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  • 'HSE Allowed Me to Get to Know People from Different Backgrounds, Whether They Worked for The Red Cross or Studied Shipbuilding'

'HSE Allowed Me to Get to Know People from Different Backgrounds, Whether They Worked for The Red Cross or Studied Shipbuilding'

Summer school means much more than study. 'Better to have a hundred friends than a hundred rubles', quotes Mathilde Garnier, a student from France. What else did she discover? Read the full story about her participation in Saint Petersburg HSE Summer School.

'HSE Allowed Me to Get to Know People from Different Backgrounds, Whether They Worked for The Red Cross or Studied Shipbuilding'

© HSE University – St Petersburg

My name is Mathilde, I’m a 19 year old student from France. I study Political Sciences with a focus on the European Union at the European School of Political and Social Sciences (ESPOL) in Lille Catholic University, and enrolled in HSE Summer School 2018, here in Saint Petersburg, from July 16th to August 17th.

This led me to follow three different courses: EU-Russia Relations Today, Russia in Global Politics, and Russian Language and Culture, as well as to further discovery of the city.

As I’m getting close to the choice of a master’s degree, and hoping to specialize in Russian Studies, the Summer  School programme seemed to suit my expectations by combining both the Russian focused courses of political sciences I needed, and the study of the Russian language required by my plans for the future.

I must say the schedule was perfectly balanced: on the one hand it permitted a deep study of the subject of the courses, and on the other hand, it let us plenty of time to discover the city on our own as well as through the cultural and social activities organized by our Russian buddies.

Regarding the university itself, the quality of teaching is as high as I expected it, and the building having been renovated not so long ago, it added some comfort to the programme. As I studied the university for one month, I chose to stay at the student dormitory; even though it is quite far (from a non-Russian perspective) from the city centre, it provided me with a cheap and rather clean accommodation for the whole month, at the same time permitting me to explore a side of the daily life here I had never experience before  ̶  life in the suburbs.

«Не имей 100 рублей, а имей 100 друзей» (better to have a hundred friends than a hundred rubles) that’s how the saying goes. Of course, every experience abroad is a chance to meet new people and expand your knowledge about different horizons and cultures. Nonetheless, I have to say my rather long stay at HSE allowed me to get to know people from different backgrounds, whether they worked for the Red Cross or studied shipbuilding, from one side or another of the continent, all gathered here around a shared interest for Russia and its culture. Indeed, the short amount of time we got to spend together only reinforced our links by encouraging us to live even more intensely each and every moment and build precious memories and friendships for a lifetime.

Even though this was not my first visit to Peter the Great’s marvelous city, the length of my stay allowed me to get even more familiar with it, to go beyond the simple glimpse allowed by a pure touristic trip in the Northern Venece.

In that sense, the quality of public transport made it easy for me to explore the whole city and its suburbs, leading me to get lost in Repino’s forests, to have campfires on the Ladoga lake’s beach or even to be able to rent a traditional dacha for a weekend getaway in Novoye Toksovo.

Saint Petersburg, which I’ve fallen in love with enough to call it my second home is definitely a fabulous and miscellaneous place, whether you wish to wander and get lost in the footsteps of its famous former inhabitants, (from Pushkin to Mayakosvkiy) who built a huge historical legacy for the city to become the Russian cultural capital, or if you want to explore the rich underground life and stylish locations such as the New Holland island or the profusion of hidden clubs and bars throughout the city.

Indeed, this programme allowed me to gain more knowledge in the academic field, by learning more about Russian politics and the Russian language, but it also taught me to go out of my comfort zone; Russia – and mostly Saint  Petersburg  – is full of opportunities to seize, and even though the cultural differences can sometimes be quite tough to overcome, this is alwaysrewarding.

And even though the poet Tyutchev used to write you could never really grasp Russia with your mind, I deem this exфperience helped me in gaining more understanding about it by encountering the very famous  ‘Russian soul’ in daily life situations.

My final word would be an encouragement to those of you who still hesitate to apply for this programme since it has been a life changing experience for me: Russia is an amazing country and, since I think you have to know Russians to appreciate them, but as well appreciate them to get to know them, Saint Petersburg’s lively atmosphere should appeal the most reticent mind and invite it to the amazing discovery of such a rich culture.

For future participants 

Each summer should have a story! Applications for St Petersburg HSE Summer School 2019 are open!