Why and How Did I Choose to Study in Russia?

Why and How Did I Choose to Study in Russia?

Photo by Sergei Sviridov on Unsplash

Hello, my name is Indiana, and I am a third-year bachelor student in political science at the Higher School of Economics in Saint Petersburg. As a foreign student from Belgium, I consider it important to share with others why and how I chose to study in Russia, especially at the Higher School of Economics in Saint Petersburg. I believe that, especially in the current pandemic situation, it is important to share within this short article my experience in Russia in order to answer some questions or to dispute some negative stereotypes that some foreigners might have about Russia at first.

To start with, I want to be honest and tell you that this pandemic situation is difficult for me to live with. I know like everyone else, but the fact that the pandemic keeps me away from my favourite city in the world, Saint Petersburg, hurts deeply.

All of this situation makes me very nostalgic, and I wanted to share this nostalgia with you through this article and tell you about how and why I came to Russia, especially to Saint Petersburg to study for my bachelor’s degree!

Russia is just so fascinating, wouldn’t you agree? And what is fascinating needs to be discovered! Since my youth, I have been fascinated by Russia; by its culture, its history and by its language! This is partly thanks to my mom. In 1987, she went with her school on a trip to Moscow and Saint Petersburg for ten days, and she was overwhelmed by this experience. She would frequently talk to me about it, how different it should be now, and how interesting it would be to go back there. I knew that some day I was destined to discover Russia.

After my last year at school, I choose to enroll into a new foreign exchange program for one year, one of the available destinations was Russia. Naturally, I immediately chose it as my destination. Eventually I was accepted, and towards the end of August 2018, I traveled to Russia, to Saint Petersburg for the first time. During my exchange, I lived with three different Russian host families in diverse neighbourhoods in Russian’s capital of culture. I attended a Russian school and learned the Russian language there. Everything completely impressed me: the complexity and richness of the Russian language, the cultural traditions, the people and their values, the beautiful museums which helped me so much to discover the Russian history throughout its art, the beauty of the country, the weather, I could go on and on. 

I traveled quite a lot in Russia thanks to my host families and the organisation to cities like Vologda, Moscow, Kazan, Veliky Novgorod, Ekaterinburg, Tver, etc., and I loved everything; the diversity of the country never stopped amazing me throughout my whole year there. I had really an amazing experience. But I have to admit that Saint Petersburg remained my favourite place and I felt immensely grateful that I had the opportunity to do my exchange in this wonderful city! Why is it my favourite? Well, when you walk in Saint Petersburg, you feel something: an emotion, the past and the future, the history, and the beauty of the city just blinds your eyes.

While living all of these amazing experiences, I kept in mind that I needed to apply to a university in order to keep learning and to grow. I knew more or less that I wanted to study the world, the relations and the differences between countries, their respective histories, their structures, their cultures, their languages, and their ideologies. That is why I came to the conclusion that political science would be perfect for my interests. I applied to multiple universities around the world and was accepted in some of them, but I felt that something was wrong, I did not want to study for four years in a strange, new modern city in Asia, nor in a country too close to Belgium, nor in my language.

When you walk in Saint Petersburg, you feel something: an emotion, the past and the future, the history, and the beauty of the city just blinds your eyes.

Above all, I felt that I was not ready to leave Saint Petersburg just yet. Saint Petersburg combined all of my personal interests. I then asked to some of my friends that I met during my exchange where they were studying, and this is how I learned about Higher School of Economics. I was even happier to learn that there were multiple campuses in SPB!

I bet you guessed the happy ending! I applied to the “Political science and world politics” programme, passed the entrance exams, and was accepted! The Political science programme really caught my eye, the courses seemed very interesting, and the professors widely qualified. In addition, the opportunity of studying abroad for a semester thanks to the mobility programme had totally convinced me that my decision to study in this beautiful country was the right choice.

Indiana shares her experience of participating in the programme

So why Russia? Why Saint Petersburg? What makes it such an interesting place to study in? Saint Petersburg is very modern and always open to new trends, even despite its rich history and traditions. I noticed that this city is continuously supporting the progress of Russian society through its development. I do believe that Russia will have a great future and that it will keep evolving throughout the years. On the global stage, its influence keeps growing and I believe that considering Russia’s developing position in global dynamics, it is more important to study Russia now than ever.  

As well, I hate cliches, and I was very shocked to hear what my close friends had to say when I announced that I would be studying in Russia. This gave me the motivation to show them that their preconceived notions were mistaken, and that Russia was something other than what they imagined. I think that it is crucial that we endeavour to change those mostly negative stereotypes. As well, I see Russia as a land full of opportunities for young people, and I have had so many opportunities here that I would never have had studying in Belgium.

HSE will help you to undertake your ambitions and to initiate your projects for your life and your future, believe me

Russia is full of huge enterprises with great ambitions and future, and it Russia is so wide and so rich in diversity that it can offer you if you are ambitious enough to look for it. Whatever your field of interest, research, studies, etc., you will definitely find something in Russia for you! In addition, the fact that Russia has a university like Higher School of Economics that is accessible and devoted to help foreign students is amazing. HSE will help you to undertake your ambitions and to initiate your projects for your life and your future, believe me. Also, if you are eager to learn Russian, your Russian friends will help you with that and our wonderful university will invite you to attend free Russian lessons at the beginning of your studies.

Russian people are incredible as well! You will meet so many caring people, make friends that you will have your life who will be ready to help you, make you cry of joy, and touch your heart deeply! I must admit, your Russian classmates won’t be the first ones to smile at you directly, it is somewhat true that Russians do not smile if they don’t really have a reason to do so, but deep down they have the biggest hearts.

That wraps up my personal experience and points of view on Russia,. If you are a foreign student looking to study in Russia, the Higher School of Economics is here for you and Russia will open itself to you if you are willing to learn how to discover and understand it. Sure, sometimes the weather is not the best or the women who work at the metro office will make your life harder, but it would help you to better appreciate the wonders of your life in Russia (or even of your life in general in my case). The beginning of spring and summer will feel even better thanks to beautiful phenomena like the white nights in Saint Petersburg.

As a former international ambassador of HSE, I allow myself to tell you that if you have some questions or anything, I would be pleased to help you and to answer your questions! Thanks for reading!


Indiana Lokotar