HSE University’s International Students Share their Thoughts on Online Learning and Exams

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How did the beginning of the exam session go for HSE University’s international students? Do they like taking exams online? Read what these students have to say about the shift to online learning and taking exams from the home.

Lev Malyshev, second-year student, Faculty of Business and Management, who hails from Uzbekistan says,I decided to stay in Russia for the lockdown, and I’m living in the dorm. In March, it was unclear how long the self-isolation period would last. In addition, at home, I would have had difficulties with online learning due to low internet connection speed, as well as problems with getting an internship.”

“This semester, we are taking a total of six exams: they will be held online with proctoring software. Just recently, the students of our faculty participated in a WiWiKom study, which was conducted with the use of the same system and evaluated the students’ economic thinking. The new format caused a bit of panic in students: they didn’t understand how it was going to work and what they would have to do. At first, the students learned how to use the system, and then they signed into the exam all at once. The system got overloaded and crashed. I hope that during our exams, all these technical problems will be solved,” says Lev.

“Studying for exams from the comfort of my home is really easy, considering that I’m currently living alone.”

“I’m the master of my own house, so to speak. But I have had some problems with self-organization. For example, I started procrastinating on some projects and homework. Besides that, I’m always in my room, and it is sometimes difficult to get into study mode since the home is a place for leisure and relaxation. My classmates and my girlfriend help me stay on track and study for the exam: we are always in touch. My classmates and I figure out the study materials together and share information about our coursework, ” concludes Lev.

Hyen Jin Han, first-year Master’s student, International College of Economics and Finance, South Korea says, “After the lockdown started, our classes moved online—to Zoom. Professors prepared the lecture slides so it would be more convenient to follow the material. Surprisingly, it took me more time to study due to the lack of concentration in the online format, and I realized how crucial and valuable it is to have an opportunity to study offline.”

“My Contract Theory professor, Tatiana Mayskaya, tried to keep the lectures interactive by using the Menti online platform where students can type in or choose an answer for the questions. It showed the statistics of the answers and helped to focus on the lectures”

“The exams were also conducted online. It was a bit nerve-wracking and different from what I was expecting, as there were some additional requirements and rules to follow such as having a quiet room, a good internet connection, and a clear desk. The main difficulty was that the process was unfamiliar and we could only communicate with the proctor via chat,” adds Hyen.

“I’ve lived in Moscow my whole life, so Moscow is my home city. I love nature, wide forests, and parks. Currently, I am staying at home together with my family, having some rest from traffic jams and rush hour in the subway.”

Alya Mashurina, who is from Moldova and is currently a third-year student, Faculty of Humanities, saysI stayed in Russia because the entrance to my country was closed on the same day we switched to distant learning, and it was not easy to get onto special flights. Since the end of May, flights to Moldova resumed, but I decided to take all my exams and fly back only after that.”

“I need to take seven exams, three of which are written (answers to one or two questions), and the rest are oral. Recently, I took my first exam: an oral exam in French. I hadn’t been afraid of the questions, only of possible technical trouble (connection failure or other bugs). In the end, everything went pretty well! The process was a bit extended, I waited for my turn to answer for about an hour, but the teachers were very understanding; they understood how difficult it was for us to switch to the new format, so the process was very smooth, and I’m happy with how I did,” says Alya.

“The process of studying for exams is not different from the usual: I re-read the texts we’ve read over these six months, and I look through my notes. Most of all, of course, I’m worried about technical difficulties, and this adds to the stress. But I’m very hopeful that everything will go peacefully and smoothly, without any surprises. Besides that, I’m really missing the HSE University atmosphere and hanging out with friends,” Alya concludes.

Iskander Ibragimov from Kazakhstan, a first-year master’s student at Faculty of Business and Management, says “I’m spending this time in Moscow: the borders are closed, the tickets are expensive, and furthermore, I want to keep my family safe.”

“How many exams do I have? I’ve already lost count. Initially, we were going to have about six exams, but with the recent news about proctoring technology, I’m having exams in several more subjects,” Iskander says.

“During the period of online learning, I’ve developed some new habits: I now structure and arrange all my tasks – my advice to the other students is to use Trello.”

“Self-isolation was emotionally hard on me: I had to stay in a closed room with the same people, with minimal variation in daily routine. The only thing that helped was the walks to the store and back (a rare, permitted activity), as well as physical exercise and challenges which my roommates and I did together (such as go to bed before midnight) or meditation. This was a kind of psychological support that helped to stay fit. And the first thing I did after my exam was to go for a run,” concludes Iskander.

Maria Yakimova, a first-year student at Faculty of Humanities, who hails from Belarus says, “At the end of March, when the lockdown started, many of my Belarussian friends went back home, but I decided to stay in Moscow. First, it ended up that my dorm roommates left, which meant that I’m here alone, and it suits me perfectly. Second, Belarus hasn’t implemented the self-isolation regime or any serious disease prevention measures, so after discussing it with my parents I decided to stay since it is safer here. In addition, I don’t know when the borders will be re-opened, so there was a risk of getting stuck in Belarus for a long time.

“All my exams are administered online, and most of them are written (there is an oral part in German and Palaeography). None of my exams is administered with proctoring technology since earlier in the year, I quit the elective course of English.”, adds Maria.

“It actually has become easier to prepare for exams, since I’m living alone. My roommates aren’t here to distract me, and the requirements for some of the exams have been simplified.”

“The only thing I’m sometimes worried about is maintaining contact with the academic supervisor of my term paper. I often start thinking that my work has been lost and won’t be evaluated in time. I get a lot of support from my family and friends who I talk too often. Nevertheless, no matter how good I feel alone, I’m looking forward to the lockdown ends, when I’ll finally be able to go home. I haven’t been there since March and miss everyone a lot,” concludes Maria.