Instead of celebrating the 4th of July in the traditional American way (fireworks galore), it was done Russian-style this year. And let's be honest- what could possibly be more traditionally Russian than paperwork and really long public speeches?
Monday, July 4th was Registration Day at Lobachevsky University. The morning was divided up into 30-minute meetings... except for "Local Rules and Procedures", which got an entire 45 minutes. Here's how it all happened that day-
|A. Find the right room in the right building.|
|B. Begin the paperwork. There are about 5 pages, all in Russian, so good luck ;)|
|C. Speeches. Introductions to VIPs and lots (and lots) of rules to follow.|
|D. Time for a language test! We were given 30 minutes to write a short essay in Russian and answer 150 multiple choice grammar questions.|
|E. After being matched with a local volunteer, the university hosted this lunch for us at the "Farewell, Comrade!" cafe. (That name never gets old.)|
|F. The holy trinity of Russian events: paperwork, speeches, and hosted (enforced) party games. These ladies are explaining the rules of the game.|
This school seems really organized! They have a decent website, a person who responds quickly to emails in English, and even a schedule of events for this summer school program. It turns out some of this is more a superficial image of organization than the actual thing, but it's still really impressive. The only things I know about Russia and Russian universities came from my other study abroad in Yakutsk, and they were operating in complete chaos back then. This university has hosted summer school for several years and they've got a good idea of how to go about it. We got a map to help us find the building that morning and a schedule of what would happen throughout the day.
Most of the students in this summer program are complete beginners to Russian. There's about 20 of us- half are Dutch, Czech, French, Korean, German, Malaysian, American and the other half are from Singapore. Although the Russian classes are taught entirely in Russian (even for the beginners), the excursions and registration are done in English. I've met only two people here who speak no English and very little Russian- one guy from Angola and a girl from Turkmenistan- and they had a tough time at registration because of that.
The thing that shocked me the most- wherever you go in Russia, it's like you're stuck there. The university completed a registration for all of us and that thing is sacred. If you go to visit another city, you need to find a hotel that will register you with the government. Then, you need to cancel that and re-register at the university when you return. Even if you go to a hotel in the same city for just one night, your university registration becomes invalid and you need to do the registration again. (Otherwise I think some of us would have rented a hotel room by now just to take a shower without standing in line.)
I do wonder if there's some flexibility with this... people break rules all the time, right? But I remember one time on the other study abroad- Odin and I were in a different city, waiting for the next morning's train. We went everywhere to try to find a hotel for just that one night, but no one would accept us because of "registration". We spent the night sleeping on the floor of the train station. And that was just a little Siberian city, not a huge place like Nizhny Novgorod. That kind of rules out any plans of traveling elsewhere this month.
There was so much information being presented during this event... and most of us were just looking at our bags of swag ;) (Guilty!) (And again, how organized is that- to give students gift bags? Wow!)
- N. I. Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod can be abbreviated to simply UNN.
- UNN turns 100 this year, so everyone is psyched about that and ordering lots of promotional material.
- International students here represent 85 nations. The largest group of international students comes from African countries (29%). UNN has about 1100 international students. And I promise to not repeat "international students" again, haha.
- Also, a guest speaker (dean?) used a lot of fancy phrases like "the key strategic priorities of our development" and mentioned the hilariously-named "Achieving Bologna thru Total Quality Management" project. Bologna, baloney, you know ;)
Ah, the test. Unfortunately we weren't given our results, so... yeah. The next day we returned to find our class assignments posted on the door.
This is Sveta, and she is awesome!
Every summer school student has been assigned a local student as a guide, friend, and language partner. How cute is this idea?! Sveta is adorable- she's 20, she's from a village, and she studies computer programming at a local technical college. She's also a big fan of the photo-sessiya, so there will probably be tons of pictures of us on here.
About those party games... they were exquisite (fun/torture). You can decide if this is your cup of tea of not. For example:
- 15 minutes after meeting your volunteer, you are given a few minutes to come up with a performance to present together. Singing, dancing, reading a poem, whatever. These rushed performances range from enthusiastic to embarrassed. Sveta and I do charades: matryoshka, a samovar, and playing the balalaika. I want one topic to be Putin- who wouldn't recognize that walk?- but Sveta gives an empatic нет! to that idea.
- We stand in two circles that rotate in opposite directions. As each new person stands before you, you say "We both have two eyes and one mouth, let's be friends, I love you". Then, you hug each other. Repeat x twenty people.
- The MC shouts out things like "цвет глаз!" or "месяц рождения!" and people run around to get into groups. If you don't understand those Russian phrases, don't worry. Neither did most of the students :p
The rest of that afternoon, we walked with our volunteers. It's cheating to say "afternoon" actually, since the sun sets here around 10 PM. It'll be 9:30 PM and I think it's still afternoon!
There are 3 students from the U.S. in our group- a poli-sci professor, a university student, and yours truly, and that was how we celebrated this year's Independence Day ;) How about you?