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Experience Economy at HSE St. Petersburg: A Student's Story

Born on the border between Estonia and Russia, Anželika Varblane had never visited Russia before deciding to apply for a master's programme in Economics at HSE St. Petersburg. Here is Anželika's story: how she came to choose Russia, how she adapted to life in St. Petersburg, her future plans, and her study and research in Experience Economy at HSE.


How I Came to Choose Russia

My educational background, proir to undertaking my master's, was mainly related to political science, international law and diplomacy. I began my education at Tallinn University of Technology, studying Public Administration. After that, I moved to Russia to undertake a bachelor’s programme in International Relations at the St. Petersburg State University of Economy. It was not the best decision I ever made. I was extremely disappointed in what the field had to offer.

Up until the last year of my bachelor degree, I had no as to what I should do after it. Should I go back and continue to work and study in the same field at Estonian or Italian university?It would have been possible to apply for a master’s programme in something like law or technology of governance, but I wasn’t really inspired by the idea. So, I started to explore opportunities in Russia. I started looking at St. Petersburg State University, but nothing captured my interest.

While perusing the programmes at HSE, I came across ‘Experience Economy: management in hospitality and tourism’. This programme seemed made for me, as I already had the prerequisites: two year of experience in hotel management (administration, events, SMM), and four years in event management with an international students’ organisation in Europe, ESTIEM.

Dealing with Admission Procedures

I sent in an application form at the very last minute. It took some time to get an academic transcript. The guide for international students was easily accessible via the website, so I liked HSE University, even before coming here.

One month later, after submitting my application, I was invited to an interview. At this time, I was working on my bachelor thesis in Naples (Italy), so we agreed to skype. By the end of April, I had an interview with theProgramme’s Deputy Academic Supervisor Ksenia Kuzmina. I was impressed with her professional and friendly style and my interaction with her only increased my desire to study Experience Economy. We spent about an hour talking about my experience, bachelor thesis and programme outlines, and I was recommended for a full scholarship.

After that, I had to collect and translate the application documents: a form for the Ministry of Education, a medical certificate, HIV results, a passport, an academic transcriptand notarial translations, and send them all to the Moscow head admissions office.

A serious challenge which I faced during this time was the fact that my passport was due to expire within 18 months of the semester start. Initially, I entered the number of the valid one and forwarded my application to Moscow, but the Admission Office got back to me saying it was not possible to apply. As I urgently needed a new one, I had to rush back to Estonia in between my end-of-year exams and defending my bachelor’s thesis in order to arrange the passport handover at the Consulate General of Estonia in St Petersburg, and to submit the copy and translation to the HSE international admissions head office in Moscow at the very last minute. I eventually received a reference number for the Russian visa at the end of August. I was very happy.

Living in Russia

It’s not that easy to handle living in Russia if you are a digital native (in Estonia almost everything can be done via Internet and you never stand in line), or if you’re used to a mild southern European climate.

I am certain that HSE University in St. Petersburg will do a great job of helping you to adapt. Be brave and take the plunge: study tourism at the World’s Leading Cultural City Destination (according to the World Travel Awards 2016, 2017)

Study and Research at HSE St. Petersburg

Now, a year and a half into HSE’s Experience Economy programme, I can say that my positive expectations of the tuition and the university have been fully met. I believe that the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg is the best university in the city, and maybe even in Russia. Almost all the internal processes are carried out wisely, the faculty staff is polite, friendly, and professional, and the security guards and cleaners are nice and attentive.

Over the course of my studies, I have met a lot of highly-motivated, educated, and active people; my classmates and professors –students from across the globe and international professors – make up my professional network in Russia and worldwide. I really love that we study in a modern and well-equipped building with a library, café, canteen, recreational areas, comfortable rooms (check out the photos on Instagram or Facebook). A range of events and meetings with experts and invited professors from Europe are conducted in English. One more thing I like most about my programme and studies is that we all support each other like a big family.

Future Plans

I really like that HSE University St. Petersburg provides students with opportunities to undertake research which is connected to their background and personal interests

During my first year,Valery Gordin, professor of the Department of Economics and Management in a Social Sphere, gave me permission to research Estonia’s destination promotion to the target markets of Russia and Finland, based on content analysis (i.e. Estonian official documents, strategies) and the netnography method (tourist photos and reviews).

I really enjoyed working on this topic with my supervisor, Ekaterina Shishova, because she always had time to talk to me. Last summer, I was also invited to participate in research conducted by HSE Laboratory of Cultural Economicsfor the city of St. Petersburg’s brand concept. It took one month to collect all the necessary documents– and I was employed by HSE. Now I am in the middle of my master’s thesis, related to Estonia and cross-border tourism product strategy development.

Based on a piece by Anželika Varblane, HSE University St. Petersburg student