Students from Tajikistan: “If I Ever Return to Russia to Study, it is Definitely Going to Be HSE”
During one semester three students of the Tajik State University of Finance and Economics were studying at the Higher School of Economics in Perm on the educational programme "Economics" within the academic mobility programme. Zufar Kholmirzoev, Nasimjon Islomov and Mukhammad Niyozov shared their impressions about HSE and Perm.
— Where have you all met?
Zufar: At the academic office of my university when I was preparing the necessary documents I was told that two more students were coming too, whom I would meet at the airport. This is exactly how it happened. I met the mates on the way to Perm.
Mukhammad: We have become friends and managed to get along well. It was mentally easier that we all did not come separately, that we all come from the same university.
— Tell us about your first impressions
Mukhammad: I remember the day of departure, it was January, it was very warm. And when we landed in Yekaterinburg, it was - 20°C - real winter. At home there is no such temperature at all.
Nasimjon: Yes, the difference was significant. I would not say that it was difficult, because you can get used to anything, and also we had no choice. As for me, it was not hard to get used to it, acclimatization was fast enough. Vice versa, it was interesting, it was a new feeling for me, despite the fact that I had been in Russia before. I spent one semester in Pskov.
Zufar: It was my first trip abroad, and I was overwhelmed with emotions. Therefore, at first, the cold did not embarrass me, I was happy. Only a month later I began to notice that if I go out and I cannot open my eyes, it means that it is cold.
Mukhammad: I liked the winter, I liked that there was a lot of snow. But it seems to me that in the nearest future I will not miss it.
— Was it difficult for your parents to let you go to Russia?
Zufar: I had to convince my parents to let me go. They needed complete information: who will meet me, where I will live, who will look after me. I managed to convince them that everything would be under control. Over time it has become easier for them, but every two days it was necessary to make a phone call, otherwise the parents would start looking for me on the third day.
Mukhammad: Of course parents were worried. After school I entered the university and I had to move to Dushanbe to study. Therefore, my parents and I got used to live far from each other. My parents know that I can be independent, so when I asked them if I could go to Russia, they supported me.
— Why did you choose the program "Economics"?
Zufar: I was choosing between “Public Administration” and “Economics”. Unfortunately, I did not pass the admissions to the first programme, so my path was determined.
Mukhammad: I didn’t apply to the university right after school, so I had time to think about what would be easier for me to cope with, what I find interesting and where my knowledge can be useful. I’ve chosen “Taxes and Taxation”. I like the humanities, with this specialty I can get knowledge and put it into practice.
— How many students from your university go abroad within student exchange programmes?
Nasimjon: A lot, but we were first to visit HSE. Usually except Russia students go to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Zufar: On average, we can take part in student exchange 3 times while getting a Bachelor’s degree, from the first to the third year. On the fourth year we are not allowed to go. I would like to go to Uzbekistan next year, I think this is a very beautiful country with prosperous universities.
Mukhammad: I do not think that I will participate in the student exchange next year. I want to devote all my free time to practice in my specialty - taxes. This will help me to master the profession in the future.
— What did you expect from studying at HSE, and what did you experience in fact?
Zufar: I had classmates who entered foreign universities. I didn’t make it to get a state-fund place, so I stayed in Tajikistan. But I was terribly curious about how it is to live in another country, what difficulties there are. It is much easier to study at home, because you can communicate in your own language, there’s always a way to explain something. Now we had to put more effort into doing something. But I was prepared, so the expectations were confirmed. Plus, my friends helped me prepare in advance.
Nasimjon: I wanted to understand what Higher School of Economics is. Well, I have realized that the School is... the highest.
Zufar: Here there is a different level of education, different approaches to teaching. At HSE all classes focused on practice. At home, we mostly listen to lectures. I do not know what will happen on the 3rd and 4th course, but up to this point we had only theory. But at HSE we have learned how to run projects, how to analyze.
Mukhammad: Such a system is much more useful, because here students are actually being prepared for a real job, they get practice.
— What will remain the most memorable moment of your studying at HSE?
Nasimjon: Ten-point grading scale. We have a scale of one hundred points. It was difficult for me to get used to this one. At first, when I was getting marks I did not understand whether that was good or bad.
Mukhammad: I will remember how welcome we were. Teachers always used to help us. They knew that we had difficulties with the Russian language, so when I had questions, I knew who to turn to and received support and help. At first, even with all the explanations it was not easy to figure out how to cope with the schedule, how to receive homework, how to operate in the electronic system. But my elder was very patient and attentive, with time everything turned out.
Zufar: I have obtained some insights about myself, found out how I could be acting in the conditions that I’m not used to. I have made new friends, experienced another way of life. Before the arrival I had an intention to find a path to develop meaningfully, to understand what I want, to obtain strengths in comparison with other students of my university. My family says that I have changed. I do not think so, for me everything remains the same. But they point out that when we were talking on the phone, I was expressing my thoughts differently, discussed certain topics that were not typical of me before. I am happy that they think so.
— Did you feel support staying here?
Zufar: I have realized that I need to take the first step myself, ask questions, otherwise no one will advise on purpose. But after the first step everything becomes easier.
Nasimjon: The teachers helped us a lot. We had even greater support from Tajik students who lived with us in the dormotiry. Local students are less sociable. Maybe it's because of the mentality. But it is impossible to estimate a nation by one person or two. In contrast, I have noted that our people are very open and hospitable. Here people tend to be more distant at first, at least that's what I have noticed. I think, over time, more and more foreign students will come to Perm and HSE and communication will become closer and more open; a generation of students will change and less people will define themselves and others on account of ethnic descent.
Zufar: I think this is already happening. For example, third-year students are easier to get in touch with, compared to freshmen. So the older the students are, the more open their views become.
— Have you noticed that your Russian language skills have improved?
Mukhammad: Conversational practice has greatly helped to draw attention to the mistakes that I was making previously and to get rid of them. But I think that I should still improve my level of proficiency.
Zufar: In my opinion, it is obvious that my Russian has become much better compared to the beginning of my studies in Perm. Nasim and I often were taking part in extracurricular activities, and this allowed us to practice Russian a lot.
Nasimjon: Unfortunately, when we come home something will get forgotten.
— What disciplines were the most interesting?
Zufar: Along with the third year students I attended “Institutional Economics”. Marina V. Sheina had made me have so many thoughts, it was very interesting, it has greatly influenced my thinking. There were difficulties with studies, but over time you get used to it. The biggest obstacle was to understand how the educational system works.
Mukhammad: I would like to highlight “Organizational Behavior” and “Human Resource Management”. At first, it was incomprehensible and even boring for me, but with time I was getting more and more motivated, it had become very exciting to me. Now I’m thinking of choosing this field for my Master’s degree.
Nasimjon: Before coming to HSE I was very fond of English and I thought that I was doing well. Here we came to classes, and it seemed to me that the students speak the language at a professional level. I was distressed. The students’ proficiency is much higher than mine. We have also managed to make friends here with the exchange students from England. We communicated probably the most with them. They helped us practice our English. Unfortunately, even when we were making mistakes, they did not correct them. They had managed to understand what we were trying to say. But now it seems to me that if I come to England, anyone can understand me. At home I will definitely continue to learn English.
— What are you planning to do in the summer?
Zufar: First, we have to do practice, then complete missed assignments of the second year curriculum.
Mukhammad: During the summer I would like to improve the Russian language and mathematics, because here I had some difficulties.
— In 2 years you are getting your diplomas. What are you planning to do after this?
Zufar: I'm going to apply for a Master’s degree abroad. This is my main goal. If I finish my undergraduate degree with honours, I can apply for Master’s programmes right away, otherwise I will have to wait three years according to our legislation. I consider Turkey and Russia. If I ever return to Russia to study, it is definitely going to be HSE. Moreover, I already know everything here. Expect my call.
Nasimjon: First we need to wait for diplomas, because before that there is still a lot of time. In an ideal scenario, I would like to enroll in a graduate programme in the United States. But after this I would return to my homeland. I am the only son in the family and should help my parents.
— Who would you like to work as after graduation?
Zufar: At first, I would work as an employee to gain working experience. But in fact I would not like to work for anyone. I will work out a business plan, just I have not decided yet what sphere it will be. But I intend to start my own business.
Nasimjon: If I find a job by my profession, I will be gaining experience. I would like to work in the international sphere with large companies. Perhaps I could become a diplomat and travel a lot.
Mukhammad: At first, I intend to finish my studies. Then, most likely, for some time I will join the business of my brother and relatives, they sell textiles. They can't wait me to finish my studies. But I do not plan spend many years doing that.
— Do you like living abroad?
Mukhammad: Despite the fact that I have been living on my own for quite a while, my mother used to do everything for me, and I was taking it for granted. But thanks to the fact that I had to learn to do everything myself, to see how much time it takes, I learned to appreciate parental support and care even more.
Nasimjon: I like living in Russia. When you know that your time here is limited, you try to explore, see, do, experience as much as possible. You investigate what you do not see at home. Perm is a very modernized city. Large houses and facilities, hypermarkets, I found here a lot of new things. In addition, independent life upgrades a variety of life skills a lot. In the future this experience will very useful, because there are a lot of things upcoming that will have to be solved by yourself. You already know how to react to certain things, how to equip your life, prepare food, iron your clothes. Also I would like to mark out that Russian students have unlimited access to the Internet. If we had such Internet at home, we would have much more opportunities than we do now. It allows you to study languages and business areas for free or for money. You can join different groups, use social networks, you can find anything online. In Tajikistan many web-sites are blocked.
— Would you advise other students to go to the HSE?
Nasimjon: My mates are already interested to come here. My friend is already preparing the documents to apply and participate. After my stories, my friends want to come exactly to HSE, they ask me a lot of questions, and I gladly answer. Thanks to our university, we have such a wonderful opportunity to go to other universities, learn about the educational system of other countries, expand our horizons. Plus, if someone wants to study at HSE’s Master’s programmes after, then coming for a semester is the best solution.
Zufar: Definitely, if there is a goal to increase knowledge and upgrade skills, improve your level, challenge yourself in your studies, then you need to go to Higher School of Economics. If a student has a goal to have fun, see another city, then it will not work. It seems to me that students should consciously think about participating in exchange programmes.
— What would you advise to those who might come to Perm to study?
Nasimjon: Get some warm clothes. And talk to those who have already experienced the student exchange beforehand. Appart from that I highly recommend everyone to visit a real Russian banya, especially in winter. I was very surprised that people could sit in the heat for half an hour, and then immediately burst into the cold. They have explained to me why this is healthy, but I have already forgotten. But I really enjoyed this experience, perhaps, this is one of the most vivid memories of the entire semester.
Zufar: I would advise you to behave and act with dignity.
Mukhammad: I agree. We would like to represent only the best sides, and it would be unpleasant for me if someone from my university had left not the best impression. But as they say, if you want to become better - stick with those who are better than you. We found ourselves in such an environment, and I am happy.