PSU Young Scholars Have completed an Exchange Course at the University of Oxford

A group of PSU young teachers, researchers and staff have completed a course at the Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre, St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University – improving higher professional qualifications.

The 108-hour course on understanding the political, economic, social and cultural processes in modern Britain, included meetings with top officials in Oxford City Council, scholars at Oxford University, British MPs, experts in political science, sociology, law, journalism, education and civil initiatives.

The course schedule had been set up by Mrs. Karen Hewitt, MBE, Russian-Oxford exchange activist, professor in British literature and continuous education. The Program participants and speakers included: Mr. Colin Cook, Lord Mayor of Oxford; Mr. Andrew Smith, a former MP for Labour party; Mr. Tim Sadler, Executive Director, Sustainable City, Oxford City Council; Dr. Cathy Oaks, expert in History of Art and Western European Medieval Visual Culture; the Matthew Arnold School management and teaching staff; Mr. Paddy Coulter, Associate Fellow of Green Templeton College, former Director of Studies, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (2001 to 2007); Mr. Adrian Hewitt, Accounts and Development Director, Energence Ltd, expert on environmental policy and energy expenditures; Dr. Amanda Palmer, expert in Human Sciences, Civil Service and Local Government; Dr. Colin Crouch, known English sociologist and political scientist; Mr. Paul Harris, barrister, public law and human rights specialist, expert in civil litigation; Ms. Katherin Newey, Consultant Solicitor, Lawrence & Co; Professor Bee Wee, Head of Palliative Care Research and Development, Sir Michael Sobell House. The Russian students received a warm welcome from the representatives of the Oxford-Perm Association.

The group on behalf PSU included:

• Tatyana Konyayeva, Junior Researcher, Department of Accounting, Audit and Economic Analysis, Faculty of Economics;

• Anisya Lyadova, Senior Lecturer, Department of Socio-Economic Geography, Faculty of Geography;

• Daria Pavlova, Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, Faculty of Philology;

• Lyubava Puzyryova, Senior Lecturer, Department of Developmental Psychology, Faculty of Philosophy and Sociology;

• Vera Sukhanovskaya, Assistant, Department of Information Systems and Mathematical Methods in Economics, Faculty of Economics;

• Andrei Khokhryakov, public relations manager, Press Office, Public Affairs Department.

Accompanied by the Lord Mayor of Oxford, the Program participants visited the Town Hall; discussed issues of social policy and education, health and environment – along the program course; visited the Oxford Combined Court Centre; walked around construction sites and hiked in the countryside; made trips to London and Bath, as well as enjoyed exploring Britain on their own.

“The internship provided a unique opportunity to become an ordinary UK resident for three weeks. We’ve been communicating with people from various fileds of occupation, cultural and social background. This certainly pushed our boundaries of appreciation, as we did realize the British live and think in a completely different way! I was lucky to visit the Brain and Cognition Lab at the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity; talking to the Lab staff became a valuable experience. We made memorable trips to London, Bath and Edinburgh, too. We feel much obliged to our University back home in Russia and the host organization in Britain for such a wonderful project, ” notes Daria Pavlova.

PSU delegates performed an important mission of laying ceremonial wreaths at the Oxford War Memorial. In 2018, the United Kingdom and European countries celebrated the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI. For the event, Perm joined the other representatives of the twin cities of Oxford - Leiden (Netherlands), Bonn (Germany), Grenoble (France), Wroclaw (Poland), as well as Padua (Italy).

“I stayed at the house of Tom Wylie, a professor in history, and his wife May, who come from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Together with English, Scots and Welsh, the Irish people show empathy with that tragic period of British history. The significance and relevance of the Remembrance Day have become a revelation for me. I believe we have the same feeling about the Victory Day, which is about the end of WWII. All across Britain, the names of those killed in action or deadly wounded, are remembered at church services, schools, work places and home. To show compassion, British people wear the red poppy pins. Patrick, a student, who gave us a tour of Oxford, wore a poppy, knitted by his grandmother, ” Tatiana Konyaeva recalls.

In Oxford, the Program participants enjoyed the opportunity to meet their counterparts who had previously visited them in September 2018. Many of those British participants had never been to Russia or Perm before, but did enjoy a warm welcome, so they did their most to make their Russian ‘halves’ feel at home.

“I was lucky to visit the medieval fair in a XI century castle in Ludlow! - Vera Sukhanovskaya shares her memories. – The knights in armor at the entrance, a monk at the ticket office, wizards, storytellers, a villain and a protagonist participating a real tournament, a historical battle reconstruction, and of course, local crafts and food! The most striking thing is that this is how it used to be centuries ago! And, it was not a foreign tourists’ attraction, but rather the way the British people entertain themselves. I really enjoyed this trip with my host family. ”

“We were a part of the local everyday life,” says Lyubava Puzyrova. – It’s been a cultural exchange, an opportunity to understand traditions. I was taught to cook a traditional English breakfast, or choose the right cheese at the market… In return, I taught my English family to cook borsch and pancakes, brew sandthorn and ginger tea. Together we watched British TV shows, walked around the city centre, met between my classes to visit a museum, or went for a public lecture. I found British people very open, friendly, polite and cute. We will certainly continue our communication in future.”

In a way, “Understanding Britain Today” might be regarded as a chance to appreciate simple life, enjoying the nature and local touch. A strive to have one’s own piece of ground, an allotment or a garden, a piece of property outside the town are the natural traits of the British character. The program schedule offered a chance to walk across the English countryside, a 7-mile route in the Chiltern Hills, Buckinghamshire. “It is rather unusual for Russians to walk for the sake of walking, but we do usually do so to get to the dacha from a train, which might take about an hour, sometimes,” Vera mentions.

“We were lucky that the weather was great during our visit to the UK,” says Anisya Lyadova. – Seeing sheep and cows and horses grazing in the fields, walking across the hills, stepping into the woods was something special. I admire the way the British people follow simple but effective steps to preserve their natural resources, let it be sometimes difficult. Not only did our guides Chris and David lead our way, they also did their best to explain the life in modern Britain. At the end of the evening we enjoyed a real Welsh-style tea party with a “Russian” cat named Pushkina! ”.

A significant part of the seminars by Professor Karen Hewitt dealt with a portrait of a modern Londoner, in all its cultural and national diversity. The group traveled to London and attended hearings at the British Parliament in its most difficult days, during the discussion of Brexit. One of the important conditions for participating the Oxford-Perm exchange program was reading the Capital – a novel by John Lanchester (2012).

“Studying or living in Britain has not been the first experience for me,” says Andrei Khokhryakov, - the more interesting it was to see how the moods in British society change, taking its multinational entity into consideration. The novel by John Lanchester became some kind of an introduction into these changes, in a ‘playful’, fictional format. Besides, Karen offered us a class in contemporary British poetry. (It does differ from what many Russians regard as poetry). Together we attempted to do close reading and exchanged our ideas. Also, we were given a unique chance to become members of the Bodleian Library, one of the best in Europe, which was a particularly valuable experience.”

A new step in Oxford-Perm relationships will be a summer school at PSU with an emphasis on arts. The Museum of History of Perm University, the Department of Public Relations and the Department of International Relations have prepared a proposal for Oxford University students to apply for a 6 week internship in July-August 2019. Internship students will assist at describing the collections of Antiquity, Ancient Egypt and Middle Ages, as well as get acquainted with other museums in Perm.

“Understanding Britain Today”, 2018 Course photos:
Remembrance Day photos by Martin Stott(p) 2018. All other photos by Andrei Khokhryakov, PSU Press Office

© 1916-2018 Perm State University, Russia