Others like the rigid and logical structure of an outline.
Don't fret, once you get started, you can always change formats if the format you chose isn't working out for you.
The word "thesis" just sounds intimidating to most students, but a thesis is actually quite simple.
A thesis statement (1) tells the reader what the essay is about and (2) what points you'll be making.
You'll need to narrow down your topic to something like "Russian Politics: Past, Present and Future" or "Racial Diversity in the Former USSR". Or to education about a person, place, thing or idea?
If you're expected to choose your own topic, then the first step is to define the purpose of your essay. The topic you choose needs to support the purpose of your essay.
Get out a piece of paper and make a list of all the different topics that fit the purpose of your essay.
Once they're all down on paper, start by eliminating those topics that are difficult or not as relevant as others topics.
Creating a diagram or outline allows you to put pen to paper and start organizing your ideas.
Don't worry or agonize over organization at this point, just create a moderately organized format for your information.