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Out of Many Universities, I Specifically Chose HSE in Nizhny Novgorod

Massimo D'Ascenzi came to HSE in Nizhny Novgorod from Viterbo (Italy) as part of the Erasmus+ programme. In this interview, Massimo speaks about the reasons for choosing the Higher School of Economics, about studying in Russia, and about what one has to learn first before coming to Russia.

How did you get into HSE in Nizhny Novgorod?

In late December,Pavel Malyzhenkov of HSE delivered a presentation about this cooperation project at Viterbo University. This is how I heard about the opportunity to spend some time in Nizhny Novgorod. My primary goal was to improve my English, since teaching at HSE is completely in English. And, of course, experience of international mobility is essential for today’s students. That’s why I chose the Higher School of Economics in Nizhny Novgorod. I was also interested in Russia as an unusual place to study. I don’t mean anything negative, of course, but as a rule, Erasmus+ offers countries other than Russia.


Did you have any expectations before coming to Russia?

Of course, I did. First of all, I was expecting to see a developing country, since a common view of Russia among Italians is that this country is still lagging behind. But honestly, I didn’t see this. Some of the aspects of life are at a higher level than similar things in Europe. The reception was more than warm. I was immediately welcomed to this environment, both by students and teachers. The reality exceeded all my expectations. I’ve been really taken care of here, and the attitude is truly positive.

What do you think of the study process at a Russian university? How is it different from the study process at your home university?

I think that all the international admission procedures here are organized better than in Europe. The attitude is much better and the interest in international students coming to study in Russia is much stronger. Speaking about the studies, of course, there is a big difference between Viterbo and Nizhny Novgorod. First, the organization of classes is different with the module system in Russia and the semester system in Italy. Another difference I’ve noticed is that in Italy, we usually study using textbooks, while here, we work with academic papers much more, and the materials on course topics are regularly updated. And I would also like to emphasize the teachers’ friendliness: they are always open for communication, and ready to understand the international students’ capabilities and problems, most of which are language-related. One more difference is that all courses here are taught in English, which is still something that doesn’t happen in Italian universities. Or at least, I can say it’s not that developed at Viterbo. Of course, this is a significant advantage for the university in Nizhny Novgorod, since it opens much more opportunities for internationalization. In these terms, the Higher School of Economics is much more open, since any student can come here knowing that all the teaching is in English, which is still hard to get in Italy. If you go there without knowing Italian, it would be much harder to study.

You said that Russia was most interesting for you as a destination for international student exchange. Are you interested in Russian culture and language? Have you learnt any Russian words?

First of all, I learned the alphabet: I was advised to do it from the very beginning. Now, I’ve learned some street names. I also can read Russian a little, but conversational language is harder for me. From this perspective, it would be good to organize some Russian language and culture preparatory courses for exchange students.