‘I Have Always Dreamt about Visiting This Country’
It is no secret that academic mobility programmes are extremely popular among students of HSE University-St Petersburg. For instance, Marina Kuligina, a student of the Bachelor's programme 'Political Science and World Politics', is taking part in the mobility programme at Seoul National University (South Korea) this year. In her interview with the HSE News Service, Maria talks about her experiences and offers some inspiration to others looking for an unforgettable trip.
— Why did you choose South Korea and Seoul National University?
— I chose Korea because I have been interested in the culture of this country since the seventh or eighth grade. I have always dreamt of visiting this country as a tourist. I had not expected that in the third year of my studies in the Bachelor's programme 'Political Science and World Politics', I would have such an opportunity as a student. Besides, I am really interested in this region of the world. I chose Seoul National University for several reasons. First of all, it is the best university in South Korea, so why wouldn't I go there? Secondly, on the course list, I found one devoted to the 'Korean Wave'. This is one of my research interests—I couldn't miss the chance to study Hallyu in the country where it started. The main problems for me were uncertainty in drawing up an individual curriculum and a lack of knowledge about the process of submitting documents. I was inspired by Veronika Berdnikova, a student of our programme, who studied at SNU under the mobility programme last year. I had some confidence that it was possible to draw up a curriculum and that it was definitely worth trying!
— What do you like about your host university?
— The educational system here is very different from the one I was used to at HSE University. For instance, there is no division into lectures and seminars. Classes are held once a week for 2–3 hours with short breaks, and attendance is mandatory. We usually consolidate the material with weekly assignments. I can't say that I like this format a lot; it is rather unusual. What I like here is that students sign up for courses themselves. They choose something that is interesting or appealing to them, which means that coursemates can finish the same course in different semesters. For this reason, the student groups are different in each course. The same course can be attended by political scientists, sociologists, economists, and students of technical bachelor's and master's programmes, which expands the course audience and opportunities for networking.
The main advantage I'd like to point out is the campus: they have a huge territory located near Gwanaksan mountain. There are a lot of plants and trees which bloom in spring, and during the breaks, you can easily have a walk and enjoy the weather.
— What do you think about South Korea?
— Korea seems to be a very safe country! You can easily roam about the city at night alone, leave your belongings (even your money and phone) at a cafe and step out without worrying about them being stolen. Once, I found someone's bank card on a bench, and no one who passed by touched it. Koreans told me to leave the card where it was, as the owner would find it themselves later and get it back. Though it is safe here, it is still better to avoid some districts with an active nightlife. I also did not expect South Korea to have such a harmonious balance between nature and the urban environment. Seoul is a technologically advanced metropolis so I expected to see only skyscrapers and business centres, but in fact, there are a lot of mountains, forests, parks, and trees all around the city.
— Do you think that academic mobility will influence your plans for the future?
— It already has ! I once again made sure that I wanted to connect my life with studying foreign languages. Though I am grateful to HSE University and our programme for the knowledge that the lecturers give us, I couldn't get a full picture of what I wanted to be in the future. However, thanks to the mobility programme, the picture became much clearer: I plan to apply for a Korean master's programme after graduation from HSE University and teach Russian and Korean.
Interviewed by Veronika Berdnikova, student of the Bachelor's programme 'Political Science and World Politics'