What is International Student Forum and AIS? 9 Questions to Florence

Olubunmi Florence Ibuowo

Olubunmi Florence Ibuowo

In the view of the upcoming HSE St.Peterburg International Student Forum, HSE Illuminated interviewed Florence Ibuowo, a member of the Association of International students of the campus, on her experience in the University and the aims of the association and the forum.

HSE Illuminated: Florence, please tell us a little bit about yourself. How you decided to come in Russia and HSE St. Petersburg?

Florence: My name is Florence Ibuowo, I’m currently a Bachelor’s student of Political Science and World Politics, I’m from Nigeria, Africa. I have a keen interest in research especially in the fields of Human rights and political corruption studies. I also love singing and exploring new places. The decision to study in Russia was made by myself and my Mother few years ago and I am in St. Petersburg, because the course I applied for was not provided in English medium in HSE Moscow, so I had to apply through HSE Moscow and now I’m here in HSE St. Petersburg.

HI: What was the hardest thing you faced here as an international student? And how did you handle it?

Florence: During my first year at HSE St. Petersburg, I had a problem with the university system due to my lack of understanding of how things were done within the university. I did not know how the classes were done, didn’t know how to check my timetable nor readings for the seminars and some other basic things. It was quite problematic for me then, but I handled these issues by seeking assistance from the study office for my programme.

HI: Today, you’re part of the Association of International students (AIS). How did you come up with the idea to join it?

Florence: After observing the problems which were faced by the English-speaking International students, I realised that there was a need for us as International students to have a formal organisation or community which can speak for us, a community which can help us to relay our queries and request to the administration of the university. So, I told my study office co-ordinator (Arkadii Naboka) about this organisation and he agreed with me and helped with submitting a formal request to the admission office and it was during this period I came up with the idea to have a Forum for the International students and the administration of the University. After a series of meetings with the administration and the student union representative of the university, a decision was to make our community a part of the AIS, thus we have two branches within the AIS i.e. Russian-speaking International students and the English-speaking International students. That’s a summarised story of how I became one of the pioneers of the English-speaking Association of International student.

HI: Can you please brief us about the motive and aims of the Association?

Florence: The Association of International students in HSE Saint Petersburg consist of two wings or branches, because there is the English-speaking International Students and the Russian-speaking international students i.e. students who are not Russian legally but are of the Russian heritage. The motive and aim of this community are to be of aid to international students studying at HSE St. Petersburg and irrespective of the fact that we consist of two major branches we all work together in pursuits of achieving the aim of helping out the International students.

HI: Wow great!! Talking about working together to achieve goals, what are some of the main targets you wish to achieve as an association, if you have any.

Florence: Yes, we do have targets we want to achieve for the students and also the University. As a community working together for the betterment of International students, we organise various programs not just for the sake of it, but as a medium of reaching out to the International students. Through our various programmes we try as much as possible to make sure that the contents of these programmes are of great importance and benefits to our students. So, in a nutshell our target as a community is to be of aid to the international students of HSE St. Petersburg, help serve as a link between the students and the University administration so as to diminish the communication barrier which is experience by students. I have realised that most International students have a problem of expressing themselves, because they most times do not know who to ask or meet when they are faced with problems, so we hope to be able to help solve this problem as a community. 

HI: Quite interesting. I’m glad that international students will have a representative body to help settle issues. As the famous quote says, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”. Do you have any ideas about organising some activities, such as recreational, quizzes and other non-academic activities?

Florence: Of course, we do have some interesting activities. The University already has the culture day for international students and we plan to make it more interesting by involving most and possibly all our international students, including the English-speaking students. We also have a forum coming up. It is going to be more of a formal type of meeting, because we would be having both the students of the university and the top administrative personnel of the University in attendance at the event. There are also other fun activities that would be held but information about them would be relayed later.

HI: Great!! Can you please tell us more about the forum? When is it happening? And it is going to be a one-time forum, or we will see many forums in the coming future?

Florence: The Forum is a programme which is aimed at providing assistance and solutions to many problems of the International students. At the Forum we would be talking about issue that affect English speaking International students the most, such as getting internships, part-time jobs within the university and also within the city of saint Petersburg and also other basic issue together with the representatives of the University which would be present at the Forum.  Although, this Forum is the first of its kind in the history of HSE St. Petersburg, so we do not want it to be a one-time event, we hope to continue holding it annually. The Forum is dated to take place in the month of May, but a date hasn’t been approved or confirmed yet.

HI: Interesting, I can’t wait for this forum. Moving on, talking about international students and their experience, you made mention of being the mouthpiece of international students to help solve problems, what problems are we talking about here?

Florence: Communication is important everywhere. Most of the international students cannot speak Russian so it’s difficult to express themselves and asides that, last year some English-speaking international students who graduated had problems with their documentation (diploma translation) and internship problems. It was hard for them. We want to help with providing solutions to some of these issues in order to make international students enjoy their stay here without having to face any major difficulties.

HI: I’m happy to hear that. It would help a lot when these petty issues are solved. We are almost done with our short interview, what would you like to tell your fellow international students and Russian students as well?

Florence: There’s a lot of things, I would like to say, but to keep it short I would like to tell them to always try to soar above any type of difficulties they face. I know sometimes it might be quite uncomfortable being in a foreign land and having to put up with the strange weather, but always remember if you think of this place as your own you will always be comfortable in it. So, always make sure that you try as much as possible to make things work out positively for you. We don’t always get what we want or bargained for, but we must try to make maximum use of what we have at hand.  To the Russian students, I love you guys, but please don’t be shy around us and also try to interact with us because we don’t bite and we’re very sweet people =)

Questions by
John Kwofie and Oxley Dodoo