A Semester in London
Elizaveta Redkokasha, a second-year student of the Master's Programme 'Cultural and Event Tourism Management' ('Art and Culture Management'), talks about studying abroad at a leading university, her favourite subjects, and why everyone should spend a semester in a different country.
- 'One of the main goals I had when I was applying for the master’s programme was to study abroad. It was not an option at the university where I earned my bachelor's degree, but it was always a dream of mine. I always wanted to see whether I had what it takes to study abroad and thrive there. HSE University gave me the opportunity to do this!
I was incredibly lucky to receive an Erasmus+ scholarship to study at University College London (UCL) – the #8 university in the world according to 2020 QS World University Rankings. Professors and some fellow students warned me that studying at UCL would be very difficult and time-consuming, that I would have to spend a lot of time in the library working on homework and projects. Of course, I was worried but, at the same time, I was sure that I could handle everything. I should mention that the warnings were partially correct. The educational approach at UCL is very similar to the approach at HSE, so I was well prepared for the stress and workload, though I did not yet know about it.
Upon arrival I had to get settled at the dorm, go through the university enrolment process, and register at the receiving faculty, choose courses (modules) and understand the requirements for them, figure out how the local LMS works, and explore the infrastructure of the huge university that occupies an entire block in central London. In addition, I had to figure out some practical things. For example, I needed to get a bank card, a SIM card, a travel card, a card for the laundromat, etc. That's probably the most troublesome time of the entire exchange - when you're just getting into the swing of things, adapting, and becoming a full-fledged resident, even if it's only temporarily.
Of course, I was worried but, at the same time, I was sure that I could handle everything.
Af for my courses, I chose 2 compulsory modules at the hosting faculty – the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies – and 2 optional ones at the UCL School of Management. They were very different in terms of content and training format, but one thing united them: we were given a detailed syllabus of the whole course at the first class. It included topics and dates, info on homework, individual and group projects, readings, and deadlines. It was great because I always knew what to expect. For the entire semester, these plans never changed.
There were 2 courses that I liked the most. The first one was called 'Understanding and Analyzing Data'. It consisted of 1 seminar (60 minutes) and 1 laboratory practice (90 minutes) per week. For the seminar, it was necessary to read a certain chapter of a textbook and an article before the class so that we could discuss them. For the laboratory practice, I had to watch a tutorial, review the presentations from previous classes, and sometimes do some individual tasks. The course aimed to teach us how to choose the right data for our research, analyze it using statistical methods, and visualize it in the best way. We used STATA software, which I had never used before. The individual term paper was worth 50% of the final grade, and the exam – another 50%. I liked the teacher’s approach: he presented the information in an understandable way for all of the students who were of all different backgrounds. He provided a lot of examples, including ones from his own publications. Plus he joked a lot and was open to questions.
The second course was called 'Influence and Negotiations'. I took it at my own risk because I knew that I did not have any experience with negotiations. However, I wanted to learn how to conduct them. We met only once a week but for a long time, 3 straight hours (180 minutes). For each meeting, it was necessary to read articles and chapters of textbooks, which we then discussed, as well as prepare group cases. There were at least 9 of them. Sometimes, the description of the case could be 10 pages long. Thus, preparing and working out one's position could take much more than a couple of hours. What I liked was that my partners on each case changed weekly and ranged from 1 to 5-7 people. I therefore had the opportunity to meet and work with at least half of the class. The course aimed to practice different negotiation methods and its tricky parts. Thanks to the course, I was able to get past my fears and become more self-confident. The final grade breakdown of the course consisted of several parts: the exam was worth 50% of the final grade, group coursework was worth 20%, individual coursework was worth 20%, and attendance and participation in discussions was worth10%. I would also like to acknowledge the teacher's work. Originally, she was born and raised in South Korea and then earned her PhD and taught in the United States. Now she works in the financial sector in London. Thanks to her experience, she provided a lot of examples of cases from real practice during the classes. The classes were divided into 3 parts. First, we revised the material we studied before and then started a new topic. Next, we acted out the cases very dramatically because we got into our roles. In the end, we spent the last hour discussing the results. The teacher always spent several minutes with each group, took notes, so that later she could talk to the class. I liked that she treated us all as equals, maintained open communication and a sense of goodwill, and motivated us to participate in the process by surprising us with coffee and donuts.
If you wonder whether you should study abroad or not, I highly recommend going.
Of course, in addition to studying, I had a lot of opportunities to have fun. All student clubs and events were accessible to me, including career events. I went to museums for free, attended theatre plays, concerts, etc. During the six months that I lived in London, I went to the theatre to see various performances with world-famous actors probably 5 or 6 times. Sometimes, a ticket there was even cheaper than a cinema ticket. Also, I learnt a few ways to buy them on the cheap. Additionally, I tried to walk around the city as much as possible so I could get a feel for it and not have to use Google Maps. Sometimes my roommates and I had dinner parties together and walked around at night. I spent time with my international friends, whom I met in classes and at university events. We walked through famous parks, tasted the local cuisine, travelled, and even participated in a Total Dictation event (Тотальный Диктант)! I was incredibly happy to become part of the international community because most of my classmates were not from the UK. According to various sources, 85% of the population in London is from other countries. Six months had passed quickly, and though it seems that this is a long period, this is not enough to immerse onself deeper into the culture, traditions, and the city. Nevertheless, I am very grateful to HSE for the opportunity to study at UCL because there I got even more than I could have ever expected. I returned a completely different person.
If you wonder whether you should study abroad or not, I highly recommend going. Trust me, it can become if not the best, at least one of the most memorable and important stages of your life. Moreover, the staff of your hosting university and HSE's international office will support you throughout the whole process. You will also attend an orientation session before your departure, where you can meet fellow students with whom you can cooperate and prepare for the unique experience ahead.'
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life: for there is in London all that life can afford.”
- Samuel Johnson