Russian visitors break stereotypes

Over the last two weeks, people frequenting the second floor of Steely Library heard an increase in the number of people speaking Russian. Seven students and three professors from the People’s Friendship University in Moscow visited the campus to learn about the American education system, and possibly bring back ideas to infuse into the Russian education system. The students spent two weeks taking an English language class on the second floor of Steely Library at Northern Kentucky University, in addition to seeing the sites around Cincinnati.

Both sides learned a great deal from the other culture, said Dr. Danny Miller, chair of the literature and language department, which played host to the Russian students.

One of the visiting students, Anna Stevtsova, said one trait of Americans she noticed is that they rely more on public transportation, while many Russians are apt to walk to their destinations. She also said she learned many American stereotypes about Russians.

“There are a lot of stereotypes about vodka,” she said. “Lots of people think we drink a lot.”

Another student, Julia Salmink, said some Americans think Russia is primitive. “One person was surprised that I knew what a CD player was,” she said.

Russians, however, are not exempt from having misconceptions about Americans as well. Dr. Lala Moustafaeva, one of the three visiting professors, said many Russians think that Americans eat too much and the education in America is not of high quality.

Two of the Russian professors, Moustafaeva, a professor of marketing, and computer science professor Svetlana Revinova, will spend the rest of the semester observing operations at NKU.

While they have just arrived, they said there are evident differences in how Americans learn compared to that of Russian students.

Russian students spend more time in classes by taking more courses, while Americans do more work outside of class, said Moustafaeva. Because students do all their work in class in Russia, they develop a more close bond between classmates and teachers.

“The basis of our education is classes,” she said. “It is very important that our students work closely with teachers.”

Another apparent difference is that NKU has more advanced technology than many Russian universities, particularly in the library with the wealth of electronic resources it possesses.

Moustafaeva said this probably a result of Americans being more reliant on computers than Russians. While computers and video games appeal to many age levels in the United States, the appeal in Russia is mainly among young adults and teenagers, they said. Older Russian adults rely on the printed word for information and entertainment, she said. In general, Russians tend to be more well read than Americans, said Miller.

He said he was surprised to hear in addition to reading all the Russian classics, the Russian students were familiar with most of the American classics as well. Miller said most American students haven’t even read many classic novels from their own country let alone Russia.

“There educational background is much more thorough than ours,” Miller said, citing that Russians graduate high school at the age of 17 and begin college a year earlier.

Next semester, Dr. Miller said he hopes to send NKU teachers and students to PFUM and bring back a bit of Russian culture.

PFUM is one of seven colleges around the world that participates in exchanges with NKU. The other seven are in Mexico, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Scotland, Spain and Russia.

Mark Klembara, director of International Programs, said he looks for schools that would be a good fit for NKU. For instance, PFUM is similar to NKU in that it is roughly the same size and age. Klembara said learning in other countries is a valuable experience.

“We are here to prepare people for the future and having a global awareness will be vital to succeed,” Klembara said.