'I Came to Make a Difference'
Yesuigen Tsogjavkhlan, from Mongolia, reflects on her experience as an international student majoring in ‘Public Policy and Analytics’ at HSE University-St Petersburg and shares her story of coming to Russia.
Making a Difference
There are lots of economic and social issues in my home country. I wanted to have some kind of influence over them. When I was a junior in high school, I decided that I would focus on solving the educational and social problems of my society in the future. I chose to enrol in the Bachelor’s in ‘Public Policy and Аnalytics’ to learn how to formulate, evaluate, and promote policy options that could make a difference in my country or even my home city.
Low Cost of Living
My decision to study in Russia was heavily influenced by the low cost of living. Compared to other countries such as Japan, the USA or Australia, the cost of living and studying in Russia is pretty low. Also, my home country’s politics are heavily influenced by Russia and China, which is another reason why I decided to study here.
A Top University
I knew the Russian language quite well even before applying to HSE University-St Petersburg, which played a huge part in my decision to apply to study in Russia. I liked the fact that HSE University had four different campuses and lots of programmes in both English and Russian. I knew that it is one of the top universities in Russia and consistently ranks among the top 150 universities in the world, which also made me give preference to HSE University over others.
Feels Like Home
I like St Petersburg, my dormitory, the people I’ve encountered and the fact that in Russia, I can find some products and places that remind me of my home if I ever get homesick. Contrary to popular belief, the dormitories in Russia in general, and at HSE University in particular, aren’t bad—I met most of my closest friends there. The city has so much to offer, so I am never bored. I even found a small ‘buuza’ café, which I regularly visit to eat some buuz (a traditional meal) if I miss my home cuisine.
All I had to take were the HSE entrance exams. When I applied, I had to take exams in History, English and Russian. The Russian exam was the hardest for me, because although I could understand day-to-day speech, it was not easy for me to comprehend academic Russian.
A Frightening Day
Because of the COVID-19 regulations, my first day at HSE University took place only in February of 2022. To be honest, it was a rather frightening day. But after a while, I could say I adapted quite nicely to the academic programme and started exploring the opportunities that the university offers more confidently.
In my freshman year at HSE University, I didn't really take part in any clubs. However, this year I am a manager of the Talking Crows, which is an English-speaking club at HSE University-St Petersburg. I am also a volunteer for other student organisations.
Apart from the COVID-19 restrictions, I had no difficulties moving to Russia. I had the dormitory all to myself during the new year holidays and I successfully made it comfortable and cosy. So there were no issues. I try to be open-minded. I was ready to feel a bit sad or depressed during my first weeks in Russia and basically prepared myself mentally for any obstacles that might have occurred. Therefore, I didn’t feel scared that much.
Things Always Change
Sometimes I do get homesick, but most of the time I am glad to be here. I like what I study and the feeling that I have opportunities in life, which is also amazing. I understand that when you are away from the environment you have been in all of your life, you start becoming someone new, you start changing. The change can be bad or good, but it doesn’t really matter. You start growing as an individual and realise that only you are in charge of your habits, day-to-day life, choices and happiness. Right now, I am in the phase of embracing the change, so I don’t really feel the hardships of being away from home. I, as a person, developed quite a lot but so have the people from my home country. I guess the most dramatic thing that I have noticed is how much my old friends and even family members are changing. I cannot engage or interact with them a lot; I speak to my old friends once in 3–6 months, and in this time, so much is different and so many things have already happened to me and them.
Seeing the Sights
Russia is a big country. The sightseeing never really ends here—whether you are exploring the city through the eyes of a tourist or an experienced student, there will always be something new, weird and interesting. I really love various old and new buildings. Soviet-era buildings hold the history of the place, and even the names of some metro stations reflect historical events. I have visited lots of tourist attractions and I loved them all, but for me, the streets I stroll by every day are the most significant.
Recommendations for International Students
Manage your expectations. If you want to make more friends, you have to be active. If you want to get good grades, you have to work hard. Nothing will be handed to you and if you don’t ask for help, no one will know to help you. So really, if you want something, just go for it and look at things logically. Manage your finances well. As an international student you will have some additional costs during the academic year like health insurance, visa costs etc, so be ready for that.
Text by Arina Farahova for HSE Illuminated