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HSE Buddy: How To Make International Friends

Have you already heard about HSE Buddy programme?

HSE Buddy: How To Make International Friends

So, you probably have already heard about the organization called ESN HSE Moscow. But did you know that you can become a direct guide for international students to the Russian life? Or maybe you are a foreign student and you want to learn more about how to find a local buddy who is ready to help you?

In order to understand this topic better, we interviewed Eugenia, a buddy with much experience. For four years, she has been helping international students feel at home while studying in Moscow.

Let’s start with basics: who is the «buddy»?

Buddy in HSE is a Russian student, who helps international students as a friend with different difficulties that he or she may face while studying here. Basically, it is a person who tries to prevent cultural shock and helps to avoid various awkward situations. Usually you can choose a buddy who has similar interests and hobbies with you. Therefore you have more in common with that person and feel more comfortable while communicating with each other.

How can I become «buddy»? Where can I apply for this programme?

There is a website where you can register as a local student. You have to fill in your profile, write something about yourself and also tag some spheres that you like, for example, music, sports, partying and so on. Obviously, you have to be a HSE student, be rather fluent in English and have a desire to help international students. Also you must realize that signing up for this programme you take some responsibilities. It’s highly recommended to be open-minded and ready to help.

How can international student ask for buddy’s help?

I know that usually incoming students are told how to apply for a buddy. It’s the same online system, where you register and, like in case with local students, you fill in your profile.

Note: if you are coming in Russia and still don’t know this information - there is a link with all needed info in English!

What duties would I get if I decided to become a buddy?

You will have to chat with your student by email or in Facebook, meet him or her at the Aeroexpress station or at the airport, help to check in a dorm, to buy a SIM-card, show, how to deal with the underground, show, where his or her campus is located, where is the student office, help out with visa documents and so on.

Personally, I usually make excursions around the neighborhood where my students stays.

How would you describe your experience as being a buddy?

I have to say that it’s a super interesting and even funny experience. You show another person your country, city and culture. It is extremely important for me because I was born and raised in Moscow and I enjoy visiting local places of interest so much. International guys are usually engaged in Russian culture, so you can offer them to taste Russian cuisine, to introduce them to your local friends, to travel with them around Russia. It’s unusual and really amusing, especially when you have similar hobbies.

Once I connected with a girl named Isabella from Italy. She was studying Masters in HSE. It turned out that we had friends in common. She met them when they were kids. This fact was really surprising for us both. We even met later: she came to visit me in Moscow and then we caught up in Prague. We went to different cafes and restaurants rather often, exchanged experience, cooked pasta together. Once we had a party where I cooked Russian salad and guys from Italy made ravioli.                            

Have you ever faced any difficulties while being a buddy? Maybe there were any funny moments or situations where you had to use your creativity?

Once I had a story when my friend from Spain lost a migration card, which is dangerous to lose, because you will have problems leaving Russia. So, we had to go to the police. My friend was worried because of this situation so bad because she needed to leave in a week. The policeman did not understand at all what a girl from Spain was doing here, what had happened to her. They started talking about Spain and Russia. He began to ask her about Russian music. They even discussed local cuisine. By the end of this nice conversation the policeman told us how to solve this problem easier, wished us all the best and even hugged us when we were leaving. It was an unusual experience to be honest.

OK, I became a buddy and got a request for help from an international student. What steps should I take?

My personal advice - write your students, ask them, when exactly they will come, if they have ever been to Russia, what expectations or stereotypes they have. In my first year I helped a guy from Italy. He was sure that it’s always extremely cold in Russia so he came to Moscow already wearing a coat with a luggage full of warm clothes. By the way, it was August and it was 28 degrees above zero and he even didn’t check the forecast. So, tell them about the weather, where they will live, that you will help them with everything just in case they don’t worry. Many students choose Russia and come here alone so it may cause some problems. Then you agree on a meeting place (airport or train station) and exchange phone numbers. Be responsible and don’t take it if you don’t feel that you are ready. Think about what it would be like if you came to another country where you know nobody.

How long on the average will I be in contact with that international student?

Usually international students stay for six months or a year in Moscow. I try to keep in touch with all my buddies for a long time, even if they are leaving for other countries. I practice sending postcards on holidays, and with some friends we send postcards every month to keep in touch. Two of my international students have become my close friends. We chat and call each other every day. It’s always nice to know that you have a friend from another country. I was very lucky with my buddies.

How do you usually spend your time with international students?

You both practice languages, share hobbies, go for a walk, go to museums, shops, master classes, public talks,, cook together, watch movies. It’s also cool to travel to other cities, even not far from Moscow. It’s cool that you are learning new traditions and you are being taught by a new person. For example, your buddy shows you his or her vision of the world and then you can reevaluate yours. Once a girl from Paraguay who came to preparatory courses stayed with me for two weeks. She spoke a little Russian and even made friends with my mom. My mom even taught her how to cook dumplings. Perhaps, the person will teach you to perceive what is happening around you more easily. For example, the market near my house looks too familiar to me, but she was surprised at how colorful everything is. I also taught from Italians, who are usually not worried about things they don’t feel like doing , do not panic and stress to no purpose. Sometimes you need to catch this attitude too.

Text by

Kamilla Kalimullina

Anna Volkova