Students Without Borders / Студенчество без границ
March 17th was St. Patrick’s Day for all of you back in the U.S. For me, it was a rather interesting intercultural event–“Studenchestvo bez granits” or “Students Without Borders”. (I should note that “studenchestvo” is better translated as “studentship” but that’s not a word I ever really hear…so “students” it is.)
The university had asked me months beforehand to set up a table representing the U.S. Naturally I agreed. At the time there was another Fulbrighter, Linda, who was teaching computer science at the aerospace university here in Krasnoyarsk. She was also informed of the event and was assigned to help. It was fantastic that she did…she brought peanut butter, bread, and Coca-Cola as samples for the students.
The event took place at the Sibir convention center. I didn’t know how large it was going to be…it was larger than I expected, though. There were so many countries represented there…besides the U.S., there were tables for Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Japan, China, South Korea, Spain, Germany, France, and even a general table for African countries (I found out that table was being run by people from Cameroon, they were really cool); they had a few Russian ethnic republics as well, such as Yakutia (the Sakha Republic) and Tyva.
We were there for several hours, answering questions, asking questions of others, handing out sample peanut butter sandwiches (which were a hit, by the way, as people came back for more), playing games, and listening to songs being sung on the nearby stage all the while.
The coolest part was that I got to meet so many people from different countries. I gave out my contact information to a lot of them (and many of them contacted me after the event by Vkontakte, the Russian version of Facebook, as well as Facebook itself). It was fantastic. I also got to learn about different cultures, even though it was just a glimpse…people helping to run the event were often wearing traditional clothing and many of the tables had prepared traditional foods to try. It was all beautiful. (Side note…to my female readers, if you get the chance to go to Yakutia at some point in your life, the jewelry they have is GORGEOUS! I asked if there was a place in Krasnoyarsk I could purchase any, but I was told I would have to actually go to Yakutia.)
Moyi druz’ya, this is why I chose to do this. I have the opportunity to share my country and culture with others as well as learn about other countries and cultures from people I would never get the chance to meet if I hadn’t left the U.S. This is why I encourage everyone to try to travel outside of their rodina [motherland, homeland] at least once in their life. It is the best gift you can give yourself. Why? Because you will not only understand others better, but also yourself. And you will be enriched for it.
Until next time, be well.