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Campus inSaint Petersburg

Studying Russian Language and Culture with HSE

For the second year now HSE Saint-Petersburg has been gladly welcoming students from UCL School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies, coming to improve their language skills and immerse themselves into the mysterious Russian culture. Last weekend this year’s group of UCL SSEES students have visited Velikiy Novgorod – the cradle of Russian statehood and a real architectural gem. Helen Fortescue-Poole shared her impressions of the trip and told us about her academic life at HSE Saint-Petersburg.

I've been studying at HSE St. Petersburg for nearly two months now, and there are two aspects that for me have made it exemplary in terms of a first experience studying abroad. Firstly, the quality of the Russian language teaching has been pretty much faultless; the level seems to have been impressively catered to ability, and the classes are almost uncanny in the way they have managed to both push and test you sufficiently, without creating the sensation of drowning under a deluge of new information. It's a hard tightrope to tread, but I feel my teachers have managed it perfectly, whilst being friendly, approachable and completely un-patronising, and consistently instilling in you a confidence in your ability and progression. I've honestly been very impressed with the methods, pace, and standards of the classes, and I can't thank the teachers who deliver them enough. Similarly, I've been impressed with the energy and helpfulness of both the student volunteers and the administration who work quite thanklessly trying to herd a ramshackle bunch of foreign students around the intricacies of Russian and academic bureaucracy and the unknown territory of living in a new city in general. I've never felt inhibited from asking the student volunteers or administration personnel for help, whether it be regarding a visa extension, or what sort of restaurants they might recommend in the city. From help with registration, to the organised events and social gatherings offered by the university, all have been incredibly useful in helping me feel more settled in the new environment.

The trip to Velikiy Novgorod was probably the best example of how above and beyond HSE has gone to make us feel welcome and to immerse us further into Russian culture. Organising a trip to a city of immense historical importance, complete with two wonderfully informative tour guides, and all for free, is testament to to the lengths of which they've been willing to go to make our experience here as memorable as possible. On that account, in my case at least, I can say they have succeeded, and I'm very grateful for all their continued help, good humour and understanding.