Things to Know for International Students When Coming to Russia

Youcef Rouag reflects on what it is important to know when one comes to Russia to study.

Things to Know for International Students When Coming to Russia

Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

The Higher School of Economics has been one of the first choices of university for international students for over a decade and still is, hence there are a few crucial things to be aware of before you arrive if you intend to pursue your education at HSE in Moscow, Russia. Making the most of your time at HSE and in Russia is dependent on how well you prepare. International study has the ability to transform one's life. This article is intended to provide crucial information and helpful advice to prospective international students in order to have a smooth transition into the Russian system and a positive academic experience.

The Russian Language

Having a basic understanding of Russian can be beneficial even though many courses at HSE are taught in English. Being able to speak the language of the area you are in can be beneficial in various ways. It can assist you in carrying out your daily activities, building relationships with the people who live there, and fully experiencing the diverse culture. To improve your proficiency in the language, you may want to consider taking language courses offered by HSE, such as the one year Russian Language immersion program or participating in language exchange programs. It is also important to note that the Russians are very warm towards international students who make efforts to learn their language.

Visa and Registration Process

This is one of the most important aspects to know and understand before coming to Russia. It’s note-worthy that getting a student visa is really important before you come to Russia and in order to make sure everything goes smoothly, one should get to know the visa application process and gather all the required documents. These include an acceptance letter from HSE, a valid passport, and proof of financial means (for fee-paying students). And, just a heads up, when you get here, you'll need to register your visa within seven business days. The International Student Office at HSE is here to help you with the process and provide any assistance you may need. Upon arrival, it is recommended for one to always carry their documents around for security purposes. 

Russian Weather

There is a saying in the Russian language that goes like this: There is no bad weather, there is only bad clothing. Sounds funny, right? Well, that's a way of saying that as much of the Russian weather can be extreme, it is very important to get the appropriate dressing for the weather, as there are specific clothing for Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn. It is advisable to get your winter jackets and winter boots here in Russia, because they are already made and suited for the harsh winter. The Russian weather can be really unpredictable, so it is important to always check the weather forecast before stepping out of your house. Also the Russian summer can be very hot, extremely hot, so you might want to get some light clothing before arrival, if you can.


Moscow has one of the best transportation systems in Europe. The city of Moscow boasts a comprehensive public transportation system that features a highly developed metro network and is  known for being both cost-effective and reliable, providing an easy way to get around. It is recommended to become familiar with the metro lines and bus routes that connect to HSE's campuses. This might take a while because of it;s complexity but, not to worry you will get used to it in no time. The Moscow Transportation system offers a discount card called Social Card, which enables you to purchase a discounted subscription for various means of transportation for a minimum of 30 days. This card can be obtainable at any “my document office” or online for ease. It is equally advisable to pay for transportation every time you use a means of transportation, failure to do so will attract a fine.

HSE Academic System

Needless to say that the Higher School of Economics is one of the most prestigious schools in the world, hence their academic system is indeed a force to reckon with. With a wide range of courses, departments and faculties, HSE offers courses in English and in Russian Languages. It will interest you to know that HSE has a School of Foreign Languages where you can study French, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, German, and many more foreign languages. Also, the HSE teaching system is quite intense and really rigid, so it is advisable to brace up for it. But not to worry, there are also leisure times for students, lots of cool activities and student clubs that enable students to bond outside school activities.


HSE has a wide range of dormitories for students. Each of these dormitories are well equipped with beds, reading tables, fridges, wardrobes, gyms, and canteens, in some cases. They are also situated not so far from metro stations and bus stations and within a considerable distance from  the campuses. Provision stores, pizzerias, pharmacies, coffee shops, etc are easily accessible from the dormitories. The security system in the dormitories is quite tight so as to keep the students safe, and the best part of it all is that the HSE dormitories are relatively affordable and quite comfortable but some students still prefer to live in apartments. This is also a great option, but one should be prepared for the financial implications that follow suit.

Cost of Living

Moscow, as the capital city of Russia, has a relatively high cost of living compared to other regions in the country. It is important to plan your finances accordingly. Consider accommodation costs, transportation expenses, meals, and other living expenses when budgeting for your stay. HSE provides various options for student housing, including dormitories and off-campus apartments, which can help manage costs.

Cultural Differences

Russia is known for having a distinct culture and set of social norms. Learning about Russian etiquette, traditions, and customs is important to avoid cultural misunderstandings. Socializing outside of academic settings is a common practice among Russians, who place a high value on personal relationships. Participating in extracurricular activities, student clubs, and events can help you make friends and build a network and HSE sure gives room for that. Also you might be in the same space with people from other countries, so it is important to get accustomed to this fact and be tolerant of everyone and respectful to their cultures as it may or may not appeal to your own culture. Russia has a wide range of cuisines that might interest you if you are a fan of diversity.


Discounts! Sales! Promo! Russia is one destination that has student friendly discounts. Ranging from restaurants to museums, to parks, to stores, to the zoo, and so many more. As a student, you can access these incredible offers and discounts at certain times just by presenting your student’s card or your passport, depending on the venue. There are lots of clothing stores that run seasonal sales that will be really great for a student on a specific budget.

Availability of Intercontinental Dishes

In Russia, precisely Moscow, one can find numerous intercontinental restaurants and grocery stores where you can find ingredients for cooking a good number of intercontinental dishes. You'll find a range of products like Italian pasta, French cheese, German sausages, Spanish olives, African spices, as well as a diverse range of Asian cuisine options including Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese. Asian grocery stores offer a variety of Asian ingredients such as spices, sauces, rice, noodles, and more. You can also find some African food ingredients in certain specialty stores or international markets. While African cuisine might not be as widely available as other types of cuisine, there are a few places where you could potentially find African food products, such as the Topplistan open market and some African local dishes.

Studying at Moscow's Higher School of Economics may be a pleasant and enriching experience. You may make the most of your stay at HSE by being acquainted with academic expectations, cultural differences, visa requirements, and practical aspects of living in Moscow. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn, explore, and become immersed in the dynamic city and its rich cultural legacy. Your adventure at HSE and in Russia can be truly transforming if you prepare well and keep an open mind and most importantly do not forget to have fun and savor each moment of your stay!

Advised by

Youcef Rouag