'Exchange Semester in Moscow' by Silvia Linnuste
Studying in HSE
When I chose HSE Moscow as my exchange semester destination, one of my aims was to have an opportunity to take some different courses that I don’t have in my home university. Pleasantly I have to admit that HSE offered many different kinds of courses and I was able to enrol into bachelor and even master degree courses. As the system of enrolment allows to have a so called trial period, I really had an opportunity to see if the course fits me and that way I ended up taking only courses that I really liked. The only minus of the system is that at the beginning it is quite difficult to understand and to enrol into courses as the number of participants was limited. I had to write to the manager of the course to enrol myself quite often and it took some time. Luckily, there is a study office that always helped me to solve my problems.
Another aim of my exchange was to learn Russian. HSE offered me many different levels of Russian courses, so I could choose which fits my level. Also, there were different time options within the same level so I could definitely fit this course into my schedule without any overlapping. I had a chance to try different levels before I managed to choose the right one for me. The teachers were helpful and enthusiastic; also I liked my group-mates in the language class. Talking about learning outside of the university, the learning process was not exactly as fast as I expected. Part of the problem was that as I had courses in English, most of the students in my classes were international students as well and during free time, as I lived in a dorm, I had international (English-speaking) people all around me most of the time. The only good way that I found to practice Russian outside of the Russian course was to discover the city by myself or travelling.
Life in Moscow
As I mentioned above, I lived in the dormitory. The dormitory was very cheap and despite the price, it was not too uncomfortable to live in. Luckily, the dormitory had a really good location so I had no trouble reaching the class or the city centre. The metro station was some 5 minutes away from the dorm and to reach the classes it took only some 40 minutes and 2-3 changes of metro lines. I really liked the metro system as it worked fast and it was very efficient (in my opinion better than in a lot of other European cities). The city itself was very clean and safe. I saw a lot of police and security workers that made walking alone in this city safe for me. This, of course, can not forget about Russian style beautiful and decorated streets and buildings. It is totally worth to visit all famous sightseeing areas in the city centre and also I recommend discovering the beautiful outskirts areas as you can find a different kind of Moscow there. Also if you are interested in shopping, although the prices in general tend to be lower than in Europe, for especially cheap offers, go a little bit further to the outskirts of Moscow.
Russia is such a beautiful and huge country which is definitely worth a visit and not only Moscow or St Petersburg. As in HSE I had quite a flexible schedule I travelled a lot. I recommend visiting some Moscow area Golden Ring cities as these have a lot of history. A very nice trip was also to Murmansk, which surprised me with a total polar night and northern lights. Definitely my favourite trio was by the trans-Siberian railway to the lake Baikal. During this trip, I had a lot of different cities to visit and I experienced a very different Russia and Russians. Also, travelling helped me a lot with practising Russian as in the Far East nearly nobody speaks English.