People from different parts of the world come to PetrSU to study for a wide range of purposes. We give the floor to Kevin Gledhill, a student from the USA, to tell about his experience and aims for studying here at Petrozavodsk.
“When I arrived at the beginning of the Summer Russian Program at PetrSU, I needed urgently to make up ground in my ability to speak and read Russian. Having struggled for two years to find funding for intensive study in Russia, I needed to quickly obtain some level of speaking proficiency and significantly improve my reading this summer. I’m a graduate student in the History Department at Yale University and will begin research in September of this year, working on connections between merchant communities of the Lower Volga, the Caspian coast of Iran, and the South Caucasus in the eighteenth century. Because many of my colleagues had had the opportunity to study in Russia before, I fell behind in my Russian classes and found myself unprepared for my work in the archives of Astrakhan and Baku.
It was necessary to find a program that would give me an opportunity for rapid progress and address the specific goals of proficiency that I set for myself. The individual classes in the program have been especially helpful for this purpose, forcing me to take part in conversation and respond to every question. Any problems I had understanding grammar– which I haven’t completely gotten over (verbal aspect is not an easy concept for this English speaker) - or comprehension of the texts we read have been the only focus of the class, allowing my teachers to tailor it to my specific needs.
Part of the appeal of Petrozavodsk for me has been its location and unique cultural traditions. Because I knew that I would spend the coming year in the south, I saw this as an opportunity to explore another side of Russian life and culture, in a completely different region of this enormous country. I have enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the history of Karelian culture and language, sample Karelian cuisine, and visit its distinct historical sites. I look forward to seeing the contrasts presented by cities further south.
My stay here has been beneficial to my work, beyond simply improving my language skills. I have used the opportunity to access important Russian-language works relevant to my research which have been difficult to find in North America. I have done this work in both the scientific library of PetrSU (reading Soviet-era works on Russian trade with Iran and Central Asia) and through contact with the National Library in Saint Petersburg, which I plan to visit soon.
My experience here has been completely positive. Sure, there have been some minor troubles – I had to learn not to smile at strangers and I think buying a train ticket at the station has to been the most frustrating experience ever – but I’ve enjoyed my time here and learned a lot. I feel comfortable speaking Russian now and have benefited from the help and patience of so many people. And with only two weeks remaining, I feel like there’s still a lot to do.“