During a welcome reception for visiting Russian students Tuesday night, Artem Vardanyan said he’s enjoyed talking with the Hoosiers he has encountered so far.
“They are smiling; they are warm,” he said. “It’s even better than what I was expecting.”
Vardanyan, 19, is one of eight students from Southern Federal University in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, who had a chance to mingle and speak one-on-one with IU students at the reception Tuesday in the basement of Willkie Quad. The IU students at the reception are participating in this year’s Summer Workshop in Slavic, East European and Central Asian Languages, which lasts from June 13 until Aug. 8.
The event was arranged by Steven Franks, a professor in the IU Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, to welcome the students on their second day of what will be a 12-day visit to Indiana in Bloomington.
The visit, which they arrived in town for Sunday evening, is funded by a two-year $400,000 grant the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures received part of in 2007. The grant was to be used to further language learning and the study of public health and health policy, according to an IU press release. As a part of the same grant, a small group of IU students spent two weeks studying public health at Southern Federal University in Rostov-on-Don in May of this year, Franks said.
Most of Tuesday’s reception was absorbed in casual conversation between students, which is one of the key points of the trip, said Galina Sultanovna Psheguseva, the English language instructor for the visiting students.
“We know much from books,” Psheguseva said. “(It is important) to know how to communicate with the people of your age, to see the eyes, to see how the person reacts.”
Although they were from different countries, the students from IU and Russia had little difficulty communicating, as most of the IU students in attendance spoke almost fluently in Russian, and the Russian students spoke at the same level in English.
Since their arrival, the Russian students have gotten a taste of Indiana culture, Franks said. They visited Spring Mill State Park, a restored 18th century pioneer village just south of Bloomington, and also toured IU. The campus’ size and greenery shocked the visitors, Psheguseva said.
She added that Southern Federal University does not have a campus, and the different departments are spread out all over the city.
“We are hoping that in a few years they will build a campus for us,” she said. “When we see the things you have here, that’s the ideal, we think.”
While they are here, the exchange students are attending classes from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. every day, where they study topics such as the history of America as well as local-area history, Franks said. The students range in age from 19 and 22, and study topics ranging from psychology to journalism.
Vardanyan, who studies law, said the visit is “an important part of understanding each other and learning to improve our language by connecting and communicating.”
The Slavic, East European and Central Asian Languages workshop has 208 enrolled IU students, 104 of whom are studying Russian, said workshop director and IU professor Jerzy Kolodziej.
“We have some American graduate students teaching in the program, and we have teachers from Russia,” Kolodziej said.
Evgeny Pareshner, 29, is a native Russian who is teaching an advanced Russian course for the summer workshop. Pareshner said the visit from the Russian students was a great chance for American students in the workshop to communicate in Russian with native speakers.
“It’s a very good opportunity for informal socializing and for getting acquainted with foreign culture and traditions,” he said.
Pareshner added that he is impressed with the prestige of the IU students enrolled in the summer workshop and their determination to speak as often as possible in the foreign language they are studying.
Ronald Feldstein, professor and chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, said he hopes faculty and students will connect with their counterparts in Russia and wants to see other projects emerge in the future.
“We’re going to try to work the kinks out from this year, and then we will re-evaluate and decide what kind of grant to put in next,” he said.