How can the Russian language unite a Japanese and a Chinese? Why would Americans study the Russian character? What Russian literature is read in the Czech Republic? Our international students tell a bit about that.
Today it is not uncommon to meet a foreigner in Petrozavodsk. But not all of them come to Karelia just as tourists. Petrozavodsk State University is becoming more and more popular among the foreign youth. Students from all over the world come to our university to learn the intricacies of the “great and mighty” Russian language or get a degree. Besides, PetrSU is a partner of many universities in different countries, so the exchange programs are in good practice, too.
The foreign students told what has drawn them to study in Karelia, how they had settled in so far away from home, and what, in their point of view, was the mystery of the Great Russian soul.
Kento has come from Japan. He has been staying in Petrozavodsk for six months now and has already settled in. The young man is an exchange student at the Faculty of Philology, and by now he is almost on close terms with the Russian language and the Russian people.
“I have been studying Russian for three and a half years. Honestly, I prefer Spanish. I think that the Russian language is the most difficult language for the Japanese to learn. I would like to work in Russia or in Spain. Or, perhaps, in Japan, but at least I would like to use languages in my work.
The Russians are very inquisitive. When I’m walking to the university several persons will always ask if I am a Chinese. When I answer that I’m from Japan, they are usually surprised… They say, “Really? Are you a samurai?” I talk to the Russians in bars and in the streets, and at first they try to speak English, which they are not very good at. Then we switch to Russian. I’m lucky I understand the language.
In the dormitory I share the room with a Chinese student. Even there I have to speak Russian as he doesn’t speak English. It’s really amazing that only thanks to the Russian language we can communicate with each other.
Petrozavodsk is a very calm city. I was born in a city that is also not very populated, so it is familiar to me. I go to the National Theatre to watch the plays, because back in Japan at my university I take part in plays staged in the Russian language. I also like football, but I don’t have enough friends here who enjoy the game too and would play with me. So instead I often watch games on the stadium next to the National Theatre. Now I practice bodybuilding as many Russians do. I miss home, but I have a responsibility – I have to study the Russian language, so I try my best.”
Sakura, a student from Japan, came to Petrozavodsk for the exchange program in February. The girl has just started learning the Russian language at the Faculty of Philology.
“I study Russian so I wanted to live in a place where it is spoken. I think that Japan should develop friendship with Russia. I live in the dormitory in Belorusskaya street. I like that I share a room with my compatriot.
In Japan I live in Tokyo. People in Petrozavodsk are very kind and it is very calm here, so I like the city a lot. I’ve been to the Kizhi Island, Kivach and Valaam, the nature in Karelia is very beautiful. I like ballet, so I often go to the Musical Theatre. My favorite place in the city is the embankment.
I have difficulties with the Russian language. I communicate with students in classes. When I have free time I often go to the library and study there with my Russian friend, who teaches me the language.”
Eva has come from Czech city of Brno to study at the exchange program for one term. She studies at the Faculty of Philology where she practices her Russian language.
“I study the Russian language and literature in the Czech Republic. But at my university we focus more on the theory, and I know that when I speak Russian I make mistakes all the time. I have been studying Russian for five years, but I think that I don’t know the language well enough and I still struggle with pronunciation.
I’ve chosen the Russian language because, to my view, Russia and the Czech Republic have close relations. Russian and Czech are Slavic languages, and you can say that they are similar. So it’s not that difficult for me to study. Though I find it hard to read and understand the Russian literature. But I do my best. I enjoyed “My” (“We”) by Yevgeny Zamyatin, I also started reading the classics like Dostoevsky and Pushkin.
There are a lot of Russian companies in the Czech Republic, and I hope I will find a job in one of them, so I could put my knowledge of the language in practice. Alongside Russian I study German, English and a little bit of Japanese.
I like it here in Petrozavodsk, but unfortunately there are not so many sights to see. In my free time, if the weather is fine, I walk along the embankment or go to restaurants and bars with my friends. I live in the dormitory in a room for three with my friend from the Czech Republic and a girl from Slovakia. The room is comfortable, only that my bed creaks badly, it’s annoying. All the rest is alright.
As for relations between Russia and the European countries, I am not interested in politics as I do not believe everything that is written in the papers. Quite often the things that are published there aren’t true and I do not know where the truth is. I don’t have any bad feelings towards Russia and that is why I’ve decided to come and see by myself how people live here. I’m really glad I’ve come because people here are very amiable; they always smile and offer their help when you need it. I haven’t met a wicked person here yet.”
Katie is from the USA and came to Petrozavodsk two months ago. At 27, she is a graduate student of Indiana University. At PetrSU she is doing internship in the framework of the Fulbright Program.
“I’m writing a thesis on political science and I’m studying what qualities constitute the Russian national identity, how the regional and the Russian identities relate to each other and how the situation in regions influences this relation. I’ve come to Petrozavodsk for a research. I’m doing internship at the Institute of History, Political and Social Sciences of PetrSU, majoring in international relations.
I’ve been studying Russian for three years. In the USA this language is not particularly popular, but some universities offer good programs.
What a Russian person is like is the question I hope to answer while I’m here. I don’t know for sure yet. The owner of the flat I’m renting always gives me the food first and the biggest helpings too. Together with her family we’ve taken a trip to dacha and it’s been delightful. I like Russian food, especially “bliny” (pans). You can’t find them in the USA. I haven’t learned to cook “bliny” yet, but I think it’s not that difficult. I like Petrozavodsk, I enjoy walking in the parks. When I looked for the pictures of Petrozavodsk on the Internet I thought it would be worse.”
First year student at the Medical Institute, Manisha has come from Afghanistan to become a pediatrician.
“I came to Russia last year. At first I lived in Tula where I studied at the Pre-Foundation Program and took a Russian language course. In August I moved to Petrozavodsk under the state program of education of the foreign citizens in Russia. In my group there are five foreigners: four students from Zambia and me, the rest ten students are Russians. I really like the city because people are very kind and it is calm here. The weather is little bit cold, but it’s alright. And there is a very beautiful lake.
When I just came I didn’t feel well as I was alone but then I settled in. In the dormitory I have befriended a girl from Murmansk, we spend time together. Indeed, my roommates help me with my studies. I enjoy studying, even though it’s difficult, but the teachers are very competent. They are demanding and make you study a lot. But they are also very kind and help the students.”