Every student at Higher School of Economics has an opportunity to get the experience of studying abroad. However, it is not as easy as it seems; thus, many students are afraid to give it a try or struggle to choose the country to study at. The best way to know something is to ask, so in this article we are going to take a closer look at the experience of one of the students, who agreed to share his expectations and emotions about studying abroad – Nikita Inzhevatkin – a student of the Business and Management Programme.
When I entered the university, I had already known that I wanted to go to the exchange program because I had always been interested in travelling, just being somewhere else, being abroad. Plus, I really enjoy when I can combine different styles of studying and learning, so I just knew that I had to do that just to experience this, and pretty much that’s it. You can always try and see what is happening rather than you regret that you didn’t do anything. So, I just looked at my curriculum and decided that the first semester of the third year of study was the best time because there were not so many subjects there. Moreover, there’re not that hard, so it was possible to create a perfect study plan.
As for the choice of Belgium and my KU Leuven University, actually I just looked at the top rating of the economic and finance universities. I actually enjoyed it very very much and as for the country I was not really, you know, concerned and connected to any other variants, because I was opened for any possibility, so it didn’t mean a lot to me that I chose Belgium. But in fact, it was very interesting for me because I’ve never been there and I’ve never even thought about going there, and it was a nice choice, you know, to go somewhere that you have no idea what it’s like. So, I think that was kind of an adventure as well.
I’d say that I had a lot of troubles with documents and the visa. It took me a lot of time and effort to gain permission to go there, but the hardest part was saying bye to my friends for six month. I was not so worried about the studies as I knew that I could do that, and it would not be a problem. I was not so worried, you know, about being in an international environment because I’ve participated in summer schools abroad and I mean that’s not six months but still I had some experience, so I felt fine.
When I arrived to Belgium, first of all, I was very confused because they spoke French and Dutch. I didn’t know any of these languages. I just knew English and Germain and when I arrived everything was in totally different languages and I was a bit confused but in the end I felt that it’s a nice way to learn a new language and it’s a nice way to see how you ccould interact in the situation where you did not actually understand a lot. So, when I arrived at my dorm, I just mentally put myself in the state that I needed to communicate right away. I wanted to immerse into the environment as soon as possible and so I just went and communicated right away in the lobby where everyone waited until they got their keys from their rooms. It was a great start because on the next day I had a lot of acquaintances and we had fun. I was very excited about the whole thing, about the whole trip and it actually was true because this experience was one of the best of my life.
I’d say that it was not that hard because I was confident in my English, and I could understand a lot, and I watched a lot of movies in English. It was hard in terms of exams because when you’re passing the exam in a non-native language you had a barrier of knowledge of the subject plus a barrier of knowledge of the language, because there’re a lot of specific words that you just had to remember. So, it was a little bit harder than Russian exams but in general I didn’t see any difference during the lectures or during the studying process or even like during my life there.
I was lucky that there were no Russian guys in my dorm, so I was fully immersed in the international environment and I was only talking to the international students plus locals. It helped to expand my horizonts as I gained a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience from people around the world. There were people from Africa from every part of America, from a lot of European countries, from Asia and from Australia.
I started missing home after two weeks, but it wasn’t a long missing session, it was just for a couple of days and it’s okay. I’d say that it is more connected with, you know, going outside of your comfort zone is not always easy. It was just that you’re in the environment that was not comfortable yet, I mean it’s not comfortable but still it was new for you and so you needed some time to get acquainting with it and get real-real comfortable. So, it was the moment for me, but it was a very quick one. I didn’t have any kind of home sickness or depression.
I really missed my friends, but when you have a lot of new friends and you have a lot of people that you are interested in talking to then you don’t have a lot of time to sit in the corner and just be sad and miss everyone else. In general, yeah, I missed my friends, but we communicated a lot through the social media, or we phoned each other. So, it was not a big problem.
I would totally go for an exchange program one more time. I’m even thinking about going for my master’s abroad because as for exchange program. Such experience really changes your life. You gain so much that you don’t even expect to gain. You just go and it’s really like resolving your life because you experience something that you cannot expect in terms of even travelling, in terms of meeting really-really interesting people because usually in such dorms, in such situations people are pretty much the same about intellectual style because it’s not very easy to go for an exchange programs. People there are smart and it’s very nice to talk to a lot of smart people, because you just, I don’t know, evolve and create like a community of people who can think deeply about ordinary things. It’s just an interesting experience that allows you to become a better person I’d say. Exchange programs are not about travelling and not about being abroad, but it’s more about virtual and mental growth as you gain a lot of experience and you become mature and maybe wise. So, I’s say that I would definitely go one more time.
If you feel that you want it - then stop overthinking about it. Because life is too short to always hesitate and to always think “should I do that or not”. You'd better do then to regret not doing it.
If you have second thoughts you should talk to people who’ve already been there, you should talk to international students of your university, you should contact the HR center of the abroad university because they have a lot of information that will help you. I mean you can pretty much get a lot of advice from every aspect of it, but it’s still your decision of your life experience and nobody will push you to do that until you do that yourself.
It is always very beneficial to learn about the experiences of different people. There are special events at HSE, where students share their stories about their study aboad experinces. There are many students out there, who are ready to help. Go for it!