International College of Economics and Finance

"My Classmates at ICEF are a One-of-a-Kind Community of Purposeful People"

"My Classmates at ICEF are a One-of-a-Kind Community of Purposeful People"

Anna Baran is in her second year of the ICEF Master of Financial Economics programme and has recently found the way to combine study with job, which she at first struggled with. Here’s what it’s like to be a student of ICEF after MGIMO, what challenges to expect and how to balance between research and case studies.


At MGIMO, I never had difficulty with mathematics and always got good grades in tests: 100 out of 100 in econometrics, A in statistics, A in game theory. I even felt it was a pity these and the related courses were so few in our curriculum.

With a bachelor’s from MGIMO, I had excellent English language skills and soft skills. What I lacked was advanced mathematical skills. I started looking for a degree that could give me more than basic knowledge of the theories – the degree that could give my brain a workout. It wasn’t easy to find one, just as I presumed, but as long as I knew my efforts would eventually pay off it was fine with me!

Once a student of ICEF, I realized that in spite of my honours degree from MGIMO my background in econometrics and statistics was rather poor. Unlike my classmates, all of whom seemed to be quick learners grabbing information on the fly, I needed time to think and digest. I studied twice as much and twice as hard to catch up. 

About getting into ICEF

I first learned about ICEF from a classmate at MGIMO. Her impression was that it had a very solid master’s programme in financial economics. Applying for bacheror’s wasn’t an option as there were no government-funded places, but there were some on the master’s programme. As someone with no track record or certificates of academic competition wins, I applied ICEF student portfolio competition.

While the internal exam in English was a piece of cake after MGIMO, I wasn’t sure I’d tackle math questions at the interview

It was my classmate who convinced me I could do it. Finally, I decided to give it a try and applied.

To tell you the truth, I accidentally missed the email with the date of my interview and didn’t appear. I was really worried if the HSE admissions could interview me on another day but they said they could when I called. Their being so supportive when answering my queries had possibly contributed to my passing that interview. They wished me luck and it all went fine, despite my anxiety and shaking hands.

About academic challenges

The hardest part was adapting to change mentally. While for my friends at MGIMO the year started in mid-September, we at ICEF had things started for us two weeks earlier, with long quizzes to be solved and October examinations to be prepared for. We had many deadlines to meet, and our course load was quite rigorous. Adapting myself to this new system wasn’t easy. It seemed I was a poor learner. ICEF’s approach to learning was very different from what I knew. Anxiety makes meeting new teachers challenging: you can’t stop worrying about your first impression.

I often said in jest, ‘Sure thing I’ll get kicked out,’ but my classmates took care it wouldn’t happen

I can always turn to them for advice on who to approach or what to read. Some gave me their course notes to read. My classmates at ICEF are a one-of-a-kind community of purposeful and versatile people. I am glad that we have become friends during our studies.

In the beginning, the idea of combining study with work didn’t sound possible. All I did during my first six months was catching up on things that many learned during their bachelor’s studies. I put study first, and my priority was to pass the exams well or at least without having to do resits.

It wasn’t until Module 3 that I finally got adjusted and started to feel I was prepared to sign up for an online part-time job. I can’t say my major matches perfectly the job I’m doing, but you don’t go to the gym to be lifting 50 kg barbells for the rest of your life. The same is true for knowledge, I think. You can never have too much of it. It’s not as much about solving cases, but rather to be able to think outside the box, source information, and get to the core when the case is completely unclear. All this shapes a different way of thinking, teaching one to be attentive.

My advice to future applicants is grab hold of as much chances as you can in this master’s programme. It, indeed, has a lot to offer. Be daring and do your best looking for answers to questions. And be sure you will be helped here. Even if things are still unclear or you haven’t been assisted in your search, don’t give up and try again. It’s never easy, but once you’ve coped and feel it was worth the effort, it is a moment you will remember for the rest of your life!

About research

Most of the teachers, and the programme itself, are oriented more towards research activities. The research part of your study is what gives the understanding of why there’re so many models to be learned and data explored. Students have the freedom to choose whether they want to focus their coursework and theses on topics that are of purely academic nature or more of applied one, or combine both, while the teachers stay attentive to their proposals and initiatives because they want their students to stay interested, so it’s a win-win.

For me, the applied part sounds more interesting now – cases that are practical in nature and require creative thinking skills, although these are sometimes much more challenging than the research tasks.

About plans

I’d really like to take a study programme abroad, even if a short one. The other language I learned at MGIMO is German. It would be nice if I could get practice using it during my study abroad. Don’t know yet if I choose internship or postgraduate course. It’s hard to make any plans nowadays.

My short-term goal is to improve my knowledge of programming languages by doing a course at ICEF: it boasts a team of highly competent teachers. We have made many good friends here at ICEF – with students, teachers, and alumni. Not every university can boast the faculty who are practicing experts and can benefit their students by offering their professional experience or positions in, for example, banks.

The finance questions I was asked at my job interview were just the cases that we studied and debriefed at ICEF. When your resume education section reads ‘master’s degree from ICEF’ you feel so much more confident.