From Vitebsk to Moscow

Anna Sinkevich

Anna Sinkevich

We talked to Anna Sinkevich about her experience of coming from Belarus and being a freshman at HSE.

– Tell us how you chose the major?

– I opted for journalism because I assume that it broadens the horizons and gives an opportunity to develop in different ways such as politics, culture, social projects. Journalism covers all of them.

– Why have you decided to study it in Russia?

– I believe that the media and communication field is more developed in Russia than in my country. For example, the Belarusian news agency “Belta” mostly gets information from TASS. The Russian news agency plays the lead role in their cooperation. That’s why I was interested in getting an education specifically in Russia. I think it is hard to develop journalism in Belarus now. 

– Why have you given preference to HSE?

– First of all, the school where I studied wants their students to get a high-quality education, in order to be at the top. From year to year a lot of those who finished our school entered HSE. I have plenty of acquaintances here. They gave me some advice. My teachers also affected my choice. That’s why I decided to study at this university.

– What do you like about studying here?

– I enjoy having lots of practical tasks. Since the beginning of September, we’ve been writing journalistic materials such as news and interviews. Moreover, we can take part in projects, which we can find at the Projects Fair. It’s a great opportunity to get an initial professional experience.

– Can you please tell us more about your way here. Did you take any entry exams? How did you prepare for them? Was it hard?

– Initially I wanted to win an olimpiad (a competition in school subjects), but unfortunately, I failed and got really upset about it. Then I applied for the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation, commonly known as Rossotrudnichestvo, to get a quota. I collected the documents which were necessary. To tell the truth, it took plenty of time and effort. After the paperwork I had to take Russian, English and World History exams. They were similar to the Russian Unified State Exam. We have different exams, but I was preparing for the Russian ones. Thus, I was familiar with the structure so it was quite easy for me. 

When I found out I got a quota, I was really happy. But that was not the end. I had to write the motivation letter and attach all of my achievements. Also I had to take entry exams at university, they were almost the same as ones that were taken by other applicants. At the writing part I described the Vitebsk programme and mentioned everything that was in the task. Then was the speaking part, when I was tested for general knowledge. The most interesting question was about Marc Chagall, he is from Vitebsk like me. It was my birthday when I found out I got in. It was the best present. For me it was the sign, I think I’m where I’m supposed to be. This is the place I fit in.

– What was your impression on the first day of university?

– I was afraid of interacting with my group mates because I thought I might not have enough knowledge to study with them as we have a different system of education in Belarus. Though when I met them and people who study in different majors and also my acquaintances, my fears disappeared. I was worried on my first day here, but it was really exciting. At the end of the day I realised that all new people are great.

– What do you think of EXTRA HSE? Do you want to participate?

– It’s great that everybody can live up to their potential, develop their skills at dance, sports and other activities. I want to join the theatre club, I’m looking forward to attending it. Also I want to participate in the French club and learn this language.

– Have you faced any difficulties while moving?

– Yes, I have problems with getting to the place as my father couldn’t give me the lift. I had a big pink suitcase with me. A big pink suitcase. Everybody said it was beautiful. Though it was difficult to carry it. Also I still have some of my clothes in Belarus.

– What about the accommodation?

– I was provided with a room in the dorm, but I don’t live there. My relatives put me up. They were happy that I got into the university. It is a more comfortable option for me to stay with them.

– Is it hard for you to be so far away from home?

– Yes, because I miss my family and friends. I don’t have many friends here, so I feel lonely on and off. As for everyday life, I’m quite independent since my parents raised me this way. I used to take care of my little sister, so I can definitely take charge of myself.

– What has dramatically changed since you moved?

– I think I realised something new about people who were around. I lost touch with some of them. Some still text me and give support.

– Were you afraid of moving to another country with people of slightly different culture?

– Yes, the culture is a bit different, though Russia and Belarus have a lot in common. I wasn’t frightened, I felt awe as I was interested in changing something in my life, new environment, new people. I’m glad that I study in Russia, especially in such a big city as Moscow. I like it!

– You’ve mentioned the cultural difference. What have you noticed?

– It may sound unrealistic, but I guess Russian people are more calm. I mean Belorusians are so fussy to my mind.

– Which language is spoken at your home?

– My parents and I speak Russian, though my father’s relatives speak mostly in Belarusian. I can say that a lot of young people in Belarus want to spread their native language throughout the country, to use it more in their daily life. For example, they have blogs in Belarusian. That’s why I believe our generation is really open-minded and progressive. As for me, speaking Russian and reading in it is more convenient.

– Did you have any prejudice about the Russians? There is, for example, an opinion that we have a stern look and are not capable of smiling.

– I can tell you the story that has happened to me. Once I was late for the train as there were so many people queuing in front of me. I asked them to let me go first, but they rejected me. When I realised that only a minute was left before the train left and my suitcase was far away from me, I started crying. I wanted to return the ticket to get my money back. Suddenly a woman approached and asked what had happened. After I told her she said that she is Belorusian, but had been living in Moscow for 30 years. She also said that she noticed that people in Moscow are kinder. You know, it may be true. Sometimes when I get somewhere by bus, I see people who are eager to help when somebody has problems with the card. That’s a rare thing in Belarus. Prejudice? I had some. I thought that people in Moscow are cold fish but now I see the opposite thing. 

– What can you say about Russian cuisine? Are there any dishes that you miss here?

– Russian cuisine is quite similar to Belorusian. I miss draniki. That’s quite stereotypical, but I love them. Also kholodnik. This is a soup which everybody cooks in summer. It is made of beet, fresh cucumbers, dill and boiled egg. It is eaten cold.

– Sounds similar to okroshka. Do Belorusians cook it?

– No. When I came to Moscow and stayed with my relatives, they offered me a try.

– Have you visited any sightseeings in Russia?

– I have been to the Tretyakovskaya Gallery several times. I haven’t had time yet to come close to the history and culture of Moscow. My friend invited me to go on the city tour with her soon. I have also been to Saint-Petersburg and visited some touristic sites such as Hermitage. My mum is keen on studying Russian history, especially the Romanov dynasty, so I’ve watched films with her and read books about it. It was exciting to come to Russia after it.

– And the last question. What would you recommend foreigners to do if they want to study in Russia?

– I would recommend applying for the quota, I think it is the best option as it’s not nervous. You always can turn to specialists and they will help you with documents which are needed. Moreover, they should start preparing beforehand because there is a lot to do. And to believe in luck, I guess!

Interview by

Arina Farahova