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Regular version of the site
International media image of Russia: trends and patterns of perception.

Repina, E.A.,, Zheltukhina, M., Kovaleva, N. et al.

XLinguae. 2018. Vol. 11. No. 2. P. 557-565.

Book chapter
Gendered Identities Among Medical Professionals in Post-Socialist Russian Cinema

Abramov R. N., Iarskaia-Smirnova E. R., Салтыков Д. И.

In bk.: Gendering Postsocialism: Old Legacies and New Hierarchies. Routledge, 2018. P. 231-244.

'Moscow Really Changed My Idea of Time'

We continue our project about international students of Higher School of Economics. Our hero for today - Lorenzo Tosi, who came from Italy, Cesenatico, University of Bologna. Lorenzo told us about “famous” Russian bureaucracy, his life in dormitory and favorite places in Moscow.

About stereotypes

I had this possibility of coming in exchange because I study Russian language in my university, and I thought that coming in exchange in Russia could be an enormous boost to my language skills and to understand the culture. And I generally love to travel, no matter where. I already had a friend from my university which went in exchange to Moscow and I already had some knowledge of the language, so I was prepared to survive! The only one stereotype I had is a scarce knowledge of English language (which I think is quite true in the end). The other thing which scared me a bit is bureaucracy; in Italy we think we are slow and not organized but procedures here in Russia are a nightmare! It took me 40 days to get a new visa and I wasn’t certain I could get it before the end of my previous one until the last day, just to make an example.

About the way of life

At home I still live with my parents, so it is a completely different world and it is hard to make an exhaustive comparison. Living in a dorm is giving me a lot of freedom on my life but on the other side I have less privacy, as I have to share a room. In general the only thing which is a bit annoying is having to deal with dormitory rules (guests allowance, so no one can sleep with me or guests have to leave at 23 no matter what, or cleaning in turns the kitchen), but it is definitely fine for the price I pay! Around 20€ a month.

I already lived in a dorm in Slovakia, which was quite new but had some flaws, like broken wallpaper in some angles and a few bugs the first week. Looking at the experiences of people which was already in Russia in exchange, I expected worse condition, like uncovered walls with small wrecks, stain and mould on walls, broken beds and so on, I have to say. My dormitory is very nice and clean, but I’ve been to dorms of other universities and those bad expectations were true there… I’m very happy with where I’m living now.

Neighborhood is the part of the “dorm life” which I like the most! The dorm is full of international from all over the world, so it is very nice to meet and discuss of everything, and get in touch with all the cultural differences that in an everyday context are amplified. The shared facilities and the small place we have in our rooms make us interact much more than normal, and so we become friends and we share some trips or activities together. Also I got in touch with many students volunteering in ESN (Erasmus Student Network is a non-profit international student organisation) and I help them collecting money and promoting activities inside my dorm. They are very kind, we went to many events and activities together, and I enjoy practice my Russian while chatting with them. Sometimes I go and play football with them, we go for a coffee or a walk somewhere (like the zoo), or we meet for dinner or breakfast and have a talk. In my free time depends on my mood, I can stay in my room with my PC or go to some concerts or festivals in Moscow, which is full of events!

About favorite places

Gorky Park (one of the large Moscow’s parks) and the “Skver” in Cistiye Prudy (a big pond in a historical centre of Moscow)are beautiful places to have a walk. In general if you like to walk and discover the city, there are many parks located all around the city worth a try (also Kolomenskoe and Izmailovsky are among my best picks). In winter VDNKh (exhibition park) with the longest artificial skate ring in the world is a must go, with the majesty of the pavilions and the museums and the “Russian Novy God” (New Year, that Russians celebrate from December 31 to January 1) atmosphere it radiates. During Maslenitza (traditional Slavic holiday celebrated during the week before the Great Lent) a walk in Ismailovsky Kreml (cultural and entertainment complex) and in the market here located can give you the feeling of a celebration that in Europe we don’t have. Personally, I also love the view from Most Bagration (trade and pedestrian bridge across the Moscow River)near Moscow City (international business center) and near my dorm.

About difficulties

For an Italian, cuisine is always an issue. Russian cuisine is different; in my region we are not used to eat soup and pasta is a full “first course” before meat, fish or salad, not a “garnir”. But have some things which I really enjoy, like kasha (boiled croutons in milk or water) for breakfast or pilmeni (boiled small pies of fresh dough with meat). I had to adapt a bit my eating habits, as it is hard to find good quality vegetables or cheese, but I’m surviving well (and losing weight!). As for other things, Moscow really changed my idea of time.

 In my area (I live in Cesenatico, quite a small city), travelling for 30 minutes by car to get to university or work is considered a lot of time, while in Moscow is nearly a privilege to spend so little time travelling! It is something I got used to know, but some people was arguing about the time they needed to get to university. Another thing is that few people speaks English, so for internationals that don’t speak Russian it is hard to do everyday tasks (paying for the dorm, shop around) and they need help, or if there is a problem in the dorm they always need someone to translate it to the personnel. As I saw from some Italian from the last semester, can be annoying from time to time.

About HSE

HSE is an international-minded university, so study courses (especially in economics, business and administration) are of good level with academics from all over the world. Maybe the level of preparation on theory-oriented subject is a bit lower, but a difference I noted is that in HSE is generally easy to visit companies, get in touch with them and work for a stage period, while in Italy is much harder to get proper working experience while studying. In Russia students are entitled to many discounts and so the price of living is affordable I would say.

About Russian language

I would say Russian is my main subject as I study translation. I came here quite sure of my abilities but it was hard even to sustain a talk: people talk with different words and much quicker than we were used in class, youngsters use slang words and so on, but after 3 months I got more into the culture and I made friends, and so I started to speak better and more confidently! Russian and Italian language have a similar degree of “openness” while speaking of emotions and experiences, and I found quite easy to become friend with Russians and talk with them of many things (and if you get more in touch, they are very willing to help me improving my Russian). Now I’m happy, I think I have reached a B2 and I think I can be able of working with Russian language.

About plans

I think Moscow offers many work opportunities for Italians (even if regulations are quite strict), so it can be a good idea working for a few years. I am also looking around for which master to start and HSE can be a good option for my academic career.

The previous interview with the exchange student from France can be reached at link.