HSE Became My University
There are so many stories that come from international students about their interesting lives and wonderful experiences. Nga Pham would like to share her story, too.
I used to learn Russian in High School for 3 years. But at that time I had never thought that I would later study in Russia. My parents have always wanted me to go to an Art College after school, and they wanted me to quit learning Russian, as they believed that it would bring me no profit. But I refused because once I start something, I will never give up on it until I reach achievements. Later I gained admission to Hanoi University and spent more than a year studying Russian. Everything was pretty good, my friends were super nice and our teachers were helpful, but somehow I did not find interest in studying. I felt like some subjects were not practical, boring, and useless. I could not even come up with any reasons why we had to learn them. Then I started searching for a different direction. It was the same time our teacher told the whole class about a full-ride scholarship program in Russia. We had to be very competitive, we had to pass all of the exams in the 1st year and get high results so that we could be able to sign up for the program. And I still remember that we had 3 choices for universities, and I took HSE Saint Petersburg as my first place. I really did hope that I would receive higher education and Saint Petersburg was always my most favorite city, so I chose it without a doubt. It was totally like a gambling game to me and I couldn’t even believe that I entered HSE.
As a foreign student, I just couldn’t go to the university immediately. We had a preparation course for one year at Ivanovo State University, where we studied Russian only in order to serve our studies later. I felt like I must be very lucky to study in different cities and experience things in different universities. Ivanovo is a really warm, friendly city and very peaceful. One year flew so quickly and it was time for me to leave. Even though my friends wanted me to stay, and were afraid that I would have no friends in my new university, but I could not just stop my adventure. I had to go further than that.
And yes, HSE so far is already my third University! How do I feel about it? Scary but also brilliant, so brilliant that if I was able to choose again, I would not hesitate to choose HSE Saint Peterburg. I found myself learning a lot of things through years: not only the knowledge in our class, but also ways to improve myself, from a passive to an active person, from a fearful person to a braver one.
My first year was a nightmare for me because of everything: I couldn’t find any new friends from my faculty, I had many deadlines and home assignments to deal with. I remember we had no deadlines when I still were in Vietnam, so that was kinda a shock for me. I felt like I was nothing but an incompetent, ignorant person and I was about to quit HSE. But my sister told me one thing that completely changed my whole point of view then:
Because you don’t know anything, you must go to the university, so that people will teach you to know. If you are a genius already, why do you have to go there anymore?
After that I started to try hard on everything. I tried to work out with deadlines, I tried not to be shy and get close to some people, I did fail several times but finally after more than 3 years, I have best friends ever from the same faculty and other departments, all of them are extremely kind and considerate people. One used to sit with me until 7 A.M. just to help me understand my homework and another girl always cheers me up and even though my Russian is bad, she says that I know more languages than anyone does. I also found teachers who always try to support and help me to fit in, because as a foreign student, there are many aspects of me that are still limited, typically my language skills. I feel so proud and grateful about that and I just think my student life would not be complete without them.
For me, Saint-Peterburg is everything when you talk about “a city worth living”: cool atmosphere, rich in culture, have so many magnificent places to visit, and I have never seen such friendly and hospitable people as residents in Saint-Peterburg. I find myself thining about it when I visit other cities. It became my second hometown, and I got used to bad weather, to the Neva river, to all the museums, to the Nevsky Square, to people and, basically, just to every small corners of this city. When my friend in Vietnam texted me that if I return to my country, may I miss my cute Russian friends here. It isn’t “may”. And it is not about my friends only. All of my friends here, my university and Saint-Peterburg will forever have a place in my heart.