Notes from the Field: Russia

 In Blog, Learning in the World
Notes from the Field

“Notes from the Field” is a series of posts and snapshots from teachers and students who are participating in our summer 2015 Learning in the World programs.  You can also follow updates via Twitter with #TangLITW

From June 12 to July 4, thirteen PA students are joining PA Instructor of Russian Victor Svec on a language-learning program in Petrozavodsk and St. Petersburg, Russia. Here’s a glimpse at their first two weeks.

P1000099I cannot believe that two weeks have gone by already. More importantly, the students cannot believe it either! They have continued to learn and grow in so many ways. Yesterday we went to a puppet/fantasy museum called “Small World.” Not only did the kids find it interesting on many levels, but they were also able to follow the vast majority of the tour in Russian! They even asked some questions of our guide, who is the director of and one of the major artists for the museum. Where they looked shell-shocked a week ago, they are actively engaged now.

This weekend there is a large celebration for the city of Petrozavodsk. All along the embankment in town there will be kiosks, food vendors, games of skill and chance as well as two stages with live performances.

Last week we went on an outing to Kizhi. As you can see from the pictures, the weather was quite gray, but the rain held off until we left. To the amazement of many of the students, they found the island and architecture to be very interesting. We had a wonderful young woman as our guide. She lives in Petrozavodsk and has been guiding on the island for six years. The tour was in English, so that the kids could receive the full benefit of her explanations. As far as the students are willing to share, they are doing well.

Classes are going well. It is a major transition for the students to become accustomed to the local teachers. Although the materials are not all that new and difficult, there were some challenges as the students tried to figure out what the teachers were asking. The teachers, for example, initially thought they were speaking very basic language; but they didn’t immediately understand that their idea of “basic” was a bit beyond the students’ idea of basic. After some adjustment, the kids are doing much better at grasping and processing information in classes. The students are broken up into groups of three or four for their classes so they receive a lot of personal attention. Their teachers are very pleased with the overall level of engagement, and the host families have been working out well.

One day we were given a short walking tour of the city. We started off in bright sunshine and then got caught in a short-lived downpour. We ended up in the sun. That evening some of the kids went to the opera (Barber of Seville in Russian) with Ms. Archambault and me.

Some of the students have made a few acquaintances already and have spent some time with them. We have had a brief interaction with kids at the same school who are learning English.

Next week we leave Petrozavodsk at the very early hour of 5:30 a.m. for St. Petersburg.

That’s all for now,

Victor Svec

Second Installment: Friday July 3

So we are almost done our adventure in learning here in Russia. There were some sad faces on both the American and Russian sides on Thursday 5:30AM when the kids said “Goodbye!” to their hosts. It is wonderful how quickly our students became part of their Russian families.
The busride to St. Petersburg was smooth and thankfully there was not too much traffic so we arrived with a little time to relax before heading off on our excursion for the day. Our marvelous local guide, Inna, met us at 1:00 and we took a bus south of the city towards Peterhof. On the way we got off the bus for a quick tour and trip on the beautiful Petersburg subway. At Peterhof we toured, took pictures and learned a fair bit about Peter the Great and how and why he built this magnificent summer residence. After a long day we headed back to our hotel near the center of town.
Today we did a walking tour of St. Petersburg. Inna did a wonderful job of blending facts, figures and stories to head the kids better understand this “Venice of the North”. The major attractions were a visit to the Spilt Blood Cathedral (seen in the background of attached photo), a couple of jaw dropping hours in the Hermitage Museum, and finally to St. Isaac’s Cathedral which is a wonder to see in person. The students are presently off on their own for a bit. This evening we will gather at a local restaurant for our final super in Russia. Then off to the States tomorrow. I cannot think of a nicer way to celebrate the 4th of July than to be returning home.
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