What’s it like to study in Russia? Why HSE? The answers are, of course, different for everyone. We’ve asked some of our current international students to write about their experiences, in order to give a better idea of what it’s like to study at HSE. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at inter@hse.ru.

Dechun Zhang

Tianjin, China

What is your educational background?

I am currently a PhD candidate at Leiden University. My research interests include Political Communication, Media and Politics, Nationalism and Computational Social Science. I received my Master's degree from the Erasmus Mundus programme in Journalism, Media and Globalisation from Aarhus University and the University of Amsterdam; the research track was Political Communication. And I received my Bachelor's degree in International Journalism with honours at Hong Kong Baptist University. 

How did you find out about HSE University? 

Since I wanted to shift my research interests to computational social science, I decided to check some courses at Coursera. Then, I got an email from Coursera with the recommendations, including the online Master of Data Science programme at HSE. 

How did you choose a Master's programme? Why did you choose an online programme?

Like I previously mentioned, I am currently a PhD candidate at Leiden University, and my research interests shift to computational social science. The Master of Data Science programme is affordable and is well-connected with my request – it focuses on computational social science. An online schedule is more flexible and will facilitate my PhD study; it is well-suited to my research. What's more, this online programme offered by HSE University has no requirements on the status of students like some others do; they require that a student must not be a PhD student at any university. 

I was attracted by the programme first, and then I decided to find out more about HSE and the programmes it offers. I know HSE is a prestigious university in Russia and worldwide, so I decided to study here.

How was the admissions process?

I don't think the admissions process was complicated. You can either apply through Coursera or directly on the Admissions website. The language barrier is quite challenging because I needed to translate my documents into Russian, which I didn't know, but I managed to solve this problem. You may contact the HSE Education & Training Advisory Centre for any help or support and by different means of communication: WhatsApp, Facebook, or email and phone.

What are your expectations about your future studies?

I want to be an expert in basic computational social science skills and know some advanced computational social science techniques. As a PhD researcher, I also look for academic networking, if possible, maybe become a coauthor of some scientific papers with the teaching fellows in the future.

Is it challenging to study online? How do you manage your time and create a comfortable space for study?

I don't think that it is tough. Although I will start this September, I will do the course in the evening if I am free and take classes at the weekend. I could manage at least 5 hours per week for this Master's degree.

Are you working now? Is it challenging to combine both work and study, and how do you handle it?

Yes, I worked as an employed PhD candidate. I think it is hard to deal with it, but we have to. I will focus much more on my PhD research and do this Master during my leisure time.