Studying in Russia – Part 1/2

Earlier this week, Aaron gave us a brief virtual tour to the city of Moscow, and even touched on the magnificent interiors of the metro of Moscow. If you have missed it, click here to catch up, before you delve deeper into his student life in Russia in this piece. 

Many people are curious to find out more about studying in Russia. I too had no idea of what to expect before I came here. I’m glad that I came with an open mind, since the Russian education system has turned out to be so different from anything I’ve experienced before (FYI I grew up in Singapore, and did my undergraduate studies in the UK).

First, a bit about my university and course of study: I am a student at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). I am reading for a Master’s in Political Science, and the programme is called “Politics and Economics in Eurasia”. It’s a two-year programme, taught in English. I will talk a bit more about this programme at a later date. In this post, I shall focus on life in one of Russia’s most renowned and elite (and many would also say elitist) universities.

The Moscow State Institute of International Relations (or MGIMO, which stands for Moskovsky Gosudarstvenny Institut Mezhdunarodnykh Otnosheny) was founded during the Soviet era – in 1944 to be precise. Back then ­– and even today – it was the institution for Russia’s diplomatic corps. This is the façade of its main building. Cool, eh?Studying in Russia 1.2

MGIMO is not a very big university. It has around 6000 students, and offers a rather narrow range of subjects, such as international relations, political science, economics, law, journalism and management.

MGIMO is, however, outstanding in the field of language instruction. It offers courses on more than 50 foreign languages, and all students have to do language classes as part of their degrees. I was surprised to find that they taught so many Asian languages: I have come across students studying Chinese, Hindi, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian, etc. I wish we had something like this in Singapore – we pride ourselves on being so cosmopolitan and global in our outlook, and yet we pay so little attention to the study of languages.

The students of MGIMO are …well… an interesting lot. A disproportionate number of them come from rich or well-connected families. In Russia, wealth is generally flaunted ostentatiously. As such, many students take ‘dressing up for school’ very seriously. Also, every day there is a row of expensive cars (some of them with drivers and bodyguards sitting inside) parked outside MGIMO.

Studying in Russia 1.1

I leave you with a few more photos of my university’s campus. More photos, as well as a map of my campus, can be found here and here respectively (unfortunately the content is in Russian). I promise to talk a bit more about my studies in my next post.

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The cafeteria in MGIMO

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Course timetables on the notice board. Nowadays soft copies are available, but these giant displays are still written out in Russian cursive, approved by the administration, and put up.

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The view from a classroom in MGIMO

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A typical classroom, normally used for small-group language instruction, in MGIMO

A corridor in MGIMO

A corridor in MGIMO

Eager for more? You can always write to Aaron at He would love to hear from you and answer some of your burning questions about Russia! Read part two of Studying in Russia here.