From Switzerland to Moscow on Exchange

Philipp Fehr on what it is like to study in Moscow as a foreign student. 

From Switzerland to Moscow on Exchange

When I was in my 3rd year, a student from Switzerland came to study with us for exchange for one semester. His name is Philip and today he shares his experiences studying in Russia and Switzerland.

Where do you study now in Switzerland? Which university and in which specialty?

I am currently studying for my master’s degree in Business Administration & Corporate Finance at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

Tell us about your studies in Switzerland. How do your studies procedure at all?

In Switzerland we have an assessment year during the first year of the Bachelor studies, where you must show, that you are capable to study and pass the exams. Afterwards you have two more years of Bachelor courses where you have a part of obligatory courses and another part, where you can choose from a pool of relevant courses in which you are interested in. So, after 180 ECTS, or usually three years of studying (it can also take you longer than three years, that’s up to you), in my case I received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration & Economics.

After achieving the bachelor’s degree, you can go and get a master’s degree. This is where the specialisation begins, because in the Bachelor the specialisation on a part of Business Administration is more difficult. There is a lot of different master programs to choose from and they last from three to four semesters during which you must accomplish from 90 to 120 ECTS, depending on the master program you have chosen. In my case, 120 ECTS.

Thus, there is a difference from Russia, because, as I know, at the HSE you have to choose in which direction you want to specialise yourself after 2 years of studying and you also have four years of Bachelor. This can be explained by the fact, that in Switzerland we have 12 years of school education prior to going to a University.

Another difference from Russia is the grading procedure. In Russia, I noticed, that you have to do more work during the semester, like writing essays, doing homework or having small control works. As a result, you do not always have to write an exam at the end of the semester. I really liked this system, because it forces you to be more active during the semester and you have less stress at the end of it.

In Switzerland we also have homework and stuff, but it’s often voluntary (relevant for the exams though). The graded assignments are fewer than in Russia on the Bachelor level. As a contrast, you have larger exams at the end of the semester. These exams cover the material of the whole semester and your performance at that exam is evaluated. As a result, the exam period and one or two months before are always intense.

Last year you came to Moscow to study in exchange for a semester. Why did you decide to come to study in Moscow at the HSE?

Moscow is a beautiful and huge city, that has a lot to offer! This fact and the fact that I have Russian roots attracted me to Moscow and Russia in general. I have visited the city several times before my exchange semester and really enjoyed it. So, I wanted to get to know Moscow closer and decided that an exchange semester would be the best opportunity to do so.

The HSE has a good reputation across Russia and when I saw that it is a partner of my home university, the decision to go to there was already made.

I do not regret this decision at all, because I enjoyed my time at the HSE very much and sometimes I miss it!

Tell us about your impressions of studying in Moscow?

Studying in Moscow is generally very exciting in my opinion. Especially at the HSE. The University offers a lot of activities and different programs apart from the courses. Here I also would like to mention that I liked the big offer in different courses at the HSE!

Both, the HSE and the city are huge and thus have a lot to offer! I loved playing football with the students from all over the world and many teams from Russia. The tournaments were well organised by students. The city has everything: a lively nightlife, great history, there are no borders for your love for food, because you can find any type of food you like. All these things together make it a great place to study in my opinion.

Did you experience discomfort from studying abroad, new team, etc.? If so, how did you cope with it?

Definitely not! I felt very accepted by the local students and also had a great time with the other exchange students. In three of my five courses I was only with Russian students. These courses I enjoyed the most, because they were all nice, funny and friendly people. I felt welcomed and there was a nice atmosphere during the lessons. So, thank you for this!

Did you have time to see Moscow (or maybe even travel around Russia) while you were studying here?

Yes, I did have enough time to explore Moscow, especially when friends and family visited me. I did all the important sightseeing with them. I had the pleasure to be a guide for several times. I believe I have seen much of Moscow but obviously not everything, because there is so much to see in Moscow and five months past faster than you think.

Otherwise I did a daytrip to the city of Vladimir once and furthermore I had the time to travel to the very north of Russia for visiting the City of Murmansk and the region around it. There we went with other exchange students and it was a very great and impressive experience for everyone of us! There we saw the polar shining, did the traditional Russian Banya (including swimming in a frozen lake), rode with Huskies, drove on a snowmobile, did some ice fishing, visited an old nuclear bunker and, last but not least, enjoyed a burger in the most northern McDonald’s in the world!

What did you do in Moscow in your spare time?

During my free time I liked to do something with other students, like visiting different places, having some beers, going out, in the winter I liked the different ice-skating courses everywhere across the city and, as I’ve already mentioned, I loved playing football.

I also spent a lot of time in traffic jams, because I was driving around by car sometimes. I am a big fan of the metro even if it can be very busy during the rush hours.

Does Swiss and Russian education differ greatly?

Well, I am from Liechtenstein, but we have a very similar system to the Swiss one. I would say that there is a difference between the Swiss and the Russian System, because, as I’ve already mentioned, we have 12 years of school education, 9 respectively, depending on whether to do a higher degree or not. This is similar to the 9 or 11 years of school in Russia. So, the result is the same if you are going to the university. There are different ways.

What are the main tips you could give to students coming to Russia to study abroad?

Enjoy your time, be open to meet new and interesting people, talk to them, Russians are very friendly and open in general (my opinion). If your mindset is right, then you should have a great time at the HSE in Moscow! The people do speak English and sign language as well but you could use some sentences in Russian.

On the other hand, prepare your stay in Russia and find out the requirements (Visa etc.).

Finally, I would like to mention, that all (I believe) other international students are positively fascinated by Moscow and Russia in general. I think most of them had a quiet awesome time.

Text by
Yulia Kapustina