My exchange semester in Moscow

My name is Sabrina Ropp and I am an exchange student from Vienna, Austria. With this essay I would like to show you, why I chose Russia for my studies. First of all I have to point out that I am an economic student, and for me it is very important to go in a country where you can really learn something new about economy. In my hometown university I was taught a lot about the American liberal system and about their history, but Russia or Asia are not mentioned at all. Unfortunately Russia is not in a good light in Europe and I wanted to discover what the real Russian life looks like. I came to Russia to learn about their people, history, culture and political system.

In my opinion it is essential to know the language to get a deep impression of a country, so I started learning Russian one and a half years ago. It is a hard language to learn but I love to speak it. And some day I hope I will be able to understand what Russian economists are writing about.

I had the choice to go on exchange in every country in the world but I chose Moscow and especially the Plekhanov University, because I thought that I can benefit here best from my semester abroad.

Since I have come here I discovered the Russian bureaucracy, not only by applying for the Russian Visa, but as well for student cards and metro cards. It was new for me that you have to identify yourself wherever you go, even for entering a dorm. But thanks the buddy systems I had an excellent start into Russian life. I really appreciate that the Plekhanov University provides such a good system to international students. I don’t know if I could have handled all bureaucratic steps on my own, and at least it would have taken me much longer. Furthermore the buddies help me improving my Russian and show me the Russian lifestyle, which I am really interested in.

I am very happy, that I decided to come here in spring semester, because I could experience a lot of celebrations like Masleniza, Women’s day, Men’s day and Eastern. It is interesting to learn other traditions and to gain new experiences. I didn’t know before that in Russia Blin is a sign for the sun and that there is a spring celebration which should dispel the winter (which didn’t work out that good, because now in middle of Arpil it is still cold in Moscow).

According to University there is a big difference between my hometown University in Austria and this University here. I feel like back in school, fixed lessons, obligatory attendance, homework and classmates. I have to say that I prefer working autonomous combined with teacher provided lessons. Unfortunately the content of the lectures is not differentiating a lot to the Austrians, because the teachers are as well using American Textbooks. But I still learn other perspectives when teachers adding personal opinions. The class “Doing Business in Russia” can help me sometimes to understand why Russians behave the way they do, because we got taught history, which explains in my view a lot. When you know, that 20 years ago there were not a lot of opportunities and need for learning foreign languages due to Soviet Union, you can understand why most Russians can’t speak English.

Russian students in general differ from Austrian in their attitude, way of thinking and of their beliefs. The most of them are not taking studies seriously, which surprised me very much, I expected the opposite. As well the Russian girls are not that independent like I expected them to be. Furthermore I discovered that the stereotype of Vodka drinking students is not true at all, the only students who drink lot of Vodka are foreign.

Additionally I got a totally different time and distance feeling here, because Russia is such a big country. Two hours traveling by train is a big distance in Austria, here in Russia travelling under three hours is nearby.

All in all I am really satisfied with my decision to come to Russia, because I am learning a lot and I love to face new challenges. I would definitely come again.


Sabrina Ropp, Exchange undergraduate student from Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria

Spring Semester 2014