Erasmus Student Network (ESN): Students Speak

We talk to the managers of ESN HSE and international students who have experienced this organization on themselves.

Erasmus Student Network (ESN): Students Speak

The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is the largest volunteer student organization in Europe. It was founded in 1989 to support and promote international student mobility.

Today, ESN is represented in more than 900 higher education institutions in 39 European countries — and continues to grow. ESN HSE Moscow works in the interests of HSE international students and aims to improve the conditions for their social and cultural adaptation in Moscow and in HSE. At the same time, the organization tries to provide an opportunity to share cultural experiences with the Russian students who, for one reason or another, cannot study abroad.

Today we talk to 6 guys: Veronika, Daniil and Yulia (Russian students who are the managers of ESN HSE) and also with Matteo, Roxana and Ivan (international students) who have experienced this organization on themselves.

Veronika Mezentseva, the President of ESN HSE

Hello, Veronika! Could you tell me, please, a bit about the organization? What is the main mission of ESN HSE Moscow?

Hello! ESN's mission is to create a more flexible and mobile educational environment by supporting student exchange programs. Of course, the main thing is tolerance and openness. We believe that there are no bad or good countries, each person is unique, and we are all a big family. ESN is a special community that consists of purposeful and brave people who are not afraid to leave their comfort zone. And I believe that the organization helps them in this. In addition, the ESN members can travel to almost any country and find a friend there who will show them the sights and help with some problems.

How did you become the President of ESN HSE? Tell me, please, about your career path in this organization.

Well, I've been in the organization for a long time. My path in ESN HSE began in 2016, when I joined the organization as a Buddy and a member of the asset. A year later, I became a Buddy coordinator and until 2020 I worked as an “Amurchik” who connects international students and Buddies, helping them to find a perfect match. In 2020, I took the position of  the President of ESN HSE and I’m happy.

How the students can get into your organization and become the managers? When and where they can apply?

To become a Buddy, it is enough to be an HSE student and know English. You can write to any member of the organization or directly to me to get all the necessary information and start communicating with students. Becoming a member of the asset is already more difficult: you need to pass the selection process, which consists of filling out a questionnaire and an interview. During the selection process, we focus on the student's goals and look for those whose values coincide with the values of the organization. If you are an active and sociable person who wants to be in an international company without leaving Russia, we will be happy to welcome you to our ranks!

Do you cooperate with other universities? If so, in which way?

ESN is a large international organization so we have representative offices in European universities. In Russia, these are Moscow and St. Petersburg HSE, St. Petersburg State University, SPbGLTU, UrFU and SFTU. We share our experience, and when our students go to the excursions to St. Petersburg, the guys help us to create an interesting program and find the best bars and restaurants.

How has the pandemic affected your organization?

Unfortunately, they were reflected directly: the borders were closed, so for a long time we had to limit ourselves to communicating online. Now, when students can come to Russia again, we are gradually recovering and are again conducting activities.

Daniil Romanov, ex-manager of ESN HSE

Hello, Daniil! Why did you become a member of this organization?

At the beginning of the 4th year of my study, I decided that in addition to studying, I wanted to develop in the direction of foreign languages somehow, which I liked a lot. I heard about this organization when I was on the 3rd year and on the 4th year I decided that I definitely wanted to join ESN. I decided to join the organization because it is always good to help people, and especially people who are in a foreign country. I think that helping foreigners is something more than just helping our compatriots, because for them everything in our country is unusual and unfamiliar. Moreover, you have an opportunity to practice the language.

Do you think this organization has changed you and if so in which way?

Yes, certainly, ESN HSE has changed me. Being involved in the organization has helped me to improve some aspects of myself and also helped to develop some of my skills. For example, I’ve learned how to organize events, how to calculate estimates, and of course how to organize my time, so basically my time management became much better. The organization also gave me many friends both from Russia and from the foreign countries.

Do you still keep in touch with the students who are already left Russia?

Yes, I keep in touch with some foreigners who have become close to me during our communication. Almost regularly I keep in touch with two guys. Unfortunately, I haven't visited them yet, but I really hope that I will be able to go soon.

What was the most exciting moment of being part of ESN HSE?

Well, I think the trip to St. Petersburg was the most memorable for me, when we tried not to lose out foreign students. That trip was amazing, I really liked it! Also once we organized a big party, when we rented a house, bought a lot of food, made decorations and organized interesting activities. The party was fantastic!

Yulia Zimont, HR Manager of ESN HSE

Hello, Yulia! When did you become a manager of ESN HSE? What kind of experience this organization gives you?

I became a part of ESN HSE in August 2019 as an active member, that is, in fact, an ordinary volunteer, while I was still a buddy, that is, I helped foreign students who come to Moscow, met them at the train station. A year later, I decided to try to make a more significant contribution to the organization and now I’m an HR Manager, helping to select people in the organization, motivate them to work.

In your opinion why the students need to participate in ESN HSE? What experience can this organization provide?

In the ESN, you can meet different people, both volunteers and other foreigners. This is a good opportunity to improve your skills in organizing events, practice the language and just communicate more with people, find non-standard solutions to some problems and get out of your comfort zone.

What was the last memorable event that you organized for international students?

One of the last events I remember is Maslenitsa. Me myself have never gone to the celebration of Shrovetide before, but this time I joined together with the foreigners. This is a celebration in the forest, where there are all sorts of Russian amusements, where people bake pancakes on the fire. One of the Russian amusements was climbing on a tall wooden log almost without clothes in the cold and some foreigners also wanted to try, and they even managed a little.

Do you organize trips in other cities in Russia?

Yes, we usually organize trips to Kazan, St. Petersburg and Murmansk. If we are lucky we can see the Northern Lights in Murmansk. In June, during the season of “white nights” in Saint Petersburg, foreign students are in love with the city!

Matteo Ferrante, participant of ESN HSE

Hello, Matteo! Firstly, tell me a little bit about yourself, please. When did you come to the HSE and on what program were you studying?

I arrived at the end of January 2019 from the State University of Milan. In HSE I was studying at the Faculty of Foreign Languages/Linguistics. Basically, I was attending mainly Russian language courses.

How did you find out about ESN HSE? Did you actively participate in the activities of the organization?

I found out already in Moscow, talked with the friends of mine in the dormitory and they said that ESN HSE organizes something for international students. Me and my friends participated quite often in the activities and events of this organization

Did you have your own personal buddy who supervised you?

No, really, because I’ve been already before in Russia and spoke more or less in Russian language. So I was almost local friendly speaking.

I heard that you speak Russian very well. Did your participation in ESN HSE help you learn the language?

Of course, I often talked to the ESN guys in Russian. This helped me a lot to practice the language «outside» of classes at the university. They always shared with me some useful words and phrases.

Roxana Ramirez, participant of ESN HSE

Hello, Roxana! Please tell us a little about yourself: what university did you come from, what program do you study at the HSE?

Well, I didn't come here on the exchange program, I was studying in HSE fully on a budget program for foreigners. I came from Bolivia. Now I’m a first-year graduate student with the title "HR Analytics".

How did you find out about ESN HSE? Did you participate in ESN at your home university?

I’ve heard about ESN HSE when I was looking for the information about career development and studying abroad, but unfortunately I have not yet had the opportunity to participate in any program. I was able to meet the kind people who were responsible for ESN HSE and the active program participants when managers organized interesting events.

Did you go on any trips to Russia from ESN HSE?

Yes, I was on a small trip to the Moscow region to ride on tubes (tubing) during the winter. It was a very cool and unforgettable moment! I have never experienced something similar before.

Which event organized by ESN HSE do you remember the most and why?

Well, I participated only in two events, a tubing and an excursion to the Gulag Museum. But I can say for sure that ESN HSE organizes quite good events for the communication and acquaintance between foreigners. Thanks to them, I have more friends and knowledge about the life of other countries.

Ivan Colmar, participant of ESN HSE

Hello, Ivan! First of all, tell me, please, what are you studying in HSE and how long time ago did you join ESN HSE?

I have been living in Russia for a few years already and know about ESN HSE since the beginning. I love this country a lot! In HSE I’m studying on the faculty of The World Economy and International Affairs.

What was the most amazing event which organized ESN HSE and you attended it?

Well, I didn’t attend many events but couple of them were quite memorable. For example, when we were in the Bolshoi Theatre.

Did this organization help you to find like-minded people and friends?

Yes, sure! I met a lot of good friends in this organization with whom I still chat very often. Also I was able to learn Russian a bit during the conversations with the local guys.

We would like to thank everyone who found time to talk to us about ESN HSE!

Diana Tsarkova