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Student Talks about Her Real Russian Experience: Enrollment, Studies, and Daily Life

Excited by her studies at HSE St Petersburg, Aikaterini (Katerina) Kandylidou, a native of Thessaloniki, Greece, shares her experience of enrolling at HSE in the popular Master’s programme in Experience Economy: Hospitality and Tourism, and gives some insights into daily life in Russia.

We only grow up when we leave our comfort zone behind us

Aikaterini Kandylidou
: Experience economy: Hospitality and Tourism

Aikaterini's experience is certain to be valuable for those who are considering applying for the 2018-2019 academic year.


Decision to Enroll

I was studying at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki for a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in the Theatre department, and when I finished my studies I began to look for a Master’s degree. The subjects that I was interested in were dramaturgy in theatre and tourism management.  I knew that they were very different, but when I was a student I always worked in the tourism industry and thought that it could be an ideal job for me. Additionally, Greece faced a serious financial crisis, so the arts, and especially theatre, also faced crisis while spending on tourism increased considerably in recent years.

I began to think that it would be a great idea if I could somehow combine culture and tourism. One day I came across information on the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg. I started searching for Master’s programmes, and I saw a programme called Experience Economy: Hospitality and Tourism management. I decided to apply to the programmes in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, with the difference being their areas of specialization. In St. Petersburg, the programme focused on cultural tourism and event management, so I decided to list St. Petersburg as my first choice and Moscow as a second one.

Documents and Interview

The following documents were required for admission: my Bachelor’s diploma, IELTS English test (no less than 6 grade), B2 in Russian language, a motivation letter, at least one recommendation letter from a professor or from a job in the tourism industry, my CV and other documents telling more about myself (passport, national ID, etc.). Although HSE St. Petersburg has an option for an online interview, I decided to make a trip to St. Petersburg so I could do my interview in person and of course check out the city. I planned my trip at the end of April and sent a message to the International Admissions Office telling them the exact days that I would be in the city.

My interview took place at Kantemirovskaia 3A, and the professor who met me was Ksenia Kusmina. My interview was about 40-50 minutes, with questions focusing on my educational and work background and what research I thought I could do in the Master’s programme (given my background it could be difficult for me to undertake research in economics and management). After my interview, I felt confident that it had gone well and that I had a good chance of being accepted.

The Campus, City and Discounts

The infrastructure of the HSE St. Petersburg campus made a strong impression. While the weather wasn’t great during my visit, in general I liked the city. After one week, the university replied that I had been accepted into the Master’s programme. The tuition per year was 3,000 euro, but I saw that I was eligible to apply for a 50% discount off the programme’s total fee (the level of discount depends on your documents and interview performance). I was given the maximum 50% discount!

During the summer, the university began the process to secure my student visa. As I recall, they needed 30 days to issue a visa invitation and then in Greece I needed five additional days. I made it to Russia in October.

Facilities, Service and Accommodation

When I arrived, the first thing I did it was to go to the international office, turn in medical documents to another office, and find out the dormitory where I was going to live. A nice surprise about the dormitories in Russia is that they are very cheap (10 euros/per month) compared to European dormitories. The final step was to obtain a card with my picture that I could use to enter all the buildings at the university campus and my dormitory. The dorms were at the Obukhovo metro station, which, while not very central, is nevertheless not very far from the university (about 45 minutes).

Studies

My first class was research methods and tools in economics and management.  At HSE St. Petersburg, like in other European countries, every semester is split into two modules. When I came to Russia, it was already the last week of the first module. I attended the research methods-tools class, a seminar on educational research, and a class about culture in St. Petersburg. This last class was the only one with an exam in the first module, so during my second week in Russia I had to prepare for my exam. I took this exam and got the maximum 10 points, which happened primarily because I studied a lot and, secondly, because of my cultural background. In the days that followed, I had to come up with a title for my thesis. After discussing with professors we ended up with a thesis called ‘Overcoming seasonality through religious and pilgrimage tourism in Greece’.

Daily life

In general, my life in Russia has been very interesting, primarily because the mentality of people is very different from the European Union and from Greece. Every day I learn something new about history, culture and politics in Russia. It’s a great opportunity for me not only to learn about tourism management but also to be part of a society that is totally different from that of Greece.

The weather, people, food, and educational system are all part of an interesting puzzle that I need to solve in my everyday life. What I like the most in this country is how proud the people are about their country! It’s amazing to watch them talk about their culture, attractions, and history... I am very proud of myself that I have chosen something so different and unique where I will not only learn tools for my future career but also become a better person. Finally, I need to share by belief that we only grow up when we leave our comfort zone behind us.