A Russian HSE Student in Thailand
We interviewed Anastasia Kuprishkina, a Russian HSE student currently doing an exchange program in Thailand. Ever since you become an international student in a foreign country, you get interested to see other people’s experience in foreign countries and how they deal with everything from being alone to culture shocks.
Hello! My name is Anastasia, and I am a fourth-year student of Political Science and World Politics at HSE in Saint Petersburg.
Basically, I was attending a high school in Moscow that was organized by HSE. The high school is called HSE Lyceum. So, I spent two years in that specific high school, and I was already familiar with HSE. I liked my experience and got familiar with how this University was organized, so that is why I decided to continue studying at the same university.
Yes, I am currently an exchange student in Thailand. I applied through HSE exchange programs. I basically chose Thailand because I was excited about going to a new place, actually a new continent, and since I had never been to Asia before I thought that Thailand would be a really nice option. I also have some friends from Thailand who were studying in Russia, so I asked for some advice and then realized that yes, Thailand is a nice option for the exchange semester.
Well, HSE had a partnership agreement with the university I am attending in Thailand. So, what I needed to do was to apply through HSE to then be accepted by the host university. So, I guess this was the main preparation. But through the application process, I faced some difficulties and I felt prepared for some of them but certainly not for all. However, I do think that throughout studying at HSE for three years before starting the application process to study abroad, I gained some abilities from the challenges I faced, which in turn prepared me to face other challenges.
I wasn’t nervous about staying overseas. To be honest, I was a little bit but only in the beginning when I was applying for a visa because due to COVID, the Thai Embassy in Russia had many requirements. There was a big mess since Thailand had really huge amounts of restrictions for receiving a visa during the pandemic, and I was not sure I would be able to complete everything because I did not know how to. I also had barely anyone to ask for help because the restrictions were quite new so there were a limited number of people who had experience with it and I knew almost none of them, so I had to deal with those issues by myself, so that was the most stressful time for me.When I arrived in Thailand, I was fine and a big part of that is because Thai people are open and ready to help, so I felt that it was easy to solve any problem I faced in Thailand itself as possessed when I was still in Russia.
Thai culture is extremely different from the Russian one. As I said previously, Thai people were way more open than Russians, I would say in almost all senses. They are more open to help, they are always smiling. But at the same time, many of them are shy. I know that these are two contradictory traits, but they managed to combine them. In general, I think there is a very friendly environment. The culture is almost incomparable with the Russian one because here (in Thailand) everything is different, the religion, the relation to family and society and so on. In general, it was really easy to adapt but the biggest culture shock for me was finding what to eat since all the food was different and at first, I really had to experiment a lot, but that was fun!
Yes, and I think it is still hard to live here without the Thai language knowledge because in the beginning I tried to learn some basic words like how to say “hello”, how to say “thank you” and so on but the thing is that the Thai language has “tones'', meaning that each word has to be said in a particular tone and I was struggling with this task so much that even the simplest phrases were not really easy to pronounce for me. When I noticed that people were not understanding me in my everyday life like when going to shops, I started using gestures or google translate to communicate. However, I did not have a problem at university because my classmates speak English, so it was easy to talk to them.
I think the main tip would be to check the covid restrictions and entry restrictions of the country you are thinking of studying in, especially now that it is really unstable and, in my case, finding out what the entry requirements are and what I need to do was the most challenging part of the whole exchange. Another advice is to start preparing in advance, because paperwork and visas could take a long time and be delayed so preparing in time would give you high chances of avoiding delay. I applied for my visa 2 months before my planned entry, but I was still delayed almost a month, so start preparing as early as you can!
In some sense, of course, because that is my home and the environment I am used to the most. However, I wouldn't say I am homesick just yet, and I think it is because I met some wonderful open people here that are now my friends and make me feel welcome and I don’t feel like I am alone here. Thai people are so friendly that you “feel it with your skin”, I would say.