not as bad as you might think. However, it is essential to get very good winter shoes, as the sidewalks become a bit dangerous with layers of ice and snow.
I decided to stay in St Petersburg because despite some little problems and difficulties, studying and living in this country is so enriching, fun and interesting that it is absolutely worth it. I hope you enjoy your stay as much as I did!
In 2022, the Master's programme 'Modern Social Analysis' offers prospective students state-funded places and fee-paying places for foreign students. Detailed information about admissions is available on the programme webpage and in the section for prospective master's students of HSE University in St Petersburg.