— Yes, I graduated from my BA programme 'Applied Mathematics and Informatics' at the Computer Sciences Faculty at HSE. And when I was thinking about which university to enrol in then I automatically decided on math – because it opens so many different paths for future development. But at the same time, studying pure math was not something I ever wanted to do, so I was never going to enrol in MSU's Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics. HSE's programme combines economics and applied math, and that's why I enrolled in HSE – and I never looked back.
— And how did you come to choose the ICEF MA programme?
— Here there is a good balance between economic and financial disciplines, and there's a very high standard of teaching and of the programmes offered across the board. The first year at ICEF was very economics heavy, and then the second year I took part in an exchange with Tilburg University (Netherlands).
— Was studying in the Netherlands very different from your MA?
— Yes, but the difference was not down to the countries. I basically found myself in the 2nd year of a PhD programme. There were no exams in a lot of subjects but you did have to do coursework. And lectures barely existed, one student presented an article, and the others listened and discussed it. My experience of studying in the Netherlands strengthened my desire to pursue a PhD after finishing my MSc.
— Аnd was it easy to fit in with the international group?
— Not particularly, although some of the problems were down to the fact that they'd been studying together for a year already, but I did meet quite a lot of HSE students there, which was a great help.
— How did you choose the University of California in San Diego?
— In fact the final choice was down to the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where people from HSE's Economic Sciences Faculty are going this year, the University of Rochester, and the University of California in San Diego. It was really hard to choose, because they all offered the same grant support, they all had strong programmes and professors I wanted to work with. I ended up choosing the climate I preferred – it's warm in San Diego and after time in the Netherlands I really wanted some sun.
— How do you see your life five years after finishing your PhD?
— That's a difficult question. I don't plan much, and mainly take decisions spontaneously. I think that however much you think through something, it always works out differently. I think after my PhD I'll join the job market. There is a centralized event at which all graduates and all universities that need professors get together to find each other. ICEF takes part in it.
— Is your spontaneity about a hunger for adventure or just the trust you have in life?
— The second. I think everything will work out for the best.
— So, you've chosen the teaching profession?
— More research, but as a rule, people both carry out research and teach. I want to study microeconomic theory.
— Did you have teaching experience?
— Yes I taught at ICEF while I was studying for my MA. I ran a seminar on game theory twice a week. This course was very difficult and I think it would have been harder for me to teach it had it been easier. Because the students start to relax and stop paying attention – while with this, nobody could relax.
— Was it hard to find the right approach to the students, especially since there was not a large age gap between you?
— Yes, the age issue was really stressful. But the complexity of the subject helped, the students respected me not only because I understood it, but because I could also explain it to them.
— Did you get some tricky questions?
— Yes, ICEF people are very canny. Sometimes I was scared that they might catch me off guard with their questions, and in the worst cases I took a pause and answered their questions later.
— Are you planning to live and work in Russia after completing your PhD?
— That's a very difficult question, I was asked that at the Embassy when I was getting my visa, and I said I wanted to come back to HSE. And that is true, I want to work at HSE, and after that – where I'll end up – who knows. I love HSE, and I don’t think I'll find any university in Russia that is its equal in terms of its advanced teaching and research activities.
Anastasia Chumak, for ICEF HSE
Interview on HSE portal >>>