A very enriching experience is to study in Russia or in any foreign country. International travel is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences on the planet, but it takes guts to get up and leave your family and friends and be completely independent for the first time in your life. If you have decided to study in Russia, you have made a good choice, because Russian culture is distinct enough to enliven your study experience in the country.

Whether you want to study for a semester with your universities study abroad program, learn Russian as a second language, apply for an international scholarship, move with your family to Russia or just work on transferring your higher education to a Russian University. You will need to know which Russian University to study at and even more importantly you will need to know about how to pick this university before you enrol.

Russia has more than 800 universities throughout its cities and towns, and more than 200,000 foreign students are welcomed every year to study and discover the beauty of Russian culture. So what do those students know that you don’t? How did they pick their university in Russia? Let’s take a look at things you should think about before selecting your new university.

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Which Discipline To Study In Russia?

Whether it is to learn a regional language, especially the Russian language, or to complete your training to become an engineer. Curriculums in Russia cover all topics, and prospective students can expect to have a lot of choice in the number of courses available for study in universities there. Russia is a dream destination for many students and many students not only decide to study in Russia for an academic year, but many also start and complete all of their higher education in Russia.

The question of deciding what to study is not based on where you study but on what it is that you want to do.

  1. First, ask yourself what you would like to study Once you have a concrete idea, then you can go to the next step.
  2. Look for universities that offer that course. However, you should be aware that you will have to do another step to decide because with so many universities and so many courses offered in Russia this will not help you to shortlist a university.

The last things you can do when you have a list of universities that have your course is starting to ask yourself.

  1. Where do I not want to go to university? For sure there will be a small town in the mountains that shut down at 8pm or a university that doesn’t allow wifi. It sounds silly but go through your list and start to think about things you want to do and experience while studying. If you like the quiet life, maybe you won't choose Moscow. But if you like to party maybe Saint Petersburg will go top of the list.
  2. Once you have made your superficial decision, then you should have a much shorter list. It is not time to start to look for more information about the university.
    1. Do they help you to study abroad or do they have a link to your university
    2. Do they offer a scholarship
    3. Do they have an established an exchange program
    4. Do they teach in English if you don’t speak Russian
    5. Do they provide support to get your student visas
    6. Do they offer additional support from an intercultural counselor or perhaps tuition support to help you in your first academic
    7. Do they have university accommodation, approved housing or host families
    8. Do they have excellent facilities on campus
    9. Are their campuses located in good areas
  3. Remember that while the idea to study abroad is great the end goal is to get a degree. An international university is excellent, but if you don’t reach your end goal, then you need to ask yourself if it would be worth it.
  4. If you have the chance to take a holiday in Russia to visit campuses, do it. If not then join forums, facebook groups, and check online maps to try to get a good idea of what it will be like.
  5. Now the last one is maybe the most important, What can you afford?

Going through this checklist will help you to narrow down the search. For some, it will be a natural process, and if you are going to Russia for just for a few months, it may not matter quite so much. But if you are planning on spending 3 years studying in a Russian university, then you had better do your due diligence and make sure that you are going to have the time of your life. While we can not really control what we will find we can research enough to put our minds at ease.

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It is essential to know a few key phrases before you fly to Russia. Photo Source: Unsplash

The Best Russian Universities

Some of the best Russian universities are:

  • Moscow State University

"Today, [our] emphasis is on advancing the applied science: new materials, genetics, biomedicine, pharmaceutics, cognitive sciences, ecology, and information technologies. We work hard to preserve our heritage and develop our traditions of a comprehensive approach to higher education and science. Moscow University has a rich academic history. Yet the major commitment remains the same as it has been in centuries: to provide outstanding teaching, scholarship and research. But what makes our University so lively is this intellectual spirit combined with inexhaustible curiosity.

We keep open the University doors to anyone who strives for new discoveries, creativity, and self-improvement."

"More than 10 000 foreign students, graduate students, interns from 90 countries annually visit Moscow State University for the purpose of training and participation in joint scientific programs. [...]

Moscow University promotes internationalization based on the principle of equality of all participants and within the framework of more than 700 agreements on scientific and educational cooperation with governmental and international organizations, foreign universities and research centers in Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa."

  • MGIMO, School of International Relations of Moscow

"MGIMO is the best Russian university for international students who are interested in studying foreign affairs and Russian studies. Its courses are modern, exciting and intellectually challenging. The University offers a broad range of undergraduate and graduate programs — from international law, political science, business management, energy policy and even digital economy. [...]

MGIMO offers its students the broadest opportunities for creative self-accomplishment. Various student organizations fill the calendar with cultural, social and sports events. Of course, MGIMO is in Moscow, one of the world’s great cities, with an array of cultural and historical treasures, vibrant dazzling lifestyle events. It offers easy access to the diversity and energy of contemporary Russia, and its epic heritage. MGIMO is a wonderful life experience for international students."

  • The Polytechnic University of Tomsk

"Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) in Tomsk, Russia, is the oldest technical university in Russia east of the Urals. The university was founded in 1896 and opened in 1900 as the Tomsk Technological Institute. In 1925, the school was renamed the Siberian Technological Institute and in 1930, the institute was split into five divisions, three of which remained in Tomsk. In 1934, the three institutes in Tomsk reunited to form a new institute that would be named the Tomsk Polytechnic Institute. The university has more than 22,000 current students and has graduated more than 100,000 technical specialists. As of 2014 the rector was Petr S. Chubik." - Wikipedia

  • The State University of Saint Petersburg

"Saint Petersburg State University is the second best multi-faculty university in Russia after Moscow State University. In international rankings, the university was ranked 240th[4] in 2013/2014, by the QS World University Rankings, it was placed 351–400th[5] by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 301–400th[6] by the Academic Ranking of World Universities outperforming the rest of universities in Russia excluding Moscow State University.

The university has a reputation for having educated the majority of Russia's political elite; these include presidents Vladimir Putin and Dimitry Medvedev, both of whom studied Law at the university. The university is Russia's oldest university, founded in 1724 by Peter the Great, which predates the foundation of Moscow State University in 1755.

Saint Petersburg state university is included in all ratings and lists of the best universities in the world and is one of the leaders in all indicators in Russia." - Wikipedia

  • Novosibirsk State University

"Novosibirsk is the non-official capital of Siberia and the scientific [centre] of Russia. Moreover it is one of the most rapidly growing cities in the country being its Siberian cultural and economic [centre] as well as a major transportation hub. In Novosibirsk one can obtain high-quality English taught training at comparatively low cost of living and education. Novosibirsk is among top 20 Best Student Cities in the world according to the availability of education. Ranking specialists especially point out the unique R&D atmosphere of the Academgorodok [centre] where Novosibirsk State University is located."

The final choice, of course, depends on your level of education, your expectations, your discipline and your financial position. It is advisable to choose an internationally renowned university, of course, Especially if you do not speak the language and need classes in English until you can learn Russian. Feel free to choose courses in the Russian language even if you do not master it yet because you can find ways to translate the teacher such as google translate and of course you will study a bit hard to understand.

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Phonetics, Cyrillic keyboard, memorization, intonation and Russian expressions, will be a real asset once at the airport. Photo Source: Unsplash

How To Register To Study In Russia?

The first step to being accepted into a Russian university is to put together an application. The content of the latter varies from one school to another, but the application should generally contain the following:

  1. An application form,
  2. A CV and a cover letter,
  3. A photocopy of your passport.

The process is relatively simple, and once you have completed the process, you can just wait for the answer. If it is negative, you can always try another university. In general, you must apply for the entire academic year so bear that in mind, selecting a single semester may get your application declined.

Tips On Completing Your Letter Of Intent

It may not sound like a crucial element, but getting your cover letter (or letter of intent as it is often referred to) right is a very important step to achieving your goal of being accepted at a foreign university and studying abroad.

The first thing to do is check if your chosen place of study has any requirements for this motivation letter, or if they leave you to your own devices. Secondly, jot down all of the things you want to include in your letter, for instance, things that you think will make you stand out from the rest. The main points to consider are qualifications, goals, hobbies, passions and interests (related to your studies).

Thinking of things to say isn't too hard, but what shouldn't you say in a cover letter?

The website educations.com lists a few things to avoid saying in your letter of intent, with some suggestions of how you can make your feelings be received a little better:

"Don’t Say:

  • I just wanted to get out of my country.
  • I want to meet and marry someone “international.”
  • My friend tried it, and it sounded fun. [...]
  • I have never travelled or lived abroad, but I think I will like it.
  • Every time I have travelled it was a bad experience, but I’m hoping this time will be different. [...]
  • I’m always the life of the party or the loudest in the room, so I know I will make friends easily.
  • I plan on keeping to myself so that I will not upset or offend anyone."

"Instead, Say:

  • I anticipate developing both personally and professionally from an international experience.
  • I have a deep interest in the culture, history, and language of the country, which I am excited to continue to explore and experience.
  • As someone who prides themselves on their ability to communicate across cultures, I believe I would be the perfect fit for a program that incorporates students from around the globe.
  • Although I have never lived or studied abroad before, I love to travel and experience new cultures, and therefore, I’m looking for an opportunity to expand my horizons while doing something I love.
  • Although I have never been abroad, I have done a lot of research to make sure this country is the right match for me. I also look forward to the challenge of living and studying independently abroad, which I am sure I am ready to handle.
  • Universities don’t expect that everyone applying to an international program has had study abroad experience before. However, by letting them know you are up for the challenges that may arise, you set yourself apart from other students who may choose to ignore the subject entirely.
  • I am the kind of person who gets along well with others due to being open and considerate of people and their beliefs.
  • Above all else, I pride myself on my cultural sensitivity when I find myself in the company of others who do not share a similar background as mine."

Do you already have experience of living abroad? Although you may not see this as a skill, overseas establishments will be impressed by any completed training in another country or any foreign schooling that you have been involved in. They like to pick students who they know will do well even though they are far from home, so they are careful to choose candidates who have already proven that they are ready for life abroad.

What Expenses Can I Expect Studying In Russia?

Similar to studying in your home country or any country in the world. You can generally expect to pay for the following.

  1. University registration fees,
  2. Miscellaneous administrative expenses,
  3. Residence fees,
  4. Money for Books
  5. Money for living expenses.

Tips On Cutting Down Spending

Below are a few tips on how to save a bit of pocket money as a student in Russia, especially when visiting some of the larger cities where everything costs that little bit more.

  1. File your visa yourself
    To save on agency fees, try to submit your own visa application which could save you half.
  2. Book your plane tickets in advance
    Book your flights to Russia around 3 months in advance, including any trips you wish to take home in the school holidays. Also, don't rule out flights with stops as this often makes the journey cheaper.
  3. Book your accommodation through Russian websites
    Check out the Russian Ostrovok reservation platform for any visits you make to the area in search for long-term accommodation and, to save even further on your residence, look at Airbnb properties with long rentals or host families.
  4. Use the metro wherever possible
    The metro is the cheapest way to get around the city (except by foot, of course) and they have a great system whereby you buy a voucher with 20 trips loaded on it (which you can share with your friends).
  5. Get a student card to cut down the costs of visiting tourist attractions
    Some sites charge tourists way above the price that is asked of local citizens but if you are a student with a valid student card, you may find that this gets you a few reductions.
  6. Purchase a Russian SIM card
    To keep call costs down, buy a Russian pay as you go SIM card, particularly if you have friends in Russia with you as you can usually get free minutes to others on the same network. There is also a prepaid SIM available which, for £5, gives you a certain number of free minutes and Internet usage for a fraction of what you would pay if using your English phone.

What Is The General Process To Apply For A University?

Once you have been approved as a prospective student. You can proceed to the following administrative formalities:

  1. The scholarship application,
  2. The visa application.
  3. Housing application: many students choose to live with a Russian host family or stay in university residences. Which are very cheap, gives you access to other students, you are close to your classes.
  4. Flights booking: check if you are allowed to book a one-way flight with your visa or if you have to have a return ticket. Of course for more extended periods of study, you will not have a return ticket.

Things To Remember

  1. The law in Russia is not the same as your home country, and before you take any actions, you must check what is allowed.
  2. A student can not always work in Russia so make sure you know how to budget, or you might find you go hungry.
  3. You can, however, help in the university with the following jobs, but you can count that there will hardly ever be vacancies.
    1. administrative positions
    2. In the international relations department
    3. or as a translator into your native language
  4. If you are a daredevil, you could offer English lessons to Russian students in exchange for a meal or a drink at the bar, but you should be careful not to accept cash unless you have permission as this will be seen as employment.

On Campus at your international university, you may find the education system and the rules a little different from your home country. But this is an opportunity to open your mind and learn to see life in a new way. Be glad that you are away from higher education at home and that your Russian experience will enrich your life.

Why choose Russia for university studies? Because it is a plus to have a Russian experience and to learn to speak a rare language like Russian. Which university did you choose and what was your experience?

Discover 'True' Russia By Learning The Language

Why learn Russian before or during a trip overseas?

Firstly, it’s one of the most spoken languages in the world, spoken by more than 260 million people globally. It's the official language of Russia but also Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Plus, it is also spoken in Israel, the Balkans, Ukraine, Armenia and the USA.

Furthermore, Russia is a major economic force so being able to speak this hugely important language will be an asset to put on your CV.

Having Russian on your CV will make you stand out, even if the position you’re applying for doesn’t require you to speak Russian or any other languages. This is because employers are impressed by those who commit to learning a language which is considered to be difficult to learn. It will make you come across as highly intellectual.

Finally, by learning all about the country's language, you'll also understand a bit more about its fascinating culture and people.

A big part of Russian culture can be discovered through its literature and linguistics since Russian language has an enormous amount of expressions you can’t find in English. And, what's more, speaking their language will give you a huge advantage when it comes to making new friends and contacts in the country.

To learn Russian, you can use a range of methods but one of the most convenient and cost-effective is to look for a tutor via Superprof.

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