Russian Countryside School

Five students from Italy, Great Britain and the Czech Republic are currently taking up a course in the Russian language and literature at the Russian Countryside School, which is a part of the NMSTU Education & Health Centre. This unique project was put together by Professor Tatiana Abramzon.

The project was launched last winter when four students from the University of Milan came to Magnitogorsk seeking to enhance their Russian language skills. The current summer course, which started on August 17, is missing one of the original group who couldn’t travel for health reasons. The classes are led by the teaching staff of the Department of Linguistics and Literature Studies, with the course in Theory of Translation taught by the Associate Professor Irina Remkhe from the English Language Department.

The foreign students seem to be extremely enthusiastic about their summer school. Having such options as Moscow or Saint-Petersburg the Italians chose the NMSTU school for a reason. First of all, they say they are absolutely happy with the level of teaching they are getting. Another reason is that one can only learn about the Russian culture (and this is what the young people are really looking forward to) when one explores life away from big cities.

“Everything is just great here,” comments Francesca in a very good Russian, like the rest. “I’ve learnt a lot here. I’ve learnt a lot of new ideas as far as literature is concerned. I’ve expanded my Russian vocabulary. This project offers an opportunity to study within a small group of learners – almost like private tuition – which is beneficial in terms of quality. The teachers and tutors are always available for a conversation. And it is very good for us.”

“I studied in Moscow before. It was a programme of the 2nd semester of year 3,” tells Federico. “But when I came to Magnitogorsk, I learnt about such authors and folklore I had never been told of before. At the NMSTU school you not only gain knowledge but you also appreciate the great friendly atmosphere. This helps a lot with the studies as students feel relaxed.”

“A good learning progress relies on a very good organisation,” adds Gregorio. “Our teachers here have achieved an excellent level of organisation.”

As he learns more of the Russian culture, Gregorio can say that Russians are very much like Italians. Another student, Anna, who, similar to Gregorio, has visited the Ural Region before, supports the idea with enthusiasm. And Alzbeta confessed she felt completely at home in Russia. By the way, Alzbeta is the only student of the group who found out about the NMSTU school over the Internet and signed in because, being engaged in translation, she was seeking to improve her Russian, which she studied 25 years ago.

The school not only gives extensive knowledge but it also offers nice opportunities to spend one’s leisure time. All tiny details have been taken care of. After classes the students are taken for excursions or for traditional Russian tea ceremony or hot bath. Thus, the Italian students had a trip to Arkaim and got to take part in sports competitions organized specially for them.

“We gave a great deal of thought when choosing tours and excursions for the guys,” says the Associate Professor Mrs. Zerkina. “We wanted the excursions to be not only entertaining but also informative. Then, at the Russian classes we discuss the subjects that were mentioned during the excursions. We have taken our students to the Mangak waterfalls, also to see our famous Ural Region deciduous trees which have more than one trunk. The guys were absolutely intrigued. Our teachers take a great deal of preparation to make it an interesting and accessible learning experience. Thus, for the Russian classes we designed a special game of bingo covering certain facts which were left outside the official curriculum. Thus, it highlighted some important geographical and historical facts related to Russia, e.g. the biggest lake, the names of the surrounding seas, or the Russian explorer who visited India. And the students were supposed to find a card with the right answer. It was interesting to see Francesca copying down the questions and the answers from the cards. Aspiring to become an instructional designer, she found it a very useful teaching and learning technique in terms of language training.”

“Of course, the main mission of the school is to give knowledge,” comments Mrs. Abramzon. “This is followed by the idea of cultural exchange. I also see it as an image building project as within the project we represent both our university, our city and Russia as a country. Our goal is to demonstrate how enriching and horizon broadening such experience can be, how it enables our guests to see the true Russian culture free from the weird stereotypes people have in the West. Another aspect of this project is the cultural exchange. We are going to sign a student exchange agreement with the University of Milan. So next year six Italian students will take up a semester of the Russian language and culture studies at NMSTU. Accordingly, six of our students will go to study in Milan. Their programme includes such studies as the history of literature, theatre, culture and the Italian language. In the long-term perspective, it may come to a double degree programme. Talking about the school itself, of course it needs to grow so that instead of five we had twenty or forty students at the course. We also wish we had four such courses a year, one every season.”

We hope Tatiana’s dream will come true. The students admit they are impressed with the professionalism and atmosphere of the school. So the more foreigners will become its students, the sooner it will break the unfavourable Western stereotypes about us, Russians.

Anna Kartavtceva, Dennitsa

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