The Place that Makes you go Mad

I ended up in a broom cupboard today. Let me explain how that happened. It’ll explain the title, as well.

As we had nothing official to do today, I set myself a few tasks, namely collect a stamp for the student metro card (at the main building), get a confirmation of my student status (at the international student’s office), and get a confirmation that my visa has been registered/check that it actually has been registered (at the visa office).

I set off after sitting in on a lecture from the Sociology department (which I thought I wanted to take but I was wrong), trying to find the International Students office. One would think that the office, ISO for short, would be in a location that is fairly easy to find, to go easy on the lost foreigners, right? er…no. The ISO’s official office is in a building, which from the outside looks boarded up and empty. Unable to find a door that was would open, I decided to march myself across the street to the building which I knew was a HSE building, and to just ask any administrator I could find.

I walked into an office after knocking and was ignored. No one responded or looked up, or asked how they could help, they just kept doing whatever it was they were doing, as if I had made no noise or disturbance. After a few seconds I walked up to the lady that looked the least busy (she was on her ipad, reading), and asked in a really broken russian about the metro page (by pointing at it) and the ISO. After her response of ‘ah yes, I understand’ (which I was proud that I understood) she grabbed a pen and scribbled down a room number and pointed upstairs.

Twenty minutes later, in a building that is so confusing that it rivals both the HUMSS building at Reading and Gordon Square at UCL, I arrived triumphant– in a broom cupboard/ service room.

Winning.

Needless to say I am somewhat frustrated at the mysteriously disappearing offices and the obvious lack of general organisation here, which applies to everything from offices to course choices. Course choices are going to be especially fun, I think… So far the university administrators have been fairly relaxed about giving us any accurate information regarding the actual academic content of our course. By this I mean that it has been made clear to us that there are a few mandatory courses, (fine), and a few electives- but the choice of electives is as vague as most things we have encountered in Russia so far: ‘these would be easiest, but really, anything goes’. We have three sources of information about the different courses that are available across the university, and they contradict each other and/or only partially overlap. Trying to find someone who has complete knowledge of what is actually happening seems to be completely impossible, and so I have ended up attempting to contact the teaching professor of each module I’m interested in separately. Which is fine– when they have bothered to include that information on the list, which is only about 25% of the time…

The rest of the time I’m stuck digging through the multitude of HSE websites, which are illogical, and constantly shift between English and Russian and feature different information and organisation of content depending on which faculty page you are on. All of this leads me to feel like I’m stuck in some big web, with no direct, and possibly no indirect way out. Having mentioned this to one of my friends I got this amusing (and frighteningly accurate) depiction of a bureaucratic mess, and felt it in many ways resembled my situation: Asterix and Obelix’s trip to the place that makes you go mad:

In summary, I only managed one thing today: to get my visa registration confirmation. For the rest, I will pester our course administrator tomorrow, and make her feel responsible for me- if not try the method in the video…

To relax after this stressful morning and early afternoon, I then met up with Rachel and Anna and took a walk through the GUM shopping centre, had a very sickly cake in a Soviet-Style canteen, and viewed the monument to the unknown soldier/ got closer to St. Basil’s Cathedral. Finished off with the sweet treat of Truffles while studying Russian in preparation for our entrance test tomorrow, it’s been a challenging, but decent day!

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