Seven Common Myths about Studying in Russia | Top Universities

Seven Common Myths about Studying in Russia

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated November 10, 2017 Updated November 10, 2017

Sponsored by Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University

Moving halfway across the world for university can feel quite daunting, especially when it’s your first ever experience of living on your own without your family. Figuring out how to actually cook a meal for yourself is hard enough without also having the navigate the minefield of a totally new set of values and practices. Take the Russian poker face, for example.  Depending on where you’re from, you might be used to the sight of strangers smiling or laughing in public. Well, not in Russia, where it’s actually considered a hostile act to smile at a stranger. Before moving here, you might want to bear in mind the very Russian saying: “a smile without a reason is the signature of a fool”.

But, of course, like most things, culture shock is a tad overplayed, and misconceptions about living in Russia are rife. To give you a more accurate picture of what studying in Russia is really like, we thought we’d clear up some of the confusion for you…   

Myth #1:  You’ll have to jump through many admissions hoops

Applying to university in Russia is a lot easier than you might think, and you’ll find that lots of universities in big Russian cities are actually pretty internationalized. Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU), for example, was home to about 6,000 international students in the 2016-17 academic year. In fact, from the moment you hit send on your application to your first day of campus, an admission manager at SPbPU will liaise with you at regular intervals to make sure you have all the necessary information you need.

Myth #2: Russian education leaves something to be desired

Obviously with the price of education being so affordable, it’s not hard to see why one might be led to think this, but - believe it or not - Russia features quite prominently in the QS university rankings, with 95 Russian universities in the QS EECA University Rankings 2018 and 24 in the QS World University Rankings 2018, an impressive feat. Of course, you’ll want to make sure the Russian university you’re applying to is internationally accredited.  SPbPU, for example, was one of the first technical universities in the country to hold mutual international accreditation for its international educational programs.

Myth #3: You have to speak Russian to survive in Russia

Many universities like SPbPU have been catering for international students for many years now, thanks to a new generation of brilliant undergraduate and postgraduate programs taught exclusively in English. Of course, if you’re moving to Russia to pick up the language, you can always do a foundation program (but if you don’t fancy the extra year and effort, don’t sweat it).

In terms of your day to day life, whether you’re asking for directions or trying to make new friends, most Peterburgians and Muscovites should be able to speak English well enough to hold up their end of the conversation. And if, in the most extraordinary of circumstances, you find someone who doesn’t know a single word of English, the Google Translate app on your smartphone will get you pretty far…

Myth #4: You’ll be on your own without a safety net

Obviously, without your family living nearby, it can feel quite disconcerting to have to resolve problems on your own, especially if you’ve never travelled abroad and have always lived at home, but your university will have experience in supporting international students.

So, if you’re studying at SPbPU, the university will be your safety net. In fact, SPbPU actually runs a program called Tutor Forces, which is a network of Russian students who volunteer to help international students acclimate. Your tutor might take you to the cinema, see the sights of St Petersburg or help you with any issue you might have. In addition to this, there’s a wide range of student societies, including dance, design, photography,  guitar and poetry.

Myth #5: You won’t actually get to see much of Russia

If you’re hoping to see more of Russia beyond the walls of your university campus, you can always get some travelling done on the weekends and holidays. From Moscow to Vladivostok, there’ll be many opportunities to visit incredible places with groups of students.

The Republic of Karelia in the northwest of Russia, for instance, is a stunning touristic hot spot, and for the heritage geeks among you, the petroglyphs, Kizhi Island and Valaam monastery are fairly close to St Petersburg. Other popular landmarks include the magnificent Pushkin palaces and the lovely ancient village of Staraya Ladoga and its stone fortress.

Myth #6: You’ll find it hard to actually make any friends

The Russian poker face problem aside, St Petersburg’s a fairly cosmopolitan city, with students from all over the world, with their own culture, languages and points of view. In fact, even if you’re a semi-sociable introvert, there are a few things you can do to bridge the gap between you and other students, like registering for a class or joining a sport team. Also, student unions in Russia will try their best to make new international recruits feel welcome through ice breaker nights and on-campus events.

Myth #7: It’ll be more expensive than going to uni in your home country

Studying abroad can actually work out cheaper than paying for tuition fees back home and living at your parents. Tuition fees rank among the most affordable in the world, with undergraduate fees for international students ranging between US$2,100-2,400 a year and postgraduate fees of usually no more than US$3,000 a year. Other costs are quite low: a student living in Russia can get by on just US$500 a month, including food, accommodation, transportation, house bills and going out. A dormitory at SPbPU campus costs between US$130 and US$180 per month.

This article was originally published in November 2017 .

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