2 Years After: The Story of Trang Ly

Trang Ly, a student from Vietnam, shares her thoughts about Russia and study at HSE.

2 Years After: The Story of Trang Ly

Hello, Trang! Thank you for joining us today. First of all, could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

I'm Trang Ly. I'm from Vietnam and I enrolled in HSE in 2021. I'm currently studying at a Master program "Critical Media Studies". I have a longstanding interest in sound art and music and am very excited that the music project I'm working on will be released in May this year.

You are from Vietnam, but you have chosen Russia as a place of study. It is very interesting. Please share why you chose this country and HSE. What influenced your decision the most?

Why Russia? It’s a question I receive a lot. The availability of state-funded scholarships is the first reason, and the low cost of education and living expenses is the second one.
I knew that Vietnamese students who are qualified can be offered an opportunity to get a scholarship from my own government as well as the Russian government by studying here initially from my dad. He used to be a long-term student in Russia and came back here to work, so he introduced HSE to me.

HSE is a high-ranking university for sure, with a lot of good programs and open opportunities for foreign students. I think one of the best things about HSE is that it's great in improving and updating the programs and curriculums. Plus, students and professors in HSE also speak good English, which is something I find lucky to be here.

This is actually my first opportunity to go to a foreign country. And the big difference in climate, landscape and language really hit me hard in many senses. I love public transport and the landscape, but the climate (especially the winter) is something that requires a big time to get adapted to. The language is difficult, but I realized that I can improve quicker by practicing with Russian-speaking friends, and I enjoy the process of engaging with a new language as well as a new culture.

It turns out that you are not the first in your family who studies in Russia! I heard that you got your bachelor's degree in a completely different field.

I studied Economics before. It was not my initial plan actually, my parents wanted me to (laughing). But they realized that the field doesn't suit me so they let me choose what I like for my Master's program, so I chose Media.

From Economics to Media. This is a great choice. But why did you choose Сritical Media Studies? After completing your Bachelor’s degree in Economics in Vietnam, do you feel any difference in the way the educational process works in Russia and in your home country?

My program has many interesting courses, admirable professors and cool colleges. It also differentiates with Vietnamese university education in structure of the classes: here we have both lectures and seminars, where students can discuss, debate and share their opinions, giving an open floor for the possibility of more than one absolutely correct answer. Meanwhile in Vietnam, we only had lectures and sometimes this type of one-way communication might not be enough.

Please share what you think was not entirely positive or difficult in your experience of studying at HSE, because you are already finishing your master’s program this year and you can draw some specific conclusions after almost two years of study.

Probably the density of courses in some specific modules. The number of courses are not divided equally among 4 modules, so in module 1 and 3 last year we had just a few courses, but the rest were dense, especially in module 4, we also had to write and defend our term-papers at that time and prepared a lot of essays.

Also, it's not that much of a big issue, but all the important information about courses and projects mailed from the department were written in Russian. My program is taught in English and there were more than 1 foreign student who didn't speak the language well, and sometimes the information was missed. I'm still not fluent and what I can do is to put all the emails in Google translate to make sure I won't miss anything important.

Let's talk about Russia as a whole. What interesting, unusual, maybe even strange things have you noticed? Have you already visited other cities?

The richness of Russian culture made a strong impact on me. I spent last summer visiting some old cities: Nizhny Novgorod and Tula. The landscape is magnificent and the people I met were friendly and warm-hearted.
It may sound a bit random, but what I find strange is probably the number of workers who take care of cleaning the street in the autumn and winter seasons, the ability of people who stand straight in metro train without falling (I showed so much respect when I first came here and saw how people just naturally stand without effort like that, it took some practice but now I can do that too (laughing). Also the dub-voice in most of the movies (instead of subtitles) and the strange content of some TV shows surprised me a bit too.

One of the difficulties that taught me a lesson is to always stay alert in the crowd and in public transport, which is also something I often tell my foreign friends who just arrived in Russia. It is necessary to stay alert, to not leave your personal items unattended, and to avoid getting yourself in risky or dangerous situations late at night.

What can you highlight as the most precious thing of staying in Russia?

I guess probably every experience is all new to me, both in studying and in everyday life: discussions with colleagues, having friendly relationships with professors, meeting people from different cultures, sitting on the suburban train to the Golden Ring, trying ice skating, enjoying the traditional New Year holiday with my friends… And I’m excited to see more and more coming.

It's so great to realize that ordinary everyday little things make our life memorable, especially in a new country. Are you already making plans for the next year? Do you plan to continue your studies or build a career outside the academic field?

I will first come home in the summer to visit my family and friends. I miss Vietnam a lot. And after that I would like to continue studying to get a PhD, but it is difficult to find an English program, and I also face some other struggles to be able to continue too. So I will spend the next months thinking about this, nothing is certain so far.

Do you have any advice for other international students who are now making a choice and thinking about moving to Russia and studying here?

First thing first, it is important to choose a suitable program/faculty for you, I think it is something that would be better to do before choosing the university. And devising the cost of living expense is also an economic question to keep in mind. And lastly, I wish you could find a community of friends and close people that makes you feel like you belong to, so you can adapt quicker and homesick feeling will not be present so often.

Interview by

Anastasiia Shepeleva