Sophia Abdelkafi from Nantes, France has never thought of going to Russia. She has been studying at SKEMA Business School in Paris, doing her second year of master’s degree in Business Management. She was thinking about exchange programs abroad and applied for it.  Though she was aiming to English-speaking countries, she had to choose among others, too. Sophia was exploring SKEMA’s website and found a new partnership with RFTA in Moscow under the frame of the French-Russian University. Her decision to add it to her ‘wish list’ was spontaneous.  She even did not tell her family about this application. She was very amazed by the decision of the jury appointing Moscow as the place for her exchange program.

–                    I realized quickly what an amazing opportunity it was. As for my family, it was a total surprise for them first. Later they were delighted since they understood that they have a good reason to visit a new country, – says Sophia.

Sophia knew few words in Russian when she arrived in Moscow in February, 2019. One of them was ‘shapka’, which was desperately needed as it was minus 15 degrees Celsius in Moscow at that time. A young girl from France had never experienced such cold before. Another surprise was that everything had been written in Cyrillic alphabet and not so many people spoke English. Sophia didn’t give up at all. She wanted to explore Russian culture and learn Russian language as much as possible.  Sophia`s English speaking RFTA program includes courses of Russian as foreign language but she is also studying herself using a text-book. So now Sophia is able to communicate in cafes, museums and in the streets in Russian.

–                    It is very interesting for me to be a part of this exchange, – says Sophia, –  because Russia is still quite unknown among French people. Not many French students think about studying in Russia. Therefore, it gives me a chance to learn a lot about Russian education and make my own mind about it. Sophia Abdelkafi decided to step out from her comfort zone and she feels comfortable about it.  

–                    I am thrilled to have the opportunity to study with foreigners and Russian students. Besides, I have a wide range of classes with various topics and even one class in German, which is very enriching for me. People from the RFTA` International Department are helpful and extremely active to make my program the most personalized and interesting as possible.

Sophia noted that Russian students are very motivated in their studies. According to her experience, education is important to Russians. She is also impressed by the high level of Russian students in foreign languages in RFTA. Sophia hasn’t started her professional classes yet in management but her schedule is tight. She has different classes and very special business visits to do.

She told us, that she likes a lot the Business Case Studies course with Svetlana Averyanova and the Theory and Practice of Negotiating course with Elena Spinova. The teachers address crucial aspects of the real professional life. The Russian language class with Marina Barkhota is also attractive since it allows Sophia to learn a new language efficiently.

The French student has a unique opportunity of visiting Russian and international companies based in Moscow to get a glimpse of professional business life.  RFTA organized a series of visits for Sophia to the leading Russian companies, such as ABBY, and Yandex. This provided a perfect chance to get acquainted with Russian business and Russian professional management. That’s an important part of globalization to be oriented well in international business and management. Sophia is interested in working in international companies.

Previously Sophia studied and worked in Ireland, USA and Germany. However, Russian experience is different. Sophia came to Moscow alone and without speaking Russian. Although she emphasize the ongoing support from teachers, RFTA International Department and other students.

–                    I like it because it is a real chance for my self-development. If I want to make the best out of this adventure, I must be positive, open to others, outgoing, adaptive to the culture, and be ready to overcome the difficulties I might face. Each day in Moscow is a discovery for her.  After classes and different activities at the French Club and Games Club at the RFTA Sophia likes to walk around the city with friends or alone. Four months of exchange program is a short period and she promised herself to enjoy each day of it.

–                    I love to explore Moscow, – comments Sophia –  Whenever I have free time, I take the subway, stop somewhere at a new station and explore the area. This city is one of the most interesting cities I have ever visited, there is so much to see and to do. Places such as the Red Square and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior are breath-taking, but I also enjoy all the parks and gardens like Gorky Park, Kolomenskoye Park, Hermitage Garden and the viewpoints of Moscow like the Panorama 360 observation deck in Moscow City. Likewise, I would strongly recommend to book a cruise on the Moskva River, it is another great way to see Moscow.

Two experiences were especially exciting for me. I saw the Russian Ballet Spartacus in the State Kremlin Palace and I was amazed throughout the show. I also discovered Maslenitsa (traditional Russian Mardi Gras) in March, which I learnt is one of the biggest Russian traditions, and I loved the atmosphere in the city, the traditional music and costumes and of course the famous blinis (pancakes). Sophia will continue her education in Russia in the frame of French-Russian University following the one-week program Analyzing international data provided by RFTA. It’s her last semester of studies which happened to be an exciting immersion in different areas of business management and Russian adventure at the same time.