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'Little by little I learned to enjoy Moscow and to “understand” it' by Francesca Stragapede

Francesca Stragapede, an exchange student from University of Milan (Italy), tells about her studies at HSE and about her favourite spots in Moscow.
Studying in HSE

When I chose HSE for my semester abroad, I was looking for a high rated University which could offer me a range of interesting and high level courses, and I can say that I was not let down. All the professors I met were extremely professional, but also passionate about their job, and I enjoyed working with them. Before studying at HSE I had never experienced studying in a foreign University, so I had to cope with a whole new system of education, where students actually have to take active part in the lessons and not just to take an exam at the end of the course. This made studying definitely more engaging and fun, other than challenging (also due to the fact that all the lessons I chose to attend were in Russian!). The whole process of choosing courses and enrolling for them was quite complex, but I received all the support needed from the International Student Mobility office, whose members always proved to be helpful and kind.  

Learning Russian

Before going to Moscow, I had been studying Russian at University for over four years, but Russian is such a difficult language that dealing with it is always quite challenging. Interacting with people in shops or bars can be scary, but it almost always turns out to be fun and a great way to face your insecurities, open up and learn a bit. Other than by talking to Moscow citizens, I found the Russian Language Course provided by HSE extremely helpful. The University offers six different kinds of courses, depending on the students’ level of Russian, which is certified by a small test taken before going to Moscow. I had a wonderful experience taking the Russian Language Course, since I found an excellent, passionate teacher who was willing to make us work a lot and improve all of our skills, from writing to listening and conversing.

Life in Moscow

I had already travelled to Saint Petersburg three times before, but I had never been to Moscow. At first I was a bit let down by the city, because I guess it did not perfectly meet my expectations, but little by little I learned to enjoy it and to “understand” it. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic emergency which broke out in March, I only had three months to experience the capital, but I am willing to go back to Moscow as soon as it is possible, and discover it further and further. I think it is such a big city, with so much history and so much to offer, that it is difficult to embrace it all in such a short amount of time. Luckily, the HSE dormitory I was staying at was not too far from the city centre (as compared to the huge dimensions of Moscow!): in just about 40 minutes I could be enjoying a walk in the Red Square. The dormitory was also located in a really nice area of Moscow, VDNKh, which, with its stretching and comforting Monument to the Conquerors of Space which I could see through the windows, sort of became my favorite spot in the city. Besides, I really enjoyed that with a student pass you can live amazing experiences at a very low price: museums are often half the price, and student tickets for the Bolshoy are just 100 rubles (if you do not mind to queue for a bit and see the show standing!). If I had to name my favorite things in the city, they would be skating in the Red Square under the snow, studying in the huge library of Lenin, enjoying an amazing view from the top of the Federation Tower (in Moscow City) and having a stroll along the Moscow River.

Travelling

Unfortunately, due to the limited time I spent in Russia, I was not able to travel across the country as much as I wanted to, but I did manage to go back to my beloved Petersburg in February, when I discovered the amazing world of plazkart, a cheap train which overnight could take you everywhere. Travelling on a Russian train was a strange and fun experience that I would recommend to anyone, just for the sake of it! If times had been more fair, I would definitely have enjoyed going to Murmansk to see the polar lights, to lake Baykal and to other renowned Russian cities such as Kazan’ and the cities of the Golden Ring around Moscow. But other than going to Petersburg I also discovered a new town, Kolomna, in Moscow outskirts, which turned out to be a really lovely place with colorful little houses a huge Kremlin of its own.