'We Can Have Precious Experience Every Day'

Yuri Ishitoya, a Spring 2020 exchange student from Akita International University (Japan), tells about her favourite place in Moscow and how cooking helps you make new friends.

I went to HSE Moscow from January to March 2020. I chose to study in Russia to learn Russian history and improve my Russian skills by living and communicating with people in the country. At first, I was anxious about starting my studies abroad. However, I received so many precious experiences through everyday life in Moscow eventually. I would like to talk about my life as an exchange student in HSE.

Kind People in Moscow

An unexpected incident occurred on my first day in Moscow. I took the wrong train from the airport to my dormitory by mistake. I checked the timetable in the station, but I could not understand where to go. My Russian skill was not enough to talk with the staff, and I was at a loss. Suddenly, a woman who speaks English came to me and told me the right station. This was a really vivid memory, so I cannot forget that gentle lady who rescued a foreigner like me.

Of course, however, for your safe travel please start learning basic Russian as soon as possible if you are planning to study in Russia!


Courses which I took at HSE were really hard, but these courses made my perspective wider and richer. Many classes consisted of students from different countries, and our discussions included various perspectives. At the same time, I learned an enormous amount of new theory and knowledge about several fields such as European politics, media, psychology, and Russian society.

As well as courses taught in English, I took an advanced Russian language course. The level of the class was high, so I desperately caught up with the class every time. All conversations, explanations and instructions were conducted in Russian throughout the class. I learned a bunch of useful expressions in Russian. 

I was asked about my country (Japan) quite often in many courses, so I recommend you to learn about your own country before departure.


Because of my introverted personality, I felt nervous about making friends at first. However, I made friends with people from various countries soon. Therefore, I could widen my interests in foreign cultures. Also I met many people who are interested in Japan. The popularity of Japanese culture and language in Russia is not well known in Japan. Therefore, I would like to tell more Japanese people that many Russian people are interested in Japan.

I think that cooking enabled us to know each other. We often cooked dishes from different countries together in our dormitory. One day, we learned how to cook селёдка под шубой (meaning “herring under a fur coat,”) from a Ukrainian friend. In return, we also introduced a Japanese dish to our friend. We shared our food culture with each other.

Even if you are not good at cooking, google “Russian cuisine” and try cooking the dishes! It will become a brilliant memory.


In Moscow, you can utilize very convenient transportation systems. First, we can use a subway called 'метро'. Trains come to stations every 2-5 minutes, so you can just wait for the next train even if you miss the previous one. Also, we used a taxi in Moscow, which we could instantly order using an app. Thanks to such transportations, we can not only commute to the classes but also travel around the city easily.

The most unforgettable place for me is the Tretyakov Gallery.

The gallery is proud of its magnificent collection. We enjoyed beautiful portraits of the royal family of the Romanov dynasty and famous Russian novelists. The portrait of Ekaterina II was by far more gorgeous than that I saw in my history textbook. Furthermore, the gallery also possesses icons of the Eastern Orthodox Church. I have been interested in art, so it was really exciting to see genuine artworks which I have known from books. I bought a small red catalogue which contains the most famous 100 masterpieces in the museum. It is the best souvenir for me.

To sum up, I really loved studying in Moscow!

The duration was short, but I would not forget the days. If you are eager to try something new, I recommend studying at HSE. Moscow is highly convenient, culturally rich, and super safe. In addition, people in Moscow are very nice. Even though it would be hard to survive in English alone, they are willing to help foreigners.

When all of the troubles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are solved and we can travel safely, I would definitely like to visit Russia with my friends again.