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Felix Portier interview

Felix Portier interview

Switzerland / Chile, Class of 2019

What is your view on travelling in Moscow and Russia?

As a westerner, the first impressions may be strange or stressful, because Russians are percieved as cold and don’t smile. It may be a small cultural shock, but once you overcome it, you realize that Russians are very friendly, and that when they first smile — you can be sure it is genuine. Once you master the language, Russians are very curious about foreigners, and want to get to know you more. Every single trip I have had in Russia has been enriching and I have come back from them with new experiences every time.

What memorable experiences have you had with SGIA?

I have had a lot! On my third year, I participated in an exchange with Far Eastern Federal University of Vladivostok. I had the opportunity to go for ten days to Vladivostok, which was an awesome experience. I was also on a trip to the Caucasus, to Nalchik and Mount Elbrus, to participate in a conference. It was a great experience to meet new people and get new friends, as well as to visit more of the country.

I also attended the model UN in MGIMO. I did it three years in a row, and it gave me a chance to simulate what diplomats do. It is an experience that I most likely would not experience if I was studying in Switzerland instead.

I was lucky to be in a very friendly class, and I have made friends for life here. The best years of my life have been in SGIA, and I am very grateful for the opportunities and the things that I managed to do there. It has been enriching, and I absolutely do not regret doing it!

What are the advantages/disadvantages of studying in SGIA?

Studying in Russia has helped me discover Russian history and understand better the Russian perspective. I especially liked Professor Okunev’s class on post-Soviet borders, as it is something that I most likely would not have studied in Europe.

The faculty is small, and therefore you get a lot of guidance. The Dean’s Office is helpful and will help you solve any problems that may arise.

Difficulties always arise, but the question is how you deal with them. People may struggle with homesickness, personal relations, et cetera, but I believe SGIA gives a good environment to overcome them.

What are you studying now?

I wanted to build on my experience at SGIA and have decided to join a Master’s program in Russian and Eastern European Studies in Geneva. A lot of the topics are related to Russia, and having studied at SGIA helps me in my present studies. In Geneva, there is thankfully no anti-Russian bias, as Switzerland takes great pride in its neutral stance, and professors welcome all views. That is similar to what I experienced at MGIMO, where professors similarly do not have an anti-Western bias. I hope the universities I have studied at can bring up people who can make a contribution to bridging the gap between Russia and the West.

What would you improve at SGIA?

It is more something to keep than to improve — to keep a balanced ratio between Russian students and foreigners. If a proportional balance is achieved, all classmates will blend together and form a group that will be inclusive.

Interview conducted by Bard Mulstad, Norway, Class of 2020

Read also Felix Portier’s interview to TopUniversities.Com — the web portal of the world university ranking agency QS