The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

'Why are marshrutkas needed?': What shocked and delighted an American woman in the Russian province


Source: Adme

About 30 Fulbright scholarship holders come from Russia to the United States every year. After World War II, in 1946, US Senator William Fulbright established an educational grant program aimed at improving understanding between citizens of the United States and other countries.

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Fellows live and work in different cities of Russia, with the exception of Moscow and St. Petersburg, as teaching assistants to universities. I decided to ask one of the participants in the Fulbright program Alexandra Fay about life in Penza, and also learn how our students are fundamentally different from American ones.

About stereotypes

At the university, I studied Russian. I chose it by chance - it was necessary to fulfill the general academic requirements. After graduating from high school, I became a member of the program, because I had long dreamed of living abroad and at the same time tightening my tongue. It is very prestigious to get a Fulbright scholarship in America, so my parents were delighted when it turned out that they had chosen me. The only thing they were worried about was that I would freeze.

In fact, this happened: compared to my hometown (Auckland, California) in Penza it was very cold and dark in winter. Winter lasted forever!

Some other stereotypes that I heard before I came here were also confirmed. For example, about Russian standards of beauty: here women obviously put more effort, taking care of their appearance.

Russians really smile less than Americans. People who work in the service sector are generally less friendly than ours. At the same time, I have experienced many times on myself what Russian hospitality means. The coolest thing is tea drinking. Homemade food, pies and pickles. And the good old women who insist that I eat and eat and eat. It is very nice.

What was the most interesting

Russian language lessons are the most favorite part of my experience in Russia. My group included students from Turkmenistan, Nigeria, Mali and China. We watched films, read stories, and then discussed all this in Russian, talked about traditions, culture and religion. The opportunity to conduct peaceful discussions with such an obvious difference in mentality and culture - this is what Fulbright sought.

In the last semester, we watched the film “Office Romance”, and after that the teacher asked what age is considered optimal for marriage in our countries. My classmates from Mali and Turkmenistan answered: 20 years. When I said that most Americans rarely marry before 25 – 30, my classmates were shocked: “Do you really want to wait until 30?”

And then our teacher made a very important point. She said that American couples often live together before the wedding. I confirmed: for young Americans, formal marriage is now not so important. Many of my friends never marry, never get married, but this does not prevent them from being in a serious romantic relationship. To this my answer odnogruppnitsy long "ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!".

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During my university holidays, I visited Moscow, Kazan, Ulyanovsk, Samara, and even Novosibirsk and Irkutsk. I went to Novosibirsk very well, I would like to return there someday. I also really want to visit Vladivostok someday. I heard that this is "Russian San Francisco."

I really liked Russian food: borsch, pelmeni, pirozhki, shi, shashlik, tefteli, blini. For salad Olivier, I remained indifferent. I did not like the cottage cheese, caviar and sour cream. And I also loved manti, although I certainly know that this does not apply to traditional Russian cuisine, but in America I would definitely not try them! By the way, it is very cool that here I was able to taste dishes of various national cuisines that are difficult to find in the USA - I especially appreciated Georgian, Turkmen and Uzbek dishes.

What surprised in Russia

In Russia, people never come empty-handed. At least something, but bring! And in general they like to give gifts. In America, we also give presents, but not so often, and usually this is timed to some holiday.

I was very surprised that women in Russia never shake hands, and men - constantly. True, this is so strange.

We have a commandant in the hostel. I do not quite understand why it is needed: there is no such position in American hostels. The commandant always cares about me. She expresses her opinion about what I cook. She needs to know where I'm going when I get back, especially if I'm leaving for a day or more. If I want to bring a girlfriend to my room, for some reason I must ask her for permission! And we also have a curfew, after which you can’t bring guests at all.

In Penza, I really miss the metro or other convenient public transport. I don't understand why marshrutkas are needed. Why are they, and not ordinary buses? By marshrutkas you can get to the neighboring town. I went to see my friends in Saratov and I’ll say this: driving for several hours in the back seat in a minibus is not an easy test.

About Russian education

It was very difficult for me to adapt to the customs of Russian university life. I am still amazed at how often lectures and seminars are rescheduled or canceled at the last minute. The teacher may simply not come, students can skip the whole group. You may be given another group or replaced by a teacher. But now I can improvise, and it definitely makes me better as a teacher.

My colleagues in Russia are very different from those in the United States. For the most part, they are very nice, friendly women. They like to take under their wing. I think they just like taking care of others. This, of course, is a slightly patronizing attitude, but I understand that in this way they show their sympathy.

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American students seem to me more mature and motivated to study than Russian. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that studying at our universities is much more expensive. On the other hand, college entrance is becoming a more important milestone in American life. After all, everything is changing so much. It’s quite normal for us to leave for college thousands of miles from home. Yesterday you lived with mom and dad, and today you suddenly become super-independent. In Russia, students often stay in their hometown and live at home.

It may not be so at other universities, but here, at PSU, at the English language department where I work, the biggest problem is the lack of motivation. It seemed to me that students do not really want to study, and teachers do not want to learn. There is no mutual respect, no one wants to give all the best. Other important problems are the general disorganization and lack of technical equipment.

About different

If my friends were going to come to Penza, I would advise them to visit museums - the local history, historical, art gallery and the Museum of one painting. Of course, first they need to walk along the main street of the city.

I would advise them to come from May to October - Penza is 10 times better when it's warm, dry and light outside! In fine weather, you can enjoy a walk in beautiful places, take a walk along the promenade, go to the park, go for a day to Tarkhany.

And I would advise them to try the national food of different peoples of the former USSR, which is difficult to find in America: Georgian, Uzbek, Turkmen.

As for music, I'm a fan of Viktor Tsoi. He was so cool! I really like the rebellious aesthetics of his poetry, especially the songs “Blood type”, “In our eyes”, “Cuckoo”. Performed by Polina Gagarina, it also sounds wonderful.

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My favorite Russian novel is Fathers and Sons. At school, we passed it in English. Someday I want to try to read in the original.

Among Russian historical figures, I am interested in researchers and merchants who traveled to the shores of North America. Grigory Shelikhov, Alexey Chirikov, Vitus Bering. I want to know more about their expeditions. One of my favorite thought experiments from the field of alternative history is to imagine what would happen now if Russia saved Alaska.

Borsch, manti, khachapuri and buckwheat - that's what I will miss when I get home. Buckwheat is generally superfood, it will be necessary to find places where it is sold in America. Well, I’m also going to miss the few friends who have appeared here.

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