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Dive into Russia: Interview with Students from University of Oxford

The abridged version of the interview for Business-Class, 19, January, 2021

Arun Denton and Joseph Scull, students from New College, University of Oxford have shared their impressions to the Business Class (BC) News Agency – speaking of their studies in Perm, travelling around, volunteering and making friends.

BC: How did you come up with an idea of going to Perm, to study?

Arun: Joseph and I are studying Russian at the University of Oxford. In England, when doing a foreign language, you must spend a part of the 3rd year in the country of its origin. Here is where the twinning relations of our cities clicked. Some of our friends came and studied at Perm State University. They were quite happy with that, and told us about it. So, we considered it as a worthy option, and went to Perm.

BC: Were there any difficulties with preparing for the trip?

Joseph: It was all simple. We had to obtain a visa, quite a common procedure.

Arun: We too have been lucky entering Russia in mid-September. At that moment, the government canceled the mandatory two-week quarantine. So, we passed the PCR test and entered the country, experiencing no problems.

BC: Why would Russian be so interesting to you? And, when did this interest start?

Arun: When you are in school in England, at the age of 14, you have to choose a foreign language to study. So, I thought – why not Russian? Joseph and I are from different places: I am from Manchester, Joseph is from a small town of Sherborne in the south-west of the country. Yet, we were both lucky our schools had included Russian into their curriculum. The education system in England is meant to gradually decrease the number of subjects to study: first, these are 10 to 11, then 3 to 4, and finally, 1 to 2. In our case, we would tend to choose Russian language and literature.

BC: What is special about your studies here? And, how different would it be from studying in Oxford?

Joseph: Compared to Oxford, Perm State University has a lot of obligatory classes. At the University of Oxford, the main emphasis is made on independent students’ work, with individual tutorship being the core. Yet, Oxford differs from other British universities, where the system is closer to what we see here.

Arun: Now, due to the pandemic, basic disciplines are taught online, while classes of Russian are taught individually, on campus. This strategy appears to be quite effective and useful.

BC: Do you happen to communicate with other University students?

Joseph: For sure, we do. Still, due to the pandemic, as have to visit on-campus classes on our own, individually. Here in Perm, we are staying in the family of Irina, a teaching professor at the Faculty of Geography. She had introduced us to her students. We do meet often, the all guys are quite friendly and helpful.

BC: How did your parents and friends treat your idea of going to Perm?

Arun: None of them had ever heard of Perm before. In this regard, the fact of twinning relations helped a lot. Thanks to Mrs. Karen Hewitt, Professor at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, these links have been growing for quite a while, obviously having a long story behind them.

Joseph: My parents and friends see Perm as a fairly good option. Indeed, there are many foreign students in Moscow or St. Petersburg, where you can communicate in English. Here, Arun and I, just two of us, are enjoying the opportunity of nearly a private dive into Russia.

BC: To which extent have your expectations about Russia and Perm appeared to be true?

Arun: To be honest, I had little expectations, as I knew too little about the city, although I did read about the history of Perm, too. So, we have been making our opinion of the place right on the spot.

BC: Russians are be believed to be self-reserved or reluctant for communication… Have you come across that, at all?

Arun: Maybe, on the street, people do look closed and show less emotion. Yet, as you start talking, everything changes. We usually communicate with those whom we live with, our students, or folks in a café. We are curious to hear stories, and the locals expect the same from us. Almost all people are open and happy to communicate.

BC: What have you been doing during your spare time?

Arun: We have traveled around the Perm territory, a bit. We have been to the smaller towns and places of Kudymkar, Kungur, Ilyinsky, Chermoz, Khokhlovka, and the Usvinsky pillar stones.

BC: Not that every Perm-local visits so many places, like you have done…

Joseph: We know we have been lucky. As I said, we are staying in the family of Irina and Alexander. Irina is a teaching professor at the Faculty of Geography, and Alexander performs well as a tour guide, so we did have really interesting trips around!

BC: Are there any things, which you particularly miss in Perm – like pubs, football or Scottish haggis?

Joseph: Oh, no! I am very glad that there is no haggis in Perm (laughs). In fact, we do not feel being deprived of anything here. For basic needs, our life is set perfectly well. The Russian cuisine is different from ours, but we like it. Pubs are really very important in England, but there are good bars in Perm, too. As for football, we have seen Amkar FC twice, and once Molot hockey team. So, everything is fine, and not so boring at all.

BC: You have taken part in a volunteer campaign, here in Perm, right?

Arun: Yes, together with the “Territory of Rest” Day Shelter we have participated in the “Food on the Wheels” program – providing an opportunity for those homeless and in need – to get warm lunch. We helped distribute food, first in the disctrict of Zakamsk, other side of the river, and then in the city center.

BC: How long will you be staying in Perm?

Arun: We will be going home to England for Christmas. And, in mid-January we will be coming back to the city of Pyatigorsk – to continue our studies at a local university.

BC: Any plans to re-visit Perm?

Joseph: On a whole, we have an idea of crossing Russia by train, on the Trans-Siberian Railway – that would be great! Here in Perm, we have developed a great touch with Irina and Alexander – the family we are staying with. I believe we will try to visit them, for sure.

BC: Your future occupation – will it be connected with Russia?

Arun: I have always wanted to speak Russian fluently. It would be great to work in Russia, or with it.

Joseph: After studying in Russia, we will have one more year at the University of Oxford, so, there is plenty of time for future decisions.

BC: You have mentioned you learned about Perm through twin cities relations with Oxford. To which extent, in your view, does twinning make sense?

Joseph: I’ll tell you a short story. Arun and I were at Perm School №7 – meeting with schoolchildren, talking about England. Suddenly, I noticed a poster with my hometown of Sherborne there. It turned out that this School cooperates with the Sherborne Girls School, and my sister was here as part of an exchange program – can you imagine that? Unfortunately, there are currently no such exchanges. Yet, they should be restored, since they make people communicate and learn about each others’ life and culture – here, locally, in the middle of Russia.

Arun: The links between the universities are also quite necessary and useful. Every year, students from Oxford come to Perm to study and practice. New knowledge, new contacts – all these are really important for the modern world.

News Source (original).

A Story of PSU Student in Search of Homeplace – to and from Dubai, Back to Perm

Olga Averkieva, a senior teacher at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications at Perm State University (PSU) has brought together the stories of nine characters who had left Perm but came back to discover their own way in local arts, business and social life, as a set of documentary shorts – uniting them into the “Back Home” Film Project.  

The fifth short episode shows Lidia Skornyakova, a graduate student of the Faculty of Philology, PSU. Having had entered the University once, studying Journalism and Philology here, she then worked as an exhibition manager and art critic for the Yeltsin Center, Ekaterinburg, Russia, and later moved to Dubai, UAE. Yet, she got back to Perm… Following Lidia, in her own words:

“This is a brief story how I learned to be happy – getting back to where I once belonged. I was born in Perm. After school, I entered the Faculty of Philology at Perm State University. I initially went to study journalism, but got bored, and switched to philology, since I had always been into foreign languages. By 2011, when I was supposed to graduate from the Faculty of Philology, I experienced life crisis. That time, I found escape to be the only way to resolve my problems. I decided that moving to a different city and connecting myself to a different activity would make me different, too – and so shake my previous burdens off. I got carried away by an idea of becoming an art critic. I went to the city of Yekaterinburg, 3,5 hours car drive from Perm, and started looking for a job. My first serious professional occupation was the one at the Yeltsin Center, dedicate to the 1st Russian President and his era. The project had just been launched, encouraging each one of us to do our best. I remember myself getting into the thick of it, quite intensely. “

“The first time I went abroad was in 2012, a trip to Thailand. It all seemed a different planet to me, contrasting to my own environment and family’s vision that travels are for the rich people, as they don’t mind wasting money on nonsense; “What for? At which expense? Why not buy something practical, like kitchen crockery, instead?” After leaving the Yeltsin Center, I flew to Dubai. And, while I was moaning there to a female friend of mine, saying I didn’t want to return neither to Perm, nor Yekaterinburg… since after the Yeltsin Center everything seemed so low-scale and much too common to me… my friend told me: “Go, try find a job here! Elsewise, what’s the use of studying English for so many years?’ So, I did go and did find one. I became a real estate consultant with a 1,5 year contract. Gradually, I started getting tired of Dubai, feeling lack of cultural activity and native language communication in its deeper sense – looking for ideas and things to discuss instead of everyday routine, you know? I was missing performances, plays, theaters. The situation at my work did not get better, either. First, I realized that selling real estate was not my cup of tea. And, secondly, there was a moment when they decided to fire everyone right on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t like the idea of waiting for my turn, and flew back to Perm. ”

“Gosh, finding myself back home in Perm, I rushed headlong to the local stage scene and shows, at last! I did everything I could: the Philharmonic, the Organ Hall, the Cultural and Business Center, the Opera and Ballet Theater, and many other places, almost every day. I started thinking of where to study. And, as I stepped onto the University campus, something clicked – as it always did, and does every time I get in here: my goodness, how cool is the vibe, that’s  the place I’ve been missing! The Master’s Degree in Chinese was well announced, so, I passed the exams, and our Dean Dr. Boris Kondakov called me to say: Welcome to the Faculty, glad to have you back! “

“When I started my Master’s, I had been working, already. An old friend of mine had offered me to take part in a cool project by the Morse Code Creative Agency – a company dealing with museum design. As a result, I started a project that I am finishing now, telling the story of Perm basketball. I see it as my personal ‘Yeltsin Center’. Most importantly, not only did this project give me a new starting point, but a new perspective of my own life, too. Previously, I considered Perm quite a boring place: not obviously true, rather because I never showed interest in it. “

“Having started working at the Yeltsin Center, I discovered that the Perm people had often been the driving force behind changes outside the city. Like, when I lived in Dubai, I discovered a whole diaspora of Permians. This came as a shock, since I always regarded Perm as a small place, some kind of a province, almost a backwater in the middle of Russia. But, no! Many people are aware of Perm State University where I am currently studying at. Perm has its own sociological and linguistic schools – which are not imaginary, like a play of Perm scholars’ egos, but the internationally recognized ones. On the whole, these are the people who share their sparkle with you, some really interesting personalities and outstanding individuals. I can’t explain why these people still make Perm their homeplace. I would, of course, like to see certain opportunities allowing them to not only personally grow, but also feel required, important and in demand to Perm… For it is here, not in St. Petersburg or Moscow, Yekaterinburg or Dubai, that they might have these prospects, belonging to their home. “

Looking back, and as an afterword, Olga Averkieva, author of the project admits: “We did not mean to shoot it for the sake of cinema as art. It is a collective reflection on why people are coming back. I hope that these series may become an impact film – the one affecting the social situation in the Perm territory. Following that line, we can go to schools, colleges and social cinemas, places of free screening, where the “Back Home” series are much welcomed.” The project had already been supported by the Presidential Grants Funding and the Ministry of Culture of Russian Federation.

The “Back Home” Film – see the original episode “To Be the Happy One” 9in Russian) here.

Starring: Lidia Skornyakova, Aleksandr Noskov, Marina Garanovich, Maria Duhnova;
Script and editing: Kapitolina Dolgikh,
Camera crew: Sergey Lepikhin, Angelina Trushnikova;
Sound design: Mikhail Toropov;
Composer: Gannadyi Shyroglazov;

Project by: Olga Averkieva;
Art mentorship: Boris Karadzhev;
Produced by Olga Averkieva and Vladimir Sokolov;

The Novyi Kurs (New Course) Film Studio, Perm, Russia.  

International Students Express Opinions on Higher Education in Russia

IPR MEDIA, an industrial member of the “Russian Exporting Universities” network, has studied the level of satisfaction with Russian universities among international students, during the pandemic.

The survey has been performed from 13 April to 6 June, 2021. It involved 851 foreign students from 6 Russian universities – participants of the network partnership:

The survey aimed to estimate the current situation, possible changes and prospects of Russian education on the global educational market.

According to students’ feedbacks, for almost half of them (48.2%), the quality of education has not changed. However, the options “got better” and “got worse” received a nearly equal amount of voices: 22.3% and 22.6%, respectively. The higher the level of respondent’s education, the more positively he/she classifies the quality of education during the pandemic.

The majority of respondents are planning to continue their studies at Russian universities – 87.9%, while 3.2% of them failed to show any interest in that.

The results show a high level of students’ satisfaction with the quality of educational services, positive experience gained , and a high demand for Russian education.

Almost half of the total number of respondents chose the following areas of studies when applying to Russian universities:

  • medical and biological faculties – 48.2%,
  • humanities – 17.4%,
  • economics and related – 10%.

The above streaming reflects a general trend in selecting disciplines for studying in Russia.

The study confirms the assumption that more foreigners choose Russia as a place for study. The Russian language is among their choices, as well. Under the conditions of the pandemic, which has been lasting over 1,5 years from now, foreign students tend to adapt to distance learning, and are less likely to express dissatisfaction with its quality and technical conditions.

For reference: “Russian Exporting Universities” is a voluntary association of universities and experts that aims at improvement of practices and educational methods used at teaching foreign students, developing modern educational programs, attracting newcomers, improving competences in teaching Russian as a foreign language, developing the state testing system for the Russian language, etc.

For more info, please, see the original in Russian.

Discover the Faculty of Biology with PSU International Students!

International students of the Faculty of Biology, PSU, has attended a summer training course at the Preduralye national reserve, Perm krai, Russia. The course aimed at studying biodiversity of species, methods of collecting and identifying material, and gaining the skill of field research.

Islam Saparov (Turkmenistan): “Going to Preduralye national territory reserve has been truly exciting. Besides studying Botany and Zoology, we did enjoy the local nature and made new friends. Russian students have been very open, positive and interactive.”

The Faculty scholars traditionally explore the diverse wildlife and flora of Perm krai, attribute to solutions within the agricultural complex, conduct research on HIV and Hepatitis C, and step into collaborations with the Faculty of Chemistry at PSU, nationally and abroad.

So, what professions can you get while studying at the Faculty of Biology?
• ecologist: studies, evaluates the condition and protection of flora, fauna, microorganisms;
• environmental engineer: analyzes the ecological challenge and develops measures to reduce recent and potential harm to nature;
• bioinformatist: deals with information contained inside the cell, primarily genome;
• biologist: researches flora and fauna;
• botanist: researches flora;
• engineer and interpreter of telemetry data: supervises operation of mining facilities; carries out harvesting, systematization and analysis of the data received in natural environment;
• geneticist: studies principles and mechanisms of heredity;
• zoologist: studies wildlife and animals;
• microbiologist: studies microorganisms;
• hydrobiologist: studies biological processes in the hydrosphere, and the practical use of biological resources of aquatic ecosystems;
• bioecologist: explores nature and its laws, uses biological systems in economic and medical spheres, solves problems of environmental protection and problems of rational use of natural resources.

Interested? Apply at Perm State University and share your prospects with your friends!

PSU International Students Help Discover Campus Life in Perm

The Center of Foreign Culture launched by young PSU activists welcomes international students of Perm and Perm region, as well as all those interested in cross-cultural communication and learning, eager to participate in collaborations and projects. Joining the Center’s team will allow one try his/her skills as an SMM specialist, videographer, volunteer or event manager.

Today, the team of the Center for Foreign Culture includes eight students from various faculties of Perm State University. The Center activists have become recent guests at the International Talk Broadcast on Radio PSU; they volunteered at the Velikaya Perm – 2021 All-Russian Football Tournament, attended the Navruz holiday and filmed a story about it.

“The plans of the Center of Foreign Culture include working on their YouTube channel, participating local outreach events, writing grants, establishing links with universities in other countries,”

says Meylis Tuvakov, head and leader of the Center, a second year undergraduate, Faculty of Economics, PSU.

The Center of Foreign Culture has been created in February 2021 as a part of the PSU Student Media Center. Using the Center capacities, students may fulfil their academic creative and athletic potential, also complementing to the organization’s activities are aimed at helping foreigners adapt to a new mentality. To join the Center team, please contact Meylis Tuvakov at meylistuwakaw@gmail.com.

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