Nepali case: how i fell from the Jomolungma
2022 has come, and despite the covid-related anti-records all over the world, we continued to recruit foreign students to partner universities in Russia. Motion is life, indeed. Covering the countries of the Indian subcontinent, we have showed an interesting and promising Nepali market to one of the rating Moscow universities. In this article, I will tell you why we actually opened our domestic Pandora's box, why the success variables did not sum up, and the experience turned out to be a brilliant failure.

The plane with the students landed in Sheremetyevo at 3 p. m. We met the guys together with a colleague — the university had hinted a little earlier that you could easily take a taxi, Aeroexpress or bus from the airport. Well, we could get help from, say, mountain Sherpas. Good riddance, as they say!

Somewhat tired of the flight from Kathmandu to Dubai, and from Dubai to Moscow, young Nepalese were trying their best to smile as widely as possible. "How glad I am to see you!" the sweetest girl told me. "We are happy to finally be in Russia!" the guy in joggers and with a red backpack sincerely echoed her. Typical teenagers, they even looked like ones from Moscow. Except that both traditionally shook their heads left and right — this literally means "How good" in Nepali.

In the morning I registered them for PCR tests at the local port laboratory. Then we had an hour of languid standing in line, where both old and young kicked heels. The samples are passed; the result is in 2 hours. The guys had papers with a negative result from Kathmandu on their hands. There was nothing to worry about, it would seem.

I briefly instructed the new arrivals, we exchanged phone numbers just in case, I sent them to the car to settle in the dorm. Well, then everything goes according to the standard scheme. We are moving to the city, I call the agent from Kathmandu: everything is fine, the guys are alive and well, they are going to settle in. But an hour and a half later, on the road, one of the girls all of a sudden receives a positive covid test. At this point, the evening ceases to be languid.

"Now don't take them here, you will let us down! That's your problem. Let them come when they get a negative test; this is not to be discussed. We don't have an observation facility, and no one is gonna open it just for you!», informs us the hospitable university, open to students and partners. The one who said these inspirational mentor's words was an experienced specialist in international relations. Each of us feels his selfless love for people and devotion to the work he is engaged in. If there were more such international experts, you see, the world would shine, wouldn't it?

Meanwhile, in the car, I cheerfully realize that I'm not going to the office at all: I'm going straight home — to the another covid isolation. I call the poor students, "Guys, one of you has a positive PCR. Unfortunately, the university cannot accept you now, we will send you to temporary accommodation for isolation until you receive a negative PCR."

"Michael, we are standing at the entrance to the dormitory. It's cold here, and they won't let us in. Take us away from here!", a guy from the group asks me with his voice sounding like he would straight up break into tears. He arrived here, in not-so-warm January, in a thin jacket, with a suitcase full of hopes, but without any hat. It seems that the agents in Nepal are also not distinguished by true love for mankind.

As you know, in Russian practice, war is third-rate, maneuvers are the main thing. The driver, fast as lightning, goes back for the Nepali guys. We take students away from the university that so hastily disavowed them. We frantically organize temporary housing, hide them out of harm's way — they are going to stay there for a while. Russian SIM cards, food, basic necessities, covid tests — we provide all this. The university stays in a true contemplative expectation, and it's time for us to envy such Buddhist tranquility. And we should get them Nepali students with the covid victoriously expelled from their bodies, them comprehensively ready to study and filled with love for Russian education. Without all these problems.

After the quarantine…

The EEC student community is famous for mutual assistance that is able to give odds to any famous survivalist. Therefore, a 2nd-year student from sunny Sri Lanka, who has already immersed himself in the brutal Moscow reality, goes to the observation facility where young guests from Nepal still kick heels. Still in isolation, I coordinate his actions like a serviceable radio operator of the Red Army headquarters.

"First to the pharmacy — to buy one-time covid tests. Then you leave the sack at the door, let them do it themselves. If the results are negative, take them to a local laboratory for analysis," I advise the guy.

"I understand, I'll do it, no problem," my cheerful Lankan counterpart replies. It's a pity we have no walkie-talkies, but typical mobile phones — it would be much more interesting. Making a post in the corporate "Instagram"1 would not be superfluous.

An hour on the subway, and a single-minded Lankan is on the spot. The Nepalese on the other side of the door are mobilized, they all-fired want to get to school. Isolation was not part of their plans in any way, and every day of quarantine I received a question: "Michael, how much longer do we have to wait? How much longer, Michael?" As much as it takes, guys. I checked it myself.

In half an hour Sri Lanka telegraphs that Nepal is aive and well. The PCR a day later was negative. Bingo!

The guys finally pack up and go to the university.

Two hours later…

The Lankan's call took me by surprise. I, not earlier than right now, "served out" the week prescribed by Rospotrebnadzor for contact with an infected person, and I'm going to breathe the coveted air of freedom.

"Michael, we are at the university with Nepalese, and something is not going according to plan," my Lankan comrade tells me. Against the background, I hear the screams of an unknown lady, as if it was the 90's and my interlocutor suddenly rushed to the Cherkizovsky market area and immediately chose a new "Abibas" there, trying to bargain for a couple of hundred rubles.

"You have to pay us immediately! We need money here and now!" the lady shouts loudly in the top-tier Russian, tearing her ligaments to hoarseness and, it seems, spraying too much liquid by airborne droplets.

"I'm sorry, they don't understand Russian yet, I'll explain it to them in English," says my remote assistant, who is somewhat disoriented by the pressure of the airborne flow. I ask him to hand over the phone to the expressive lady in order to assure her that the EEC performs money transfers to pay for the education of its students, as stipulated in the contract with her university.

"What? Who? Ah! They didn't tell me anything. I see. Then we settle them in. Hey, Manya! We're settling them in, I said! Tomorrow let them go to study,» says the lady, and the phone is transmitted back without unnecessary goodbyes.

Well, what did you want, Nepalese? It's cold here now. You have to get used to it.

The moral of the story

Smoothly moving on to the final of this long-read, I would like to recall that the universities have, as it is called, people business. This is when it's about people and for people. This is when there is trust, mutual assistance, empathy. And we all live and work in Russia — here are, after all, Orthodoxy, national spirit, breadth of soul, right?

No matter what difficulties business processes might have in recent years, we should work, focusing primarily on the people for whom we do it, without departing from fundamental goals and objectives. Otherwise, everything will lose its meaning. It is we who create the image of Russian education, and the country as a whole, in the eyes of young foreigners. Young people, our ultimate audience, are the economic, cultural, and political future of their country. So very soon these guys will be setting the agenda, perhaps even an international one. What it will be in relation to our country largely depends on universities. Coming to Russia to study, students have already made their conscious choice, linked their lives with our country. It is definitely not necessary to sacrifice the common future to the momentary weakness of local managers or their desire to sidle between trivial problems.

In addition, I'd like to say that Nepal is not the easiest direction. From the selection of agents to paperwork and the difference in mentality.

Recruiting companies in the region are as numerous as they are diverse in terms of taking on any responsibility. To find good partners there on the spot is very difficult, believe me. I spent 2.5 pandemic years to:

Find contacts of local recruiters.

Communicate with everyone, with a lot of people, study themarket and make a selection.

Interest them in switching from the West to Russia, to convince them that our country is attractive as a destination for sending students.

Certify the best of them according to the EEC program, give them an idea of the Russian education market and local features.

Select really active people who are able not only to speak, but also to act.

Wait for the borders to open and start working together.

All this big work can be devalued in a few hours exactly as happened in the story described above. And that's not all.

Few people know that to leave the country, Nepalese citizens must:

  • Collect very large sums of money for them for training and service fees. Income in the country is minimal, so such a trip for an ordinary Nepalese is a fateful event. This should not be taken lightly.
  • Transfer money to the bank account of the university or business partner by an official power of attorney. An ordinary Nepalese can have no more than $1,500 in cash in their pocket, otherwise there is an article for money laundering.
  • Get official permission from the state to travel abroad.

To do this, the receiving party — whether it is a university or its business partner in Russia — collects a pile of papers, which is sent to one of the ministries in Kathmandu. And this step requires an effort which not every one of our domestic internationalists wants to undertake. Therefore, Nepalis prefer Australia, Canada, Great Britain, the USA or New Zealand — the countries that are quite understandable and comfortable for them. Why? Because there is a proper service there.

And some of the Russian universities, like the one I talked about so much in this long article, say, «Screw them, screw you, let them go wherever they want, we don't care, we'll recruit others!» But you know what, dear universities, reasoning in such a "client-oriented" way? No screwing. Not them, not us, not even you. Because you, dear universities, are part of Russia's soft power. Kindly be it, please.

        Mikhail Lazarenko, Director for International Marketing, Education Export Center, Russia. Mikhail completed his degrees from several top Russian universities in International Management and Information Technology. Over the past ten years, he has worked on international humanitarian projects, promoting Russian culture and education abroad.