Challenges Of Russia For An International HSE Student

Elisea Katharina-Benedicta, a student of International Affairs Program, talks about adapting to Russia.

Challenges Of Russia For An International HSE Student

Russia is an interesting and a beautiful country.

Elisea Katharina-Benedicta
Elisea Katharina-Benedicta
Hi, Elisea! Where are you from and what's your native language?

Hello, I’m from Indonesia and my native language is Indonesian, although I’ve been studying and talking English since childhood.

When was your first time visiting Russia?

My first time visiting Russia was 2 years ago, on 2017, I had been studying Russian for a year before entering university.

What was your first impression like?

I remember being a little bit shocked because i still couldn't believe that I was finally in Russia and my life was going to change drastically. My first impression was: "Moscow reminds me of Jakarta". You have to be tough to live in Moscow: the life pace is very fast, people don’t really smile a lot, and it is very cold here.

Which part of our culture was the weirdest and the hardest to get used to?

I guess one of the weirdest cultural features for me is to say «будь здорова» when someone is sneezing. It’s actually normal too in Indonesia, but what makes it different is that we don’t really remember to say “будь здорова” when someone is sneezing, like it's optional. But in Russia, it’s very common and habitual thing that people say.

And, on the contrary, was there anything about Russia that is similar to your own culture, made you feel nostalgic?

I don’t think so, it’s actually very different.

What do you think about Russian cuisine?

There are some dishes that I actually like, Russian pancakes and dumplings, for example. But I also really like pilaf because it reminds me of Indonesia. We have something similar, and we call it ‘Nasi Goreng’ - fried rice.

Which part of Russian language was the hardest to learn/understand?

It’s all hard, I don’t think the hardest aspect even exists because the Russian as a whole is overcomplicated.

Has your Russian improved over the last year?

Yes, because I practice much more with my Russian roommates and friends. Probably not in a "correct grammar" way, but it is improving a lot.

Is adaptation to HSE without perfect Russian challenging? Do you feel like foreign students receive enough opportunities to make their studying life as comfortable as possible?

The word “challenging” is not even enough to describe it, but yes, it is 100% very challenging, I used to cry almost every day when I just entered the university because I felt like I didn’t understand anything, and what I had been learning in extra courses was not enough. Partly that's due to professors talking in much more formal way. To be honest, HSE should get some awards for providing good facilities and technology, because they are very comfortable and make my life much easier. However, I do think they need to change the education system a little bit, because I just don’t feel that international students in bachelor’s degree are improving their scores here. There are lots of international students that get kicked out or decided to get out from HSE because they are tired of the system.

Can you give any advice to other international students?

My advice would be: "Work and study very hard, develop your skills, don’t be afraid to talk during the seminar". What matters is striving towards your goals (which is graduating from university) and not quitting. Here in HSE, I've learnt to get out of my comfort zone and become tougher and more disciplined. I always ask myself: how can I change this situation for the better? How can I improve this? In the end, I've learnt how to manage my time.

Interview by
Luiza Gashimova