Travel report - Lomonosov Moscow State University Business School, Fall 2014

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1 Travel report - Lomonosov Moscow State University Business School, Fall 2014

2 1. Preparing for the exchange When I initially applied for an exchange semester in Russia I expected to spend a lot of time dealing with the notorious Russian bureaucracy. To my surprise, everything ended up working out very smoothly and I did run into any trouble. In the end I almost feel like I might have missed a part of the Russian exchange experience. Communication with the university I was initially contacted by the Lomonosov Business School in early April. The initial contained information about the academic calendar, courses offered, accommodation and the visa application process as well as the documents required for the visa. Later on I was also contacted by a member of the schools International committee s Buddy Program, who helped to ensure that I had everything in order for the exchange. Furthermore, he provided me with a lot of information about living in Moscow and was also happy to answer any questions that I had. Overall I felt that the communication preceding the exchange by the university was relatively good and comprehensive. My s were answered in a timely manner and the information provided by the school was relatively well structured and presented. I would have liked to receive information about the courses provided beyond short descriptions before the exchange, but this did not turn out to be a problem, since one could still change his/her course section during the introduction week. The Visa As mentioned earlier, I was dreading the visa application process before applying, but in the end it turned out to be quite straightforward. My aim was to get the paperwork done as quickly as possible to avoid any unpleasant last second surprises and consequently I got all of the documents I could well in advance. Following is a list of the required documents for the visa: HIV certificate Passport photo Filled visa application (for example from Invitation letter from the School

3 Furthermore, make sure that your travel insurance covers the entire exchange period and that your passport is valid at least 18 months after the intended departure from Russia. The only document I struggled to get was the official invitation letter from the school, as it had to go through the Russian Immigration Service. Nevertheless, I finally got the document in the first half of August, only three weeks before the exchange. Luckily I managed to get the visa in time before the Exchange, as the process took a bit less than two weeks. Some of the other exchange students (non-finnish) were not as lucky, and had to delay their arrival to Moscow by a week or two due to extended visa handling time. The visa that I received was a single-entry visa which was valid until the end of November. Initially I found having only a single-entry visa quite annoying, as it forced me to push back my plans to travel around until the latter half of the exchange. In hindsight it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it gave me a reason to explore more of Russia. The multiple entry visa I received in the beginning of November, allowing me to at least temporarily escape the cold winter of Russia. It is also good to note that international students arriving with a single-entry visa are required to turn in their passports to the school for the first month for administrative reasons, which essentially limits you to stayoing in Moscow. This did not turn out to be a much of an annoyance, as I was very busy with the introduction week and other program organized by the school. Housing I lived in the dormitory located inside the main building of the university during the exchange. While I cannot say that the dorms were particularly nice, I was more than happy to trade some comfortability and space for the convenience of living extremely close to the business school. Furthermore, opting to live in the dormitory saved me the hassle of trying to find an apartment in Moscow. Finally, the dorm was very affordable (~ Rubles) for Moscow standards. Dormitory room is a block, where a student shares small corridor, toilet and a bathroom with another student while both students have their own rooms. I personally did not experience any problems with this arrangement, as I ended up living with a really cool roommate. Furthermore, I really liked living on the same floor as many of the other students, as this guaranteed there was always something happening. We would often times, for example, take turns cooking for a larger

4 group (4-7 people), which gave me a great opportunity to enjoy meals from many different countries. Traveling to the host university During my exchange I travelled back and forth from Moscow to other places multiple times and I always found flying to be the most convenient way. While at times I ended up spending quite a bit of time queuing at the airport, everything always went relatively smoothly. Although I personally much prefer the airplane to the train, I could also recommend the train to a person who is not in a hurry and has a lot of luggage. Getting from the airport to the university itself did not prove to be difficult either, as the school provided me with a good overview of the transportation options. I ended up taking a train from the airport and my buddy picked me up with a car from the connecting metro station. 2. EXCHANGE STUDIES Before the actual courses started we had a week long orientation week. I would highly recommend anyone doing their exchange studies at the school to take part in the orientation week, as it was among the best experiences of my exchange. We spent the week exploring Moscow and enjoying a very beautiful weather. Among the highlights were vising the Red Square and Gorky Park. Furthermore, during the week we got a lot of useful information about the courses in general, as well as interesting events taking place at the university. The courses were also selected during the orientation week. This time the university was able to provide us with more detailed information about the courses, but I ended up being quite unsure what to expect of the courses. As the exchange was a part of my Bachelor studies, I was only able to choose courses from the Bachelor courses and a selection of courses which were shared by the Master and Bachelor students. Nevertheless, I found the selection large enough and was able to pick subjects which interested me. All of the courses were taught in English apart from the Russian language class. In general I ended up spending a bit less time studying at Lomonosov than I am used to Aalto. This might, however, be partly due to the fact that the courses were graded on a pass or fail basis.

5 Another difference was that my studies felt more fragmented than at Aalto. Since many of the courses are only 2.5 ECTS, I ended up doing numerous courses at once, having to constantly jump from subject to another. Finally, another key difference was the mandatory attendance for many of the classes, which was not, however, always enforced very strictly. Overall I found the courses to be easier than those back at Finland. However, the differences between the workload and difficulty for different courses were much larger at Lomonosov than at Aalto, where the courses are more uniform. The workload and difficulty depended heavily on the lecturer, which is why one might want to consult the Russian students about the different lecturers before locking in his/her final course choices. Following is a more detailed review of the courses I undertook during the exchange. I was initially enrolled in one more course (5ECTS), but ended having to drop it due to conflicting schedule (resulting from my personal travelling plans, not due to the school) State and Municipal Management Course level: Undergraduate, 2.5 ECTS Lecturer + course evaluation: The professor had both professional and academic background relating to her area of expertise, which was self-evident from the teaching. However, at times she struggled to keep the in-class conversations under control. The class included a lot of additional readings from different sources, which I found very interesting, but did not turn out to be very important in the exam. The grading was based on both group assignments and the final exam, which was relatively easy. Overall I found the workload to be relatively light. Content of the course: The course included the main areas of state policy, such as fiscal, monetary, anti-trust, social, foreign and regional policies. The course included cases from both Russia and foreign countries to show how different forms these policies can take in practice. Usefulness: The course was fairly useful as it provided me with a more comprehensive understanding of how governments can influence business environment and how private entities might want to prepare themselves for these influences.

6 Regional Economics Course level: Undergraduate, 2.5 ECTS Lecturer + course evaluation: This course had easily the highest workload to ECTS ratio, as the grading was based on weekly exercises, two group case studies and the final exam. Some of the exchange students struggled to even pass the course, as our trip to Saint Petersburg conflicted with the first lecture, causing us to miss out on some of the potential points for the grade. Furthermore, the final exam turned out to be surprisingly difficult, as it covered some of the aspects of the lectures in great detail. Nevertheless, the lecturer herself was very experienced in the topic and taught very well. Content of the course: The course focused on the discussion of regional economic issues such as territorial development imbalances and regional policies. Topics such as industrial clusters were also covered. Many quantitative models used to analyze regional differences were also covered during the course. Usefulness: Very useful, covered many present examples of Regional economics in practice, such as the Silicon Valley. Furthermore, the course shed light into the massive territorial imbalances within Russian and helped me to understand the underlying reasons for the imbalances. Cross-Cultural Management Course level: Undergraduate, 2.5 ECTS Lecturer + course evaluation: I found this course very easy, but not very interesting at the same time. While the lecturer managed to bring a very cheerful atmosphere to the class room, she often struggled with her English and had to switch to speaking Russian. Furthermore, at times the class conversations got completely out of hand. Finally, I felt that the teaching was done in a very unstructured manner. Content of the course: The course covered the concepts of national culture using the most common models in cross-cultural research, such as Hofstede s model of cultural dimensions. Furthermore, the issues of cross/cultural interaction, such as perceptions, biases, communication

7 and leadership, were also addressed. The content of the course was heavily based on group presentations Usefulness: Not very useful for me personally, as I was familiar with most of the course content from earlier courses at Aalto. Nevertheless, helped me to understand some intricacies of Russian business culture better. E-Commerce Course level: Undergraduate, 2.5 ECTS Lecturer + course evaluation: The course took only a week, as we had a guest lecturer from Germany giving the course. Due to this, the course was among the most intensive ones and the only one where the grading was completely based on the final exam. The lectures were absolutely packed with information, which was at times maybe a bit excessively technical for business students. Nevertheless, the lecturer was able to combine the academic and practical aspects of E-Commerce very skillfully. Content of the course: The course covered different aspects of E-Commerce from the point of view of different stakeholders; the pros and cons of implementing an E-commerce system were discussed in detail. The challenges of actually implementing an E-Commerce system were also studied with a case study. Finally, the future aspects of E-Commerce were also discussed. Usefulness: Relatively useful but a bit too technical at times. Corporate Governance Course level: Shared with BSC and MSC, 2.5 ECTS Lecturer + course evaluation: This course was my favorite by a large margin, primarily of the extremely good lecturer. Since the lecturer sits on the board of multiple large international companies, he was able to bring a very practical and up-to date view on many corporate governance issues. Furthermore, since the lecturer is originally from the US and had worked in multiple US companies he was able to contrast the European and American corporate

8 governance practices and highlight the important differences. The course was more difficult than many of the others, but I find the topic extremely interesting. Content of the course: The course taught the fundamentals of corporate governance from a variety of angles the board of directors, senior management, investors, the media, proxy advisors, regulators and other stakeholders and focused on assessing the effectiveness and execution of governance roles and responsibilities. Many case studies of recent corporate governance scandals were used to highlight potential corporate governance issues and how to prevent them. Usefulness: Out of all of the courses I did during the exchange found this one to be the most useful. It helped me to understand how different influences affect the management of companies and what challenges the board faces on a day-to-day basis. Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship Course level: Undergraduate, 2.5 ECTS Lecturer + course evaluation: This course was among my favorite ones, as it took a very practical approach to entrepreneurship. The lecturer had little academic experience, but had founded numerous successful start-ups in different European countries and could give advice based on personal experience. The grading for the course was based on a final exam and a business idea pitch done as groups. Content of the course: The course focused on the practical aspect of coming up with a business idea, finding the correct team and actually realizing the idea. The course also included multiple visits to both start-ups and incubators to get a practical view of entrepreneurships. Finally, some common templates for coming up with business ideas, such as the business-model canvas, and making market size estimations were covered during the course. Usefulness: Very useful in providing a practical view of entrepreneurship. Company visit also presented an excellent opportunity to network with other entrepreneurially aligned individuals and to get a feedback on one s own business idea.

9 Russian for Foreigners Course level: Shared with BSC and MSC, 5 ECTS Lecturer + course evaluation: I ended up being placed in the more advanced group with four other students. Since the group was so small, the classes were highly interactive, which I greatly enjoyed. Consequently, I greatly improved my spoken Russian. The workload for the course was relatively heavy, since the grading was based on mandatory homework, weekly presentations and two exams. Content of the course: Depends on the course level; covers a lot of vocabulary and grammar issues. Usefulness: Helped me to greatly improve my spoken Russian and gain more confidence in speaking Practice of Business Course level: Shared with BSC and MSC, 5 ECTS Lecturer + course evaluation: The grading was based on mandatory weekly attendance at the company and a presentation to the company executives about the project undertaken during the internship. See the next section for more information. Content of the course: The course was very different from any of the courses provided by Aalto; instead of studying the traditional way we were allowed to pick (or assigned) a company from a number of choices, and we would essentially take an internship within the company. I ended up working at 3M in a group with three Russian students from Lomonosov. We conducted a market analysis about the potential customers for one of 3M s new products and I had a chance to meet a lot of managers from different Russian companies. Usefulness: Very useful for both gaining a more comprehensive practical understanding of Russian business and gaining valuable practical experience for one s resume. Although the experience might vary depending on the company, I would still definitely consider this course a must choice for anyone doing his/her exchange semester at Lomonosov.

10 Free time and other information Cost of living Living in Moscow turned out to be surprisingly cheap, partly due to the fact that during my stay the rubble was crashing. The major expense was the monthly rent (~ rubles), but apart from that everything was very cheap. Students could eat very cheaply at the student restaurant (~125 rubles). Personally I preferred to cook myself at the shared dormitory kitchen, which is why I frequented the nearest large store about 20 minute walk from the dorms quite often. The store prices were significantly lower than in Finland and I usually ended up paying roughly half of what I would ve in Finland. The public transport and museums in the city are also very affordable. Also, the taxis were surprisingly cheap as long as you can speak Russian and do not look like a foreigner. In short, although Moscow has a reputation for being expensive, the high prices are mainly limited to the stores and clubs in the very center of the city as well as the housing. Apart from that one can live very cheaply in Moscow. Free time and travelling Since the courses did not end up taking very much time, I had a plenty of free time. I was very happy about this, since there is a ton to do and see in Moscow, and in all honesty the exchange semester is not enough to see all of Moscow. Since most of the exchange students lived on the same floor in the dorm, there was almost always something interesting scheduled. This also ensured that one would get to know all of the other exchange students very well. In addition to exploring Moscow I would heartily recommend to take advantage of the large Russian railway system to discover more of Russia, especially during the period when you only have a single entry visa. I ended up visiting, for example, Petrozavodsk in Karelia and various small cities in Siberia with a couple of other exchange students. Although these locations might not sound the sexiest travel destinations, they were quite an experience and provided a different view of Russia. In short, make the most of your time, it is not everyday you get to travel in Russia. Do not be afraid of travelling to less popular places, we even had exchange who didn t speak a word of Russian travelling completely alone to Siberia.

11 4. Final words I would heartily recommend the university for anyone interested in Russia or looking to experience something different. Moscow is a very interesting combination of the traditional Russia and western influences; there is something for everyone. Furthermore, the city is sufficiently different from other European cities to provide a chance to experience something new and grow. The university itself was very nice and the courses were (mostly) very interesting and beneficial. I had a chance to hear the Russian view on many of contemporary business issues, which I found very interesting. Furthermore, I got a great opportunity to make friends and meet people working in the Russian business sector. I do not have any major regrets and would not do anything differently. I went into the exchange with quite realistic expectations and thus did not get disappointed at any point. My major takeaway about studying in Russia has to do with one s mindset: When you are studying in Russia it is very important to be flexible. Everything will not always go according to plan or how it should ; at times you just have to go with the flow.

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