Thi Cam Anh Nguyen tells her personal story.
Before I start talking about my experiences at HSE, I will briefly introduce myself. My name is Nguyen Thi Cam Anh, however, I am usually called “Nguyen” or “Anh” by my classmates and teachers. I am currently a 3rd-year student of Logistics and Supply Chain Management Program at the Higher School of Business. Until now, I have been in Russia and studying at HSE for 4 years and I am a foreign student from Vietnam.
You may be wondering, why I have been at HSE for 4 years but I am still only a 3rd-year student. Actually, I received an intergovernmental agreement scholarship between Russia and Vietnam, which included the condition that I would have to complete my academic program in Russian as well as complete one year of preparatory Russian language course organized by HSE.
What experiences have I had at HSE as well as at the Faculty of Logistics and Supply chain management?
In general, this process can be divided into 2 main parts, that is the period when I attended the preparatory Russian language course for foreign students and then the official time as a university student.
When I was studying in the Russian language preparatory department, I had the opportunity to interact with many foreign students from many parts of the world such as Brazil, China, Turkey, etc. There, we had the opportunity to learn Russian and get used to using this language on the daily basis. At that time, I was able to participate in many activities, which can be mentioned as typical ones for foreign students such as Welcome day – introduction about the cultures of different countries as well as Christmas and New Year celebrations for foreign students. Besides, I also participated in activities organized by the Vietnamese student club at HSE such as The Lunar New Year Event and International Women's Celebration on 8th March. In addition, I had the opportunity to participate in an exchange activity organized by our teacher for some of the classes she is in charge of like exchange letter writing between HSE and MGU students, and there are even activities that allow foreign students to cook traditional dishes and share culture with each other.
After completing my preparatory year, I entered the formal stage as a university student. It may be worth mentioning that being an introvert myself, and having language barriers were the biggest obstacles preventing me from engaging in non-academic activities at HSE. Even in the beginning, I couldn't seem to communicate or get to know anyone in the class. I spent the first semester just going to class and coming back without communicating with anyone. However, up to now, I seem to have been able to be more open-minded and I have the opportunity to communicate with more friends with my classmates.
“I am an introvert” – How did this fact affect my first experiences at HSE?
Especially, HSE is an active environment, where there are a lot of activities for students, as well as a gathering of enthusiasm and versatile students. Therefore, during the first period, I thought about how an individual with an introverted personality like me can fit into this environment, and it is even a miracle if this thing would come true. At that moment, I oriented myself only to study, then went to class in silence and ignore everyone. Honestly speaking, these thoughts gradually became my burdens, because it is opposite to the nature of the program I chose to learn. To be more specific, as I mentioned, I am currently learning management, which requires me to usually do teamwork with a lot of people, and I could not engage with them if I maintain my thought about my personality.
However, those are just the thoughts in my head about those obstructions. Reality has completely reflected those thoughts and this is exemplified by the stories that I told you in the part above. I incredibly enjoyed the extracurricular activities there as well as integrated with the surrounding people, of course with some nervosity at the first moments. To be honest, this is my biggest achievement in HSE and I am extremely proud of my try.
How could I deal with my personality problems?
I must admit that the nature of the field, and the nature of the environment I am studying, helped me get out of my safe zone. Specifically, my major requires us to be familiar with group work, and this can only be achieved when I am willing to be more open to communicating with people and seeking opportunities for myself. Of course, this is the same for my colleagues. Therefore, they always try to help me to communicate with them easily by using English with me or even being kind to me. Gradually, it became easier for me to join with other people. As I have emphasized before, HSE is an active environment, and students here are exposed to many languages from around the world. Thanks to that, many friends are willing to communicate with me in English, making me feel more confident talking with them. In addition, they always showed words of encouragement, invite me to join them and pull me into conversations.
To put it simply, I am still an introvert, my nature has not changed. But being exposed to an environment like HSE helps me control being affected by my personality. I was completely affected by the surroundings in a positive way.
What else prevented me from integrating with the others on my way besides being an introvert?
In addition to the issue of personality, it seems that cultural differences also affect communication between me and people at HSE. A typical example can be mentioned is the habit of greetings between classmates, they often say “hi” to each other by giving a hug, but I am not used to that. And these means of haptic communication create a gap between me and them.
Furthermore, I was also prevented from being social by language problems. As I mentioned, it was really difficult for me to communicate with my friends in Russian. And I believe that the foreign students, who have just learned Russian for 1 year, also face the same problem as me. It seems to affect the way I discuss or talk with them.
Is it necessary for me particularly and for introverted people generally to change their character?
Well, it depends on our personal desire. The answer should be yes if you are a person who wants to totally win yourself, and basically, you feel that your personality brings you more harm than good. But, from my perspective, sometimes, my personality is also a good point, I can pay 100 percent attention to my goal without being regularly disrupted by external factors. Moreover, I claim that the things I did to overcome those barriers did not include trying to change who I am. I'm just trying to balance it out, with a lot of help from the HSE friends I know of course. And I believe that balancing your characters is better for you to control your emotions compared to completely changing them. And even though, you are currently studying at HSE, there is no need for you to change your ego.
What has HSE brought me?
To be honest, I think at HSE I got to experience a lot of things, not just learning like what I initially heard, although that's what influenced my choice of HSE. Here, I have the opportunity to interact with many cultures, learn to limit my weaknesses, and promote my strengths and even weaknesses related to my ego.
Besides, I need to tell you that HSE is a multinational environment, where you can easily integrate with others. It not only makes me be more confident with the difficulties but also helps me to win myself.
If you are also an introvert…
I believe, choosing HSE will be a good opportunity for you, if you are also an introvert like me. I assure you, it is really difficult for you to change your personality, but it is not difficult to let the environment influence you and direct you in a positive direction, especially at HSE.
I just want to advise you that, maybe you will have some specific boundaries for yourself, they create barriers in the process of contacting new friends, however, somewhere there will be gaps and they are the way out for you.