One of the many pleasant experiences that I had during my master's degree was the opportunity to develop skills and learn techniques for qualitative research. From the first year, my research focused on migration within the post-Soviet space. In the first instance, I aimed to understand the political and social implications that these migratory flows have in the political relationship of the countries in the region. Eventually, I studied attitudes of the Russian society towards the groups of migrants with greater visualization on social media, such as Ukrainian and Kyrgyz migrants. The methodological development of my research implied a challenge in learning and applying text mining techniques and interpreting unstructured qualitative data, which allowed me to reconstruct the socially dominant discourses towards migrants in Russia and delve into the ways in which the prejudice towards immigration is configured. For this, I had the technical guidance of the HSE Internet Studies Lab and the constant guidance of my academic supervisor, who was a great support for the successful finalization of my research.
At the same time, I had the opportunity to develop a research project on the political values of university students in Venezuela within the framework of the internship programme at the Laboratory of Political Studies of the HSE - Moscow, which implied conducting semi-structured interviews at a distance with young people between 18 and 25 years old and the use of techniques for opinion mining. Both experiences were very stimulating and allowed me to master practical tools for the study of opinions that, for sure, I will be able to use in my future professional projects.
There, I had the opportunity to learn in-depth everything that interested me about Russia and the Eurasian space in general, with professors coming from all different backgrounds, both from Russia and foreign universities.
The support for foreign students is excellent and the opportunities for the students of the programme are great: I was selected at the end of my first year for the Erasmus + programme and went to University College London with a scholarship to study the politics of Central and Eastern Europe from a completely different angle compared to what I knew before.
In addition to the courses, the programme includes an internship period, which I completed in the French Senate, in Paris. This internship greatly inspired and guided me for the writing of my master’s thesis, another major component of the programme “Comparative Politics of Eurasia”.
Finally, life of an HSE student is not just about classes and internships. The campus allows any person with motivation to get involved in associations and to create projects with the constant support of the university. For my part, I have the development of the “Francophonie” at heart and have been able to create a francophone eloquence club thanks to HSE, which provided us with rooms for meetings and helped us with the communication of events. I was also involved in the French-speaking geopolitical club of the HSE, which provides a perfect setting for organization of high-level meetings on various themes with diplomats, officials, writers and scholars.
Thanks to this experience at HSE, my internship, my involvement in associations and my master’s thesis research, I understood that the career I envision will be in the sphere of cultural diplomacy or corporate intelligence/advising for the strengthening of the Franco-Russian relationship. There are a lot of opportunities for foreigners in Russia, and HSE is to me the best place to start your path there!
Finally, Saint-Petersburg is a magical city, where amazing friendships and lifelong memories are created!
Thanks to the general academic freedom of HSE and our programme specifically, I chose the topic of drug policy in the European Union. I proceeded with the fact that a similar thesis is relevant for any country: drug policy is a gray regulatory area that is difficult to study with usual methods. It is impossible to compare countries (due to completely different contexts). Statistics are not available (states collect data in completely different ways), and such studies, for various reasons, do not fit into conventional morality. However, the EU is a huge umbrella organization with a structured approach to regulating different policies, which is why I was able to find a way to do some particularly good research.
Along the way, thanks to the programme, I learned new methods and approaches and realized what kind of "glue" such research can be held together with. A detailed study of the European Union turned out to be especially useful. The fact that the dissertation (like all training courses) had to be mastered entirely in English, my level of the language increased greatly. There were many international students in the course with whom we communicated both at school and outside the classrooms. As a result, thanks to a good dissertation and mastery of skills, I managed to get a job as a junior researcher at the European University, where I want to continue to get this strange pleasure from scientific work and working with data.
Even though I decided to continue my studies in the same specialty as my bachelor's degree, much of what we learned in the programme was new. Even the material already familiar to me was perceived differently here. Certainly, some repetitions are inevitable, because many of the people who entered this program had their previous education in other areas - history, international relations, law, etc. I was incredibly surprised by the flexibility with which the teachers approached the course materials. Before the start of each course, the teachers asked us about our backgrounds, interests, and plans to tailor the training specifically for our group - to add new topics or focus on theory, if necessary. The desire for such an individual approach in the conditions of many students is, in my opinion, one of the main advantages of the programme.
Even though the main focus of the programme is the region of Eurasia, we, the students, were not limited in the choice of the topic of work that interested us. I wanted to continue studying the relations between the Russian regions and the federal center - my bachelor's paper was devoted to this topic and I also chose it as the topic of my dissertation.
A separate bonus that I would also highlight is the fact of training in English. Despite the initial objective difficulties, the process of adaptation to learning in a foreign language went quite quickly. Moreover, considering the fact that there were many international students in the course, it turned out to improve not only the academic language, but also the spoken language.
I cannot say that my admission to the master’s programme was a deliberate and well-established decision in advance. Many of my former classmates decided to finish their studies after their bachelor's degree and, of course, this choice was also before me. However, still there was a feeling of incompleteness, a feeling that it was possible to learn/do even more. It is now that I understand that entering the master's programme and choosing this particular programme was the right decision.
My research interests were highly influenced by HSE, as I was exposed to a variety of different subjects and tools of research making. I found it fascinating how well tailored the research studies are at HSE, so it is a perfect place for research oriented, ambitious people.
Most importantly what was good about the program is to have a broad scope of courses that narrow down the areas of anyone's interest. Courses were extremely helpful for a university student, it helped me understand the proper steps toward citing and documenting my research paper and avoiding plagiarism. And the instructors were very good at presenting their lessons. I highly recommend this program to students, who are unaware or confused about how to document their research papers.
Private life has been fantastic, the city is beautiful and warm regardless of the cold winters. The overall experience has been challenging, yet very rewarding at the end of the day.
After graduating, I have continued my work at the company where I have been working at. Finding a job was not an issue, as I have been already working while studying, hence I have just continued to work after graduation.
To be honest, I have had medium expectations from the program, yet I was pleasantly surprised to find out that actually it was not mediocre. Level of the program is high and the knowledge base that you have to analyze is tremendous. Moreover, wonderful personnel. It has been a pleasure for me to spend two fantastic years at HSE.
If your realm of interests includes Russia or Post-Soviet countries and politics, it is the best option you may have. Try to go to mobility programs which HSE offers, it is a great opportunity to encounter different opinions and expand the horizons of future careers.
I think I now have a much greater ability to gather and organize information so that it can be put to practical use. I also feel that my critical thinking skills improved throughout my time in the program. Beyond practical value, I walked away from the program with a much greater appreciation for the intricacies of Eurasian politics which has changed how I view my own country’s policies and role in the region.
After meeting so many new people and making friends from countries all over the world, I began to appreciate new perspectives and approaches that I might have dismissed before. Living in Russia, as an American, gave me the opportunity to form my own opinion on a country that is often at the center of American political discourse and frequently stereotyped in our popular media. I think this alone made my time spent at HSE worthwhile and I’m grateful for the experience.
After graduating, I originally planned to remain in Russia and strengthen my Russian language skills but unfortunately, I had to return home due to the pandemic. Initially, it was quite difficult finding a job as I had been away from the U.S. for five years and had few contacts and no network to aid me in my search. I didn’t have a well-developed plan prior to enrolling in the program. I thought I may want to pursue a PhD after completing the program, but ultimately decided against it. I decided to take advantage of the help offered by HSE to explore new opportunities.
At the start of my final semester, I received a travel grant to conduct research for my thesis and I planned to combine this trip with a brief internship at the Eurasia Foundation office in Almaty. I hoped this experience would help better shape an idea of my career path after graduation. Unfortunately, due to covid, this trip was cancelled.
My advice would be to take advantage of the opportunities presented by living in Russia and studying at HSE, that might set you apart from your peers back home. Living and studying in your country of interest allows for real on the ground experiences that those studying in their home country can’t get.
Programme Officer, NARUC (National Association of Regulatory Utility Comissioners)
I had some previous political science exposure and was interested in spending more time and intensive focus studying Russia and the post-soviet regions. HSE's master's program enabled me to push my interests into more specific lines of inquiry, especially with regard to my thesis research.
The master's program gave me the knowledge and skills I was looking for, and have definitely better positioned me to find work in international relations and policy. Having a foundation of understanding Russian and post-soviet society has informed both my work and travel. I hope to continue to build on my knowledge of Eastern Europe and Eurasia as a focal point of my career.
It's a really difficult time to be looking for a job. I recommend that students and graduates stay organized and patient. Reach out to your contacts and don't be shy when it comes to asking for advice and information about opportunities.
The main weakness I found is the schedule that left almost no time to do internships or work, developing practical skills and work experience which is the most important thing for future employers. But this is understandable due to the amount of academic gatherings, homework and readings students have to follow. All the projects during my studies I participated in, organised by HSE professors, gave the most important practical skills that I later implemented in my work.
I recommend for incoming freshman participating in all the possible events that appear during studies. Including summer/winter/spring schools, attending conferences, student exchanges and etc. All this will help to gather a network and expand your opportunities in future. Also find experts on topics you need to improve on, learn everything they can possibly teach you, become the new expert!
I believe the best experience about HSE is the amount of invited lecturers and professors from the best universities all over the world. This created a unique and very interesting experience in studying.
To graduates searching for job I may wish to never give up on what your heart tends to. Better to spend more time finding something in what you will enjoy doing, so if you are not sure - do as much different internships as you can to find. Do a personal SWOT analysis, and go with what makes sense for you - something with you’ll feel better and be spiritually and intellectually richer.
PhD student, HSE, Faculty of Wolrd Economy and International Relations
When I applied for HSE in the program “Comparative Politics of Eurasia”, I wanted to expand my knowledge in Russian politics and International Relations. I have studied International Relations before, but this program was a new experience for me. It was interesting for me that program is in English, which gave me an opportunity to engage with people from different background, from different countries and from different Russian cities. Imagine all these people united in one group, and definitely this was one of the most important reasons why I applied to this program.
I always had a dream to study international relations, to better understand political, economic and cultural changes in other countries. Later I wanted to receive some new experiences and I applied to the program on Political Science at HSE. We had great classes devoted to methods. So we experienced a massive investment from our professors on both qualitative and quantitative methods. Then I decided to continue studying International Relations and I applied to IR program in Moscow, HSE.
I worked with quantitative methods during my MA studies. That was pretty complicated, challenging but great indeed! I find that experience useful for me, as we tried to delve deeper into the application of these methods in our final dissertation. This is the main skill I received in the MA program. My academic supervisor was extremely helpful in that.
MA program changed my research focus. Before I wanted to study EU and EU integration, especially Germany. Later I decided to focus on Eurasian region. My MA studies focused on Isolationism of Russian regions and now I focus on the Crimean factor in Ukraine’s foreign policy.
To freshmen I may say that first of all you should be attentive to all courses and to fulfil all the requirements that professors request. And only when you do all the necessary work, then you will be able to achieve the success.
My second recommendation would be to try to do something new, apply new methods and challenge yourself. This program is a great opportunity to meet new friends from different countries and to improve your research skills.
Some skills received at university, I apply at the moment in my work and it is easier for me to cope with orders. Considering the image of HSE in business and academia, I may say that HSE is an excellent university, many people know it and consider it prestigious.
To freshman I may advice not to be afraid of exam sessions and to take active part in university events. If I had to do my MA studies again, I’d spend more time on university events and generally be more active.
To graduates I want to give the following advice. Start looking for a job in your final year and don't wait for graduation because it is not a fast process, make a good summary and don't be afraid of big companies.
Studying at HSE allowed me to develop my research and critical thinking skills. The internship allowed me to branch-out and experience an industry which I was not formally acquainted with previously (Software as a Service – international business computing). I did not take part in any student-run clubs, however I did play music with some of the students there and with some locals. We would rent out private studios and have jam sessions together. I play bass and guitar. Studying at HSE in St. Petersburg, Russia allowed me to practice my Russian which I had studied in my BA program.
Exposure to Russian society and culture as well as the various views of my peers was an invaluable experience. I learned quite a great deal about Eurasian politics in general, but Russia more intimately. Hearing the views and discussing opinions with my colleagues at HSE and with my Russian friends I met outside of the university had a profound impact on me and I am very grateful for all of the insight this has given me. Truthfully, political/social science research was not my primary concern after graduating from HSE. I looked upon my time there as an opportunity to experience a part of the world that I had not previously seen, to travel in the Russian Federation and to learn about the beliefs and views of the people there. The distinguished position of HSE attracts foreign students from around the world and was a major benefit of studying in the program as it gave us access to various worldviews.
After graduating, I traveled around the US for a time and found work as a web developer. I received a few job offers pertaining to travel, marketing and government. I settled into web development as it has been a hobby of mine for quite some time and my internship facilitated this interest.
Honestly, when I enrolled I left my future open to the possible opportunities which would afford themselves. As mentioned, I chose not to focus on a career track in academia, social science or government/diplomacy but took the experiences I gained from my time at HSE, reflected on them and used them to forge my own path.
I advise students to keep up with the reading assignments. Collaborate with peers. Ask for advice from advisor(s) and develop your research interests early so that you can more deeply pursue them if you decide to continue on with your education in your chosen program.