HSE Illuminated Authors Talk about the Magazine

Liubov Zaytseva interviews the authors of the magazine from all over the world on their writing experience.

HSE Illuminated Authors Talk about the Magazine

Four students are the authors who write for the magazine. HSE Illuminated is lucky to talk to the them about their work in this project, their experience, inspirations and asked them for advice for the readers and everyone who’d like to become the future authors of HSE Illuminated magazine.

Vu Van Ly

Mustafa Serdar Karakaya

Yasmina Kouweik and Hassan Jawad


Vu Van Ly

Van Ly is a second-year student of the Advertising and PR program at Moscow campus. The HSE Illuminated for Ly is the place for free expression of herself and sharing her own story.

Tell us about yourself. Where are you from and what do you study?

Hi! My name is Vu Van Ly, but you can call me Ly for short. I’m 20 years old and I’m from Vietnam. I study at Moscow campus. My bachelor program is Advertising and Public relations.

What are your interests? Have you been fond of writing before?

I am fond of watching cartoons and reading comics. I also like playing video games. Honestly, I can’t say that I am into writing. I only express my opinions, my points of view. I like when my voice is heard by someone, and HSE Illuminated totally satisfies this preference. Writing for me is one of the means to implement these things. However, if I have to choose between writing and speaking, I will probably choose writing. The reason is that after joining this project, I think I like writing a little bit more.

How have you come up with the idea of joining the project?

At first, I didn't know anything about this project. It was a friend of mine who introduced me to it and she even asked me to join it with her. I thought this is an interesting and suitable project for me and I decided to join it. As a result, I’m here participating in your interview.

Does the mission of the project correlate with your interests?

Like I already said, I prefer reading comics, playing games, and watching cartoons. I also like people to know more about me. That’s why you can see that all of my articles are about me, my hobbies, and my attitudes toward them. I can say that, yes, the idea of the project correlates with my interests since it helps me to open up to the readers and show my real self.

What inspires you most of all when you’re planning the material?

Basically, everything can inspire me. If I find something interesting, if it somehow relates to Higher School of Economics and to its non-academic life, then I’ll definitely write about it. I know that the material will be found interesting by HSE Illuminated readers who are the students of HSE.

What is HSE Illuminated for you?

To be honest, at first HSE Illuminated has been just an online magazine, a project that I can earn credits. However, after joining this project, it has become to me the place where I can express myself, and improve some of my soft and hard skills.

Which advice could you give the future authors?

Well, I don’t know if I’m experienced enough to give advice to future authors. However, I hope that they are open to express themselves and feel free to share their stories, perspectives to other students.

Mustafa Serdar Karakaya 

Mustafa is a student of the Global and Regional History program at St. Petersburg campus who came from Istanbul for studies. He has a huge travel and exchange experience that is reflected in his articles. The main advice is to be open to write material on diverse topics and don’t be scared to experiment.

Hello, Mustafa! Tell us, please, about yourself.

My name is Mustafa Serdar Karakaya and I study Global and Regional History at the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg. Well, everything is online now so I kind of study it from my home in Istanbul but I guess that is the new normal.

Where does your craving for adventures and travel come from? Are you an adventurous person?

I just happened to have almost all of my family members living abroad, and that is why I got the chance to see the likes of Germany and Denmark when I was just a kid. This made me realize just how big of a world we live in and caused me to seek travelling opportunities whenever and wherever I can. I would not necessarily call myself an adventurous person as I may be a bit too cautious for “full-blown adventure travelling” but I sure love trying out new cuisines, travelling alone, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures etc. If that is what is meant by being adventurous then I guess I am one, if it means bungee-jumping in different locales, well, then no.

Was this a decisive factor for enrolling in the HSE Illuminated project?

I never really thought about that to be fair. I’ve always liked writing and editing, so I assumed that this project would suit me before I started thinking about any other aspects. If I were in Russia now, I would certainly write more “adventurous” articles for HSE Illuminated though, stuff based on my experiences travelling there.

How does your exchange experience help you to write materials for HSE Illuminated?

Well, this is pretty easy to answer actually. In my first exchange where I went to UBC, Vancouver, I found a similar project but ran by students and frequently read their works. It seemed quite fun to me, but I did not have enough time to participate in it then. Later on, thanks to my second exchange experience where I studied in St. Petersburg during the last spring semester, I had the opportunity to see Higher School of Economics and its culture with my own eyes, as well as that of Russia of course. So, my first exchange made me want to work on such a project, and the second one made sure that I was equipped enough to be able to write for such a project. After all, if I had never visited Russia, and was just an online international master’s student, I do not think that I would have the courage or knowledge to even apply to this project.

What is the most precious thing in participating in the HSE Illuminated project for you?

Certainly, the working conditions and the team that works for it. To be completely honest with you, I did not know that we had to participate in mandatory projects to receive credits until it was too late, so I was quite scared of my chances of finding a good one. I assumed that they would be a time-sink and quite boring, but HSE Illuminated pretty much came to the rescue. I actually enjoyed my time writing for it, and I hope to be a part of this team again next year if all goes well, despite already completing my project credits.

What could you advise foreign students and the readers of our magazine willing to become authors of the magazine?

I would say that do not fear applying to this project at all. Write a good piece of writing to show that you can do it and send it through the project’s application webpage. I worked quite hard on that piece, and I guess so should you. You can read some examples from our website to see what sort of writings take place in it (and the possibilities are truly endless) and then write something that would fit it.

What would you recommend the organizers and the future authors of the HSE Illuminated?

I feel like there is this trend in HSE Illuminated where articles on more diverse topics are making a debut, and I just love it. I just hope that in the future this diversity continues, with students writing about pretty much anything that relates to them. I am sure that this would attract more attention from our potential readers as well.

Yasmina Kouweik and Jawad Hassan 

Yasmina and Jawad are students of the Political Science and World Politics program in St. Petersburg. They have a touching story and show a strong motivation to work for the magazine with enjoyment.

Hi, Yasmina and Hassan! Please, tell us about yourselves, your interests and where you come from.

We are Yasmina Kouweik and Hassan Jawad, third year students in the program Political Science and World Politics.

Yasmina: I am almost 24 years old and have studied in Russia for almost 3 years now. I am Swedish-Lebanese and before I moved to St. Petersburg, I did live in Sweden. As for my interests, to be frank, I have lost track of that since studying at university has taken most of my time, but I do like painting and cooking when I am not studying or resting.

Hassan: I am almost 27 years old and I have also studied in St. Petersburg for almost 3 years now. I am of African-Lebanese descent and I lived in my home country Lebanon before I began my studies at HSE. I did study Economics at Université Saint Joseph in Lebanon but left the program just before graduating as I found Political Science to spark my interests more. As for my extracurricular interests, I like to read books and political articles related to security. I feel like it’s a bit harder to continue practicing physical activities, like Judo, while being in a country where communication in other languages than Russian is hard.

We met online about 4 years ago, and when we became a couple, we decided to move to Russia upon Hassan’s request as we both were interested in Political Science and we found that Russia has a good international program that suits us both.

Why did you choose the HSE Illuminated magazine to join in?

Participating in a project was a requirement for our studies and HSE Illuminated sounded like an interesting one for both of us. One of the main reasons is that we could write about subjects of our interests and share our experiences. Also, we both liked the fact that we could work at our own pace. We both also considered writing as one of our strengths so it was a no-brainer to choose this project.

What were the expectations of the participation in this project? Did they come true?

Yasmina: My expectations were that I could lay out my own schedule and choose my own topics to write about. That did certainly come true. I also expected and still do, that this experience will be beneficial when applying for a future job as it is part of my resumé. Whether that will come true or not, is still unclear for now.

Hassan: I didn't really have any expectations besides the opportunity to write about topics of my choice. However, I did appreciate how easy-going the heads of the projects were in terms of the deadlines.

Have you faced any limitations and difficulties while working here?

Yasmina: Although I enjoyed writing for the HSE Illuminated magazine, it was not as easy as it may sound. I did have some struggles with creating different ideas to write about as some subjects were already taken by other writers. I would therefore say that creativity is a vital element when you want to write for a magazine that already has many writers and subjects covered. Other than that, the process was pretty straightforward and I could reach for help when I felt stuck, either by talking with the heads of the project or by venting to friends and family for inspiration.

Hassan: Writing for HSE Illuminated was not difficult in itself. The only problems I faced were my weak skills in editing and formatting a text as well as time-management to a certain extent.

I know that you’re a couple, do you get inspiration from each other?

Being a couple has definitely been an advantage when it comes to projects like HSE Illuminated and also the University tasks in general. It is great to have someone that studies in the same field as you, let alone in the same class. Although we have different personalities, we still find ways to inspire each other as we do know each other very well. When either one of us is lacking an idea or has difficulties with something, the other usually reminds the person in doubt of the strengths they have, and helps sort out the weaknesses.

What is the best part of being the authors of the university magazine?

The best part about being a writer for the University magazine is getting writing experience as communication is an important soft skill that a lot of students lack. The advantage of taking part in such projects is that you will get to test yourself and the skills you have in each article you write. For us personally, it is also important to have fun even when working on something serious. Enjoying what we do plays a big part in our mental health and the idea that we could write freely, get credits for our work and acquire an important skill for our futures all at the same time, made us happy.

What would you advise the future authors and the managers of the project to enhance in the future?

We would advise the Russian-speaking students to have more conversation and articles about the city they currently study in and know best. As we are International Students, we do feel a bit isolated from events that are happening or about to happen in the city or university due to the lack of English information on sites like VK. We would also encourage more communication between Russian and international writers in order to exchange ideas about cultural happenings and events in the city or at University.

As we can see, HSE Illuminated has become for its authors more than just an online magazine. It is the place for everyone who is willing to express themselves. In conclusion, I would recommend everyone to participate in HSE Illuminated project since the community is close-knit and friendly despite the diverse background of its authors.

Interviews by

Liubov Zaytseva