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Alina Kryuchkova: Five Tips on Studying Abroad

Alina Kryuchkova, a third-year student in economics at HSE, spent her spring semester at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management (ZSEM). So far there has not been one student who has studied abroad and remained unchanged by the experience. Alina spoke with HSE News Service about what it was like to study in Croatia, and she gave some advice to those who are interested in studying abroad through an HSE mobility programme.

I could not even imagine that this trip would be so important to me. It has completely changed my views on what I want. I remember how glad I was when I received the acceptance letter from ZSEM. Then I realized that everything would change.

It was difficult at first. I was alone in an unfamiliar country. I was worried about my bad English, and I had a terrible fear of returning home with failing grades which would lead to having to retake my exams.

Some of the doubts disappeared on my first day at ZSEM at Orientation session where I met my buddy and other exchange students. Other doubts I had dissolved in the first week of study. I understood what I was expected to do in each subject, and I met with teachers and Croatian students who study there on a full-time basis. I also remember how I was worried before the first exam, since I had no idea how it would go.

 After a month, I got a little bit more relaxed: everyday life became habitual, I began to speak up in classes, in between classes I drank coffee with Croats in their favorite cafe near the university. I was even able to buy croissants at the store by myself in broken Croatian. Then time began to fly. I just lived: I studied, traveled around Croatia, wandered the streets of Zagreb at night, tasted local dishes, and constantly met new people.

 What exactly changed me the most? Probably, it was the course 'Business Communication in English', which was a huge help in adapting and at the same time a wealth of knowledge that I had long been looking for. I finally realized what area I want to fully apply my skills in and why I need to study at the university. I got an interest in life and an incentive to study well.

And so, I returned - with excellent grades, a fifth-place ranking, a transfer to a state-funded place, and a new motivation to be diligent in my studies while living every moment of my life to the fullest.

Advice to those who are still finding themselves and want to expand their knowledge

I advise you to choose subjects not strictly according to the curriculum, but if possible in accordance with what would be interesting for you to study, and to move slightly away from your defined academic area. After all, those disciplines that are in the HSE curriculum, in any case, will have to be completed after you return, and mobility is an opportunity to study subjects that are not always available at HSE, expand your sphere of interests, and gain additional knowledge.

Pros: broadening your horizons, studying with pleasure and interest, working on a project instead of taking difficult exams, lack of fear that you will have to retake some exams, additional subjects on you transcripts from a foreign university.

Cons: increased curriculum load, more subjects to study after returning.

P.S.: Don't forget that you can return before the end of the semester and complete the examination period both here and there right away, study some subjects yourself, and come to the exam with the consent of the teacher and your academic supervisor.

Advice for students in fee-paying places

Due to the fact that you have a fixed number of ECTS credits at the host institution for a semester, you cannot choose too many courses, but you can choose less (there is a fixed minimum for the number of loans). This is a chance to concentrate on each subject and get higher grades, and after returning you can enter the top ranking or even transfer to the state-funded place, as in my case.

Again, you can choose simple courses, where instead of exams there will be a group project. This way you don't have to worry about returning to HSE with low grades or classes that need to be made up.

Pros: simple courses, easier to concentrate, less anxiety, high marks, the ability to switch to a state-funded place, more time to travel during the mobility programme.

Cons: a larger number of subjects will move to the next academic year / two years.

Advice to those who want to become more fluent in a foreign language and more

Participate in a student exchange programme! Definitely! And go alone. Then you will surely start to speak English. In addition, you will learn to look for accommodation, book hotels for travel, look for a bus in the large parking lot of the bus station when it arrives to another platform, keep a budget and plan your expenses, and solve various issues. And you will do it yourself. Not your parents. Not friends. But you yourself! And after your return, you will want to help foreigners who are visiting your country, even if they do not speak English well. You will be more open.

Pros: independence, responsibility for your life, gaining linguistic and many other life skills.

Cons: unusual emotional stress, sometimes lack of the support from loved ones.

Advice for those who want to study abroad

International mobility is a great opportunity to try to study in another country - a test drive, so to speak. You can choose the university where you would like to get your MBA or PhD, and go there to find out whether it is the right place or not. And this is also a good opportunity to determine what is required for admission and make useful contacts.

Pros: understanding what exactly is needed for admission (for example, to a master’s programme) and useful contacts, or just an invaluable experience.

Cons: nothing!

Advice to all bachelor’s and master’s students at HSE

International mobility is really not as difficult as it might seem. Find out when the next application period starts, gather the required documents, and apply. If you are still not sure whether to participate, apply and let the admissions committee decide for you.

If you want to ask Alina a question or get advice about participating in student exchange programmes, please contact the HSE Perm International Department Cooperation, Iuliia Babenko:

e-mail: iulbabenko@hse.ru
38 Studencheskaya street, office 205, tel.: +7 (342) 254-41-64