Two students from UFR STAPS talk about their study year in Russia

Former Master’s 2 Sports Events and Recreation Management (MELS) students at Université Paris-Sud's UFR STAPS, Nathan Musset and Théo Rogge, were the first from this course to take advantage of further study at the Russian International Olympic University (RIOU in Sochi) as part of a partnership established between UFR STAPS and RIOU. 

They went to live in Sochi for a year thanks to a bursary system in order to obtain the Master of Sport Administration from the International Olympic University of Sochi. They returned to France in the university holidays and were able to present their feedback to the 2018/2019 MELS Master’s student class. 

Nathan and Théo were very enthusiastic after three months of living there and firstly highlighted the international aspect of the Master’s in Sochi. “People come from everywhere. You aren't integrated into a local community, but an international group. The lecturers change regularly and come from various countries which shedsa new light on different ways of working.”

Although, many courses focus on the Olympic movement, since the university was founded from the Sochi Olympic Games (2014), the Master of Sport Administration is not just limited to this area alone. “The knowledge we have acquired is really complementary to the knowledge we gained during our M2 MELS course. We realise our strengths in terms of marketing and communication and are supplementing our knowledge, particularly of politics and governance. This opens up a real international dimension for our career plan.”

Nathan Musset’s testimony

What prompted you to go to Sochi to experience this Master’s year?

In 2017, Michel Desbordes and Christopher Hautbois [Editor's note: Course Leaders of the MELS Master's at UFR STAPS] spoke to us about this opportunity to go to Sochi, but with the year already underway, we already had our courses, preparation for exams and then the internship... in short other things to think about at that time. I kept the idea in mind, and during my internship I started to think about it again, because we received an email about this opportunity. My internship went rather well, and besides they offered me a permanent contract at the end of it, in the field I love. It was a golden opportunity, especially knowing the employment situation in France for young graduates.

So, there was a period of reflection and hesitation during which I asked my friends and family; in the end I made the decision to go and now I don’t regret a single second.

What influenced this decision?

I always felt ready to work during my studies and even beforehand, but curiously, when I was offered this permanent contract and hence to enter the world of work, I was seized with doubt. I told myself, going to Sochi was an opportunity I would probably not have, once engaged in working life. I wanted to have a personal adventure.

The international component also weighed heavily in the decision and I wanted to consolidate my fluency in English and on this point, it’s already been a success.

What are the points about the place that you have discovered and appreciated the most?

I was reasonably prepared for this trip by looking beforehand at what it was going to be like once there. So, I was not particularly surprised or did not feel out of place. On the other hand, the real surprise there was the openness and kindness of people. We really formed a small family of 27 people in our class where everyone was very friendly. Furthermore, before going back, I must buy some cheese with Théo to make a 100% French meal when we return. And this also works the other way, we have already eaten an Indian meal there, as some students come from India. We realise with an international group interaction between people knows no bounds.

What are the different nationalities represented in your Master of Sport Administration class at the Russian International Olympic University in Sochi?

German, French, Russian, Belarusian, Ugandan, Swazi, Indian... there are more nationalities that we do not necessarily meet in France and for this reason, it's also very rewarding.

Have you found it easy to integrate into local life in Sochi?

Yes, but I had already lived in Moscow with my parents for 3 years. I was not going to an unknown country in Russia. I knew that as an expatriate, you should not be too ambitious on every point: the language barrier and how to behave with the local population. You don’t come to lay down the truth about the world and life, but by being friendly and open.

Furthermore, in Sochi the local culture is undoubtedly unique and different to the rest of Russia, since ultimately Sochi is a bit like the Russian seaside resort. Local life is closer to Western culture. I found contact with the Russians easy, who regularly told me that they liked France and Paris. We talked and discussed each country’s customs.

Would you like to continue this experience there once you graduate? 

I personally love Russia and if I can stay there after this experience, I would do it. It’s something that I did not necessarily consider before, but if the conditions were right to have a good life there, in an industry which I liked, I wouldn’t mind. France is not very far away; it only takes half a day to return by plane.

What are the arguments you would put forward to other young people who may want to try this adventure like you? 

I can understand that they may have concerns, I myself am a bit of a homebody. I had no international exchanges on my course, and I would say initially that this type of experience is an excellent opportunity to improve your English. You do it naturally and simply talk to your neighbour. Get-togethers are also a good reason to start and it's invaluable.

Théo Rogge's testimony

What led you to decide to do this Master’s at the Russian International Olympic University in Sochi after your M2 MELS at UFR STAPS (Université Paris-Sud)?

Throughout my studies, I didn’t have the opportunity to go abroad, although it was a personal wish. I told myself it was now or never when I was offered it.

I didn't have an objective or career plan, it was mainly a personal wish, but which also directs my meetings and creates employment opportunities.

Did Sochi and Russia attract you specifically?

Not necessarily, I would also have gone if it had been another destination. I wanted to experience new places and a new culture. And in Sochi there are some perks which I like: besides the quality of education, there was a ski resort, the sea...

Had you already been to Russia?

No, I’ve been fortunate to have travelled a lot when I lived with my parents, but I had never been to Russia, or gone to live in a foreign country. On the other hand, I had already met and spoken with Russians, so I knew a bit about local conditions and I had no worries about finding myself at ease once there.

Everything is intriguing; it’s a huge country and you are quickly bewildered by the distances. For example, Russians consider living 2,500 km from a city, as living next door. We lack the time and money to visit and do everything, but it makes you want to visit more of this country.

What are the highlights that you've got from the first trimester of this course abroad?

The environment we found. Everything is taken care of, someone stands behind us and makes things easier, particularly accommodation.

Second point, the city as such. I love Sochi. I left the hotel on the first day to see the sea, the palm trees... all in a T-shirt in 25 degrees at the end of September.
Finally, the Russians are very friendly on a daily basis and are always ready to help, even if they don’t speak English and are not necessarily very demonstrative.
And then, there is also the experience of sharing with Nathan, the fact of living together abroad, inevitable brings you closer together.

Being international, makes you lose your reference points and forces you to find them again or even to not rebuild them. It opens up the mind and helps you realise that even in France, we are very influenced by the American vision of the world.

You also discover which countries you would like to work and those where it's more difficult to work.

Since this experience, would you consider working abroad?

Yes, the more time passes the more I see myself working abroad at the end of my studies. Of course, it will depend on meetings and opportunities, but for the time being I could see myself working in Qatar.

Do you feel well integrated into local life in Sochi?

We don’t really experience Russian life, as we live in an international environment. We have met local people going to the supermarket or during our free time, but the language barrier makes our interactions more limited than with the students in our class. 

What motivating factor would you give other students who are hesitant about going?

If your first fear is about the administrative side and the chances of being accepted, don’t worry about it. I personally thought that international exchanges at university were complicated and took a long time to set up.  

But in our case, everything was taken care of and simplified. We have been very well supported.

From a cultural point of view: it’s an opportunity to meet a lot of different nationalities in a different region and to interact and become friends. This type of opportunity doesn’t come along every day. I would also say that the degree you get at the end is very useful to highlight on the job market.

A final comment from Nathan and Théo?

A big thank you to Michel Desbordes and Christopher Hautbois for having helped us to experience this adventure and undertake this international course.