'My Revolutionary Year in Moscow' by Greta Pais

'If I was asked to describe – with one single word – the academic year 2018/2019 I spent in Moscow I would say: Revolution,' says Greta Pais, an exchange student from Ca' Foscari University of Venice (Italy).

I chose Russia because I was looking forward to experiencing something completely new, something perhaps unordinary, to some extent extreme, that would have challenged me enough to grow – both personally and academically speaking. After having spent more than ten consecutive months in Moscow, I can affirm that my expectations were fully satisfied and that I am looking forward to going back.


There are so many things I could write about, but let’s start from where everything actually started: the dormitory. You’ve probably heard something about Russian dormitories already, perhaps something not that nice? Well, let me tell you that the first thought I had after entering my room was: 'How am I going to live here for four months?'. Guess what? In the end I extended my exchange period to one academic year and the dorm became my second home, the one I would like to go back to now. Yes, because there I met amazing people with whom I shared unforgettable moments, moments that I would have never experienced elsewhere but in a Russian dorm. I had two amazing roommates, Fenja from Germany in the first semester and Umida from Uzbekistan in the second semester, with whom I rearranged the tiny spaces available in our room and made it beautiful by means of some decorations. Step by step (or decoration by decoration :) ) the room 509A became my little shelter and the friends I made at the dorm my second multicultural family. I was used to study on the 12th floor of the building (from where I loved watching sunsets or sunrises) and there I enjoyed the company of my friends from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. Likewise, I knew that in the kitchen at dinner time I would meet my friends from Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

Travel Opportunities

Thanks to the HSE Erasmus Student Network (ESN) I got to know many other exchange students from all over the world, with whom I travelled to a bunch of cities, such as Saint Petersburg, Kazan and Tula, and with whom I spent super fun moments and made super nice experiences, such as the one made in the Russian Banya! With some of these guys I also celebrated New Year’s Eve, when we ate delicious Georgian food, watched fireworks on Red Square, played in the snow and danced all night long afterwards. Join the ESN community!


Moscow is a huge city with enormous cultural heritage, we all know that, so you will never get bored of it, there is always going to be something missing on your “places to visit” list and you will probably want to go back to some of them, because not even three, four or five times will be enough given the beauty of certain monuments and the magical atmosphere they create, especially during the winter, when it snows, the music plays and everything arounds you sparkles.


If you are wondering about the cold, it’s bearable, trust me; I suffered more from the fact that at a certain point of the year, there were few hours of light (approximately 6). But again, it was bearable, we got used to it and after that we really enjoyed the spring and the hot summer days, during which the temperature reached up to 30 degrees! So we went from – 25 to + 30! Quite interesting and fun, don’t you think?

Studying at HSE University

In what concerns my study field – Economics – HSE provides students with really specific and complete courses, where by “complete” I mean that the topics covered are meant to be analyzed at 360 degrees. To come to such a conclusion I always made a comparison between what I was doing in Moscow with respect to what I would have been asked to know in Italy. Even though the topics were actually the same, at HSE we went into details throughout the course, often applying a lot of mathematics to understand economic models and trends. At first I had quite a lot of difficulties not only in getting acquainted with the new system and the new environment, but also and especially with the courses themselves. However, there were very pleasant professors willing to help at any time, so I often arranged office hours with them and step by step I felt more confident and ready to proceed. So what I’m trying to say is that – according to my point of view – HSE is an outstanding university, at least in what concerns the field in question, and by studying there you will most likely strengthen your skills and knowledge.

As you may already know, HSE also provides international students with free Russian courses: It’s an unmissable opportunity! Living in Moscow without knowing a word of Russian could turn out a bit stressful, since not everybody knows English and communication in such cases may not be straightforward. You do not need to master Russian, but knowing it a bit will definitely help you in daily life situations. This is just a piece of advice, of course!

Summing up

When I arrived to Moscow I could not speak a word of Russian, the beginning was tough, but new beginnings are always such to a greater or lesser extent! I was confronted with little challenges on a daily basis, and being forced to deal with them on my own helped to become more rational and stronger. Many times, at the end of the day, I felt very tired, Moscow was really taking energies away from me, but the truth is that it was also giving me this energy back, DOUBLED!

With time everything smoothed out, I was noticing how I was changing, how I was starting to look at things not from a single perspective, but from several ones, and if something did not turn out the way I was expecting it, I kept on working towards it, never giving up. Moscow first tore me down, but it then made me stand up, and now that I look back at every single moment spent there I smile, quite nostalgically. For such reasons, Moscow was a Revolution, that from the outer transformed my inner self, and I could not be more grateful for what I have been given.

Thank you HSE,

Thank you Moscow,

Thank you Russia &

Thanks to everyone who has been part of this amazing life experience!