Laia Puig i Espares, a Journalism and Humanities student from la Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Spain, Barcelona), spent her Erasmus+ semester at HSE University Moscow and shares what she learned about Russian history, people and everyday life.
As I major in Journalism and Humanities at university, I attended classes on Russian political history and international relations during my exchange in Moscow. I was especially interested in seeing how the history of my own country is approached and how students are presented such important world history events as the October Revolution, the constitution of the USSR, the Stalinism, the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet system.
I also took part in a seminar on the Identity and Historical Memory organised by the Department of Public Policy in Rostov Veliki, a Golden Ring route city. The seminar let me reflect on the forms in which controversial events of the recent Russian history can be remembered by the general public.
Finally, I took a museum studies course that gave me a deeper understanding of the concept of museum spaces and historical memory.
I believe that the whole mobility experience is certainly helpful to students. It’s a way to see new perspectives, meet people from all over the world and think about your own habits and traditions. For example, the months I stayed in Russia let me discover the country I had read about and studied a lot, but always felt that I failed to completely understand it. After my exchange in Russia, I still don’t understand everything about it, but I definitely got a few new hints on how to explain it. On a personal level, I made friends, with whom I hope to stay in touch for a long time. Professionally, I published two articles in a digital magazine Hemisfèria.cat and four videos in a programme Blog Europa de TV3 (Television of Catalonia). Overall, my stay was fruitful in all possible senses.
It’s difficult for me to pick just one episode, because I had numerous adventures that are typical for Erasmus. For example, one of the best parts was without any doubt my everyday life in a dormitory. At first, I thought it was freezing cold and soulless, but I eventually appreciated the charm and warmth of a home in it. Although it looked very Soviet-style and we were under a strict control of ‘babushkas’ (an affectionate name for the women who supervise rooms and corridors), the camaraderie among students helped us enjoy tremendously every hour we spent there, especially when the outside temperatures made us dread the idea of going somewhere.
Apart from this, we went on some trips (although I wish I could have been able to see many other part of Russia as well). We went to Saint Petersburg, Kazan (in Tatarstan), Rostov the Great, Vladimir, Sergiev Posad and, finally, to Murmansk, in the Northern Pole of Russia, in the Kole Peninsula. We went on many of those trips by train and I can assure you that this was one of the most amusing experiences in my life. Passages full of bunks, tea shared with fellow travelers, with whom my poor knowledge of Russian didn’t let me communicate, or vast icy landscapes for hours at the window… These are the bits of my Russian experience that I miss a lot.
(Translated from Spanish. Original interview on http://alliance4universities.eu/en/laia-puig-i-espar/)