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Resident Director, Moscow
Student Services Assistant
Center Director, St. Petersburg & Moscow
To learn more about student life on the Moscow Business & International Affairs program, like us on Facebook.
Resident Director, Moscow
Student Services Assistant
Center Director, St. Petersburg & Moscow
С наступающим! Happy New Year! Soon those words will mark the beginning of every conversation, as Muscovites prepare to greet 2016. Although official New Year’s activities in Moscow begin next week, students on CIEE’s Business and International Relations program are already experiencing the magic of Moscow during the winter holidays with such traditional activities as skating in Gorky Park and strolls through GUM and Red Square’s Christmas Market.
With the approach of the New Year, the fall semester at MGIMO is coming to a close. In preparation for their departure next week, students recently took part in a re-entry seminar, where they reflected on their experiences of the past four months, discussed what they learned, and considered how they might apply their new knowledge, skills and experiences at home.
Students reviewed the highlights of their semester, reflecting on the entire program – from dorm life to MGIMO classes, from everyday interactions with taxi drivers and store clerks to once-in-a-lifetime travels. Through the course of those conversations, they realized they will be leaving Moscow with concrete, measurable knowledge and skills--such as improved Russian language and a more sophisticated understanding of international relations and economics. After four months in Moscow, students also identify themselves as being more patient, better able to take new perspectives into account, more confident in their ability to deal with difficult situations, and better equipped to tolerate ambiguity.
In the spirit of the season, let’s take a look back at the experiences students identified as being the most transformative and most valuable.
This week is the last week of classes for our students – they are writing papers, preparing presentations and studying for final exams (both written and oral). It marks the end of what students identify as one of the biggest challenges of their exchange experience – adjusting to a different academic culture and system of higher education. At MGIMO many elements of academics are different than in US universities – from class scheduling, to homework, to assessment, to lecture styles. While at times the differences were frustrating, at the re-entry seminar students reported feeling a sense of accomplishment for having successfully navigated the differences, becoming more patient and tolerant of ambiguity in the process.
Students have also appreciated the wide breath of perspectives represented in classes at MGIMO’s School for Governance and International Affairs. As part of their CIEE course US-Russian Relations, students participated in round table discussions with their Russian peers on issues, discussing and constructively debating US-Russian relations.
In addition to regularly scheduled MGIMO classes, CIEE students also attended a series of lectures on Russian history by MGIMO professor and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Diplomat Maria Pavlova. Professor Pavlova covered a survey of Russian history from 862 through modern Russia. The series culminated with an excursion to the History of Diplomacy Museum, located in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and open only by special invitation.
This fall CIEE students complimented their BA courses at the School of Governance and International Affairs with active participation in MGIMO conferences, lectures and clubs. In November and December, students took part in activities of the International Club, Debate Club and Energy Club. They also attended International Cuisine Night, Russian-North Korea Friendship Night, MGIMO’s Hanukkah celebration, an economics forum on renewable energy and an international conference “Problems of Global Governance: Economy, Politics, Security.” The events provided students with opportunities to meet Russian students from different departments of the university and to hear a wide variety of perspectives on current issues, perspectives not usually represented on a US campus.
Students on the Business and International Relations program have the option to complete an unpaid academic internship. This semester students completed internships at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), a non-profit academic think-tank founded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
At RIAC, interns had a unique view into Russian foreign policy making process. Students supported projects like the Development of Russian-Chinese Relations, Cooperation for a Greater Europe, and Raising the Efficiency of Russian Participation in BRICS by writing media summaries, transcribing speeches from English-language conferences, preparing monthly digests for publication, and editing and evaluating English-language articles. They also attended weekly presentations by RIAC staff on foreign affairs issues such as the Ukrainian Crises, International Cooperation in the Arctic, and the impact of think tanks on foreign policy making in Russia. Working at RIAC gave students the opportunity to reflect on cultural differences in the workplace and build a professional network, while gaining concrete professional skills and knowledge in their field. Even the commute to the RIAC office, which included a walk across the Moscow River with a view of the Kremlin on one side and Gorky Park on the other, contributed to making the internship an unforgettable experience.
From short trips on public transportation to CIEE organized excursions to St. Petersburg and Kazan, to independent trips within Russia and countries of the former Soviet space, travel was an important part of the students’ experience. While most students could share embarrassing stories of mistakes they made while learning to use public transportation, all agreed that the metro is one of the things they will miss most about life in Moscow. By the end of the semester, armed with apps for the metro and ground transportation, students have mastered travel from the MGIMO campus to stores, shopping centers, libraries, museums and parks.
The Moscow transportation system served as a good introduction to travel in Russia – and students quickly put it to use during CIEE organized trips to St. Petersburg in late September and Kazan in early November. St. Petersburg, about 400 miles to the north of Moscow, and Kazan, about 450 miles to the east, are both an overnight train ride away from the capital. Students traveled in four-person compartments, drinking tea and playing cards just like typical Russian students.
In Russia it is commonly said that Moscow is not Russia – you cannot visit Moscow alone and come away with an understanding of Russia. In their 3-day excursions to St. Petersburg and Kazan, students were exposed to a very different Russia. While both are large cities, neither St. Petersburg nor Kazan share the international metropolis feel of Moscow. Students experienced St. Petersburg as a more European, slower moving city and Kazan as a multi-ethnic city with a blend of Russian and Tatar culture. The trips gave students a glimpse into the diversity and vastness of Russia, something that is difficult to experience without leaving Moscow.
By November and December, students had settled in to life at MGIMO – they became more comfortable with classes, life in the dorm and the rhythms of daily life in Moscow. With the basics of student life on more stable footing, students began to seek out interaction with Russians. Whether making traditional Russian pancakes (блины), watching classic Russian films, skating, or just going for walks, students began actively socializing with their Russian peers beyond the halls of MGIMO. For many students, this is why they came to Russia — to move beyond the headlines and the rhetoric of politics, to learn about Russia from the people who know it best.
Into the New Year
While the students will soon leave Moscow, they will take with them memories of their experiences and a new knowledge, new skills and new perspectives on the world. At the re-entry seminar students identified several concrete ways they will apply what they learned in their time in Moscow. They will bring the Russian perspective into their classes and discussions with professors and fellow students, they will use research to inform development of a senior thesis, they will actively seek out foreign students on their campuses, and they will act with more compassion and understanding to non-native speakers of English. Sounds like they have a busy and productive year ahead!
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С наступающим новым годом! Happy New Year! Wishing you a year of learning and growing!
Nancy Kogin, Resident Director, Moscow Business & International Relations program
Kristina Savchuk, Moscow Student Services Assistant
Irina Makoveeva, Center Director
When in Rome, Do as the Romans. It’s a popular mantra for exchange students studying all over the world. There’s a similar, though not identical, expression in Russian -- В чужой монастырь со своим уставом не ходят (Don’t go to someone else’s monastery with your own set of rules). Thus, proverb wisdom says, in order to adjust to a new culture:
Sounds simple, but while perhaps intellectually obvious, the practice of recognizing and appreciating new perspectives and ways of doing things is surprisingly complicated. Students must observe, study, reflect, explore and participate in their host culture. As students on CIEE’s Business and International Relations program have learned over the last two months, all that work can be exhausting, but also profoundly rewarding and critically important in today’s interconnected world. Read on for a snapshot of their journey.
Students arrived in Moscow on September 1, traditionally the first day of school in Russia, and began their program with orientation sessions and excursions designed to introduce them to Moscow. They took a bus tour of the city—with stops at major sites like Red Square and Sparrow Hills-- and a walking tour of the Metro to get an overall sense of Moscow.
Within the first month of the program, students had plenty of opportunities to observe elements of Russian culture as they participated in a guided tour of the Kremlin, learned about masterpieces of Russian art at the Tretyakov Gallery, viewed the collection of historical artifacts at the Museum of Contemporary Russian History, engaged with the interactive exhibits at the newly opened Jewish Museum and Center of Tolerance and watched a performance of “Sleeping Beauty” at the Kremlin Ballet Theater.
As Siyana Chekanov (Oral Roberts University) notes, the excursions gave students a new view of Moscow: “I feel like everything I see in Moscow looks beautiful in pictures, but doesn't come close to how overwhelmingly magnificent it is in real life! There is so much depth, so much life to the city that no photographer could capture.” Jennifer Adrian (University of Minnesota) agrees: "For me, seeing Saint Basil's Cathedral makes it real that I'm here, that I'm actually in Russia. It's such an iconic structure and every time I see it, it takes my breath away. And I always have to take pictures, because it seems that you can never quite capture the full experience in a phone, but I keep trying! Being able to see that is something I'll always remember."
I really liked the Jewish Museum and Center of Tolerance as the exhibits were highly interactive. I found that the museum was effective as it is organized like a timeline, and tells the story of the Russian Jewish community. In addition, I was able to learn a lot about Russian and Soviet history through the Russian Jewish experience. I especially liked the exhibits on Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union in the 1980s and 1990s. -Wildon Kaplan (Bowdoin College)
From left: Kristina Savchuk, MGIMO student, Siyana Chekanov (Oral Roberts University), Zhaoning (Johnson) Liu (College of William & Mary), Wildon Kaplan (Bowdoin College), Andrea Thorsted (University of Colorado Denver,) Jennifer Adrian (University of Minnesota), and Ben Griffiths (University of Pennsylvania).
Students on the Business and International Relations Program study at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), Russia’s preeminent foreign affairs university. Besides required classes in Russian language and US-Russian Relations, students take three to five elective courses and an optional internship. While sounding quite similar to the structure of a US university schedule, MGIMO has different rules and different ways of doing things. Students spent the first months learning how to do as the MGIMO student does.
When I first came to Moscow I assumed that my university here would be at least somewhat similar to my home university in America. I realized almost immediately how deeply mistaken I was. Upon arrival, I noticed some obvious differences: intense security, private bathrooms in the dorms, and no meal plan option. Unlike my home university, classes at MGIMO meet once a week, Monday through Saturday, and are an hour and a half long. Privacy is nonexistent in terms of academics. Grades are called out loud and every student knows who has the best and who has the worst marks. Classes for students entering the university are pre-selected and he or she must strictly follow the order of classes. There is no such thing as picking your own classes or having a “special case”. However, crazy as it may seem, now I have to strain to notice the differences, and the differences I do notice don’t bother me. It’s wild how quickly this new way of life has become quite normal after just a little over a month. -Siyana Chekanov (Oral Roberts University)
MGIMO’s School of Government and International Affairs offers a wide selection of direct enrollment courses to CIEE students, all conducted in English. Many of the courses have a specific focus on Russian business and international affairs—for example, Priorities of Russian Foreign Policy, Economic and Political Processes in the CIS, and the Economic Strategy of Modern Russia—and offer content that would not be typically found at a US university.
Courses that are staples for a US university, such as Philosophy, Sociology and Economics, are also offered as part of the School’s English language bachelor program. These courses, designed and taught by MGIMO professors, provide students a view of the material through the Russian lens-- with readings and discussions that encourage a comparative analysis of Russian and Western perspectives.
I was surprised by how my professor [of Economic Strategy of Modern Russia] portrayed the current state of the Russian economy as quite dire. I was expecting a more positive analysis, in line with nationalist sentiments, but instead it was very objective and similar to what I've heard in the West. What we talked about in the class that isn't highlighted in the West is the relatively untapped human capital potential of Russia - which is enormous. Russia has a long history of producing extremely intelligent scientists and experts, but these people aren't currently being completely utilized. If this was fixed, however, the outlook for the Russia's economy could look very promising. We don't hear about that much in the West. -Ben Griffiths (University of Pennsylvania)
Through living here, through the lectures by my professors, and through the discussions I hear in my internship, I can see that Russians really do value things differently. In the US, the main focus is on freedom through means of democracy and in Russia, their main focus is stability and order since, across their history, there hasn’t been a whole lot of either. And though they’ve tried and are trying to achieve democracy, not many people here or in the US can agree on what defines “freedom” and what freedoms should be given to the public. I've started to question more and more why the Russian mentality is a certain way and this has helped me to be more accepting when someone behaves or something happens in a way I did not expect. -Andrea Thorsted (University of Colorado at Denver)
When I took my Introduction to International Relations class in the United States, we were taught the basic theories of international relations and accepted them as being globally applicable and globally relevant. I was never told that the dominant theories of international relations were highly Westernized or based on the American experience, but that's one of the first things that has been mentioned in many of my classes here. Conversations in classes about what Russia values and why it makes the decisions that it does really help me to have a new perspective on their actions. And being in situations where not everyone is for the American position has forced me to look more closely at what I agree with and why, and through that I've gained a better understanding of my position. -Jennifer Adrian (University of Minnesota)
Just like a US university, MGIMO offers CIEE students the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of lectures and academic conferences. In October, MGIMO hosted many events. A sampling: a week-long series of lectures on Cuba, a round table on Cloud Computing Technologies, an art lecture series “The World through the eyes of MGIMO,” and lectures on “Afghanistan: Problems of regional security and cooperation” and “The Iran Agreement: What’s going on behind the scenes.”
While these events are usually in Russian, MGIMO also hosts campus-wide events in English. This semester CIEE students joined MGIMO students in attending a lecture by Dartmouth Professor William Wohlforth, “The US Role in the Contemporary World Order” and another by Vice President of the East-West Institute David J. Firestein, “The Ex Factor: Exceptionalism and World Conflict.” In October, students took advantage of simultaneous translation to attend sessions of the Global University BRICS Summit, hosted by MGIMO and attended by international students, academicians, and government officials, including Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov.
In mid-October, the US Embassy hosted a round table with U.S. Foreign Service Officers for CIEE students. For students of foreign affairs, the visit was invaluable, giving them a glimpse of what it’s like to work as part of the diplomatic corps. The Officers described the Foreign Service selection process and their individual roles at the Embassy, and discussed the challenges and benefits of working in the Foreign Service in Russia.
While the first few months at MGIMO involved a lot of observation, students also had the opportunity to participate in university life through clubs and activities. The list of clubs offered at MGIMO will sound familiar to any US university student – debate club, model UN, choir, business club, photography club, student theater, etc. Each week clubs announce their activities through social media and bulletin boards around campus. This semester, CIEE students have been active in International Club, joining MGIMO students in Moscow City Day events and a ballet. Students also took part in MGIMO’s annual Moscow Quest—joining a team of Russian students in solving riddles that took them all across Moscow.
CIEE student Zhaoning (Johnson) Liu (College of William and Mary) discovered the one club missing from MGIMO’s offerings – Chinese Club. While MGIMO’s student “fraternity of nations” is made up of many individual clubs — from French to Georgian to South Korean—the Chinese Club hasn’t been active since 2008. Johnson is working with the school’s international department to bring together Chinese students studying at MGIMO and Russian students of Chinese for language and cultural events.
A dynamic city of over 12 million people, Moscow offers endless opportunities for CIEE students to explore beyond the MGIMO campus. They’ve strolled through Gorky Park, attended city-wide festivals, discovered English language movie theaters and Georgian restaurants, hunted down Moscow’s “China Town,” and traveled by электричка (electric commuter train) to small towns outside of Moscow. Recently, they discovered the Moscow Anti-Café culture, spending an evening with MGIMO students watching the classic Soviet comedy “Бриллиантовая Рука” (The Diamond Arm).
I went to Zvenigorod and I was amazed that I could explore cities outside of Moscow easily on an elektrichka. On the way to the town, I got to see museums dedicated to the famous poet Pushkin and others about the Napoleonic Wars. I visited a monastery which helped me become more acquainted with Russian Orthodox Church traditions. It was a very beautiful, small town that had all the elements of Russian culture and I'm glad I was able to take the time to explore it. -Andrea Thorsted (University of Colorado)
But in the two months since arriving, CIEE students have done more than just explored Moscow. For example, Zhaoning (Johnson) Liu (College of William and Mary) opened a library card at Moscow’s famous Lenin Library and has learned to navigate the more-complicated-than-you’d imagine system for requesting books; Siyana Chekanov (Oral Roberts University) attends a non-denominational church that “feels exactly like a Russian version of my home church;” and Andrea Thorsted (University of Colorado at Denver) volunteers teaching English to teenagers in an orphanage with the NGO “Bolshaya Peremena.” They’ve done things that no tourist ever does; they’ve begun to participate in community life in Moscow. They’re doing as the Muscovites do.
To learn more about student life on the Moscow Business & International Affairs program, like us on Facebook (CIEE Study Center Moscow).
Всего хорошего (All the best),
Resident Director, Moscow
By the warmer May months, CIEE students have experienced all the imaginable weather variations Russia’s capricious spring likes to offer its visitors; from light flurries on a Monday, to the following Monday demanding summer clothes be worn. After four months living and studying in Russia’s capital city, these contradictions have ceased to astonish our students; they have successfully navigated the cultural peculiarities of a new environment, assimilated to their new surroundings, and gained a deeper understanding of an essential part of the customary lifestyle.
With the finish line of the semester getting closer, students are nearly finished with their final exams in all the fields they have been exploring this semester, from marketing and governance to constitutional law and US-Russia relations.
Murisa Ahmetasevic (Colorado College’16) and Claire Aubin (University of Oregon ’16) in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia
Murisa Ahmetasevic (ColoradoCollege’16) and Cathedral of Christ the Savior
CIEE students and Center Director, Irina Makoveeva
This semester, the CIEE Internship Seminar offered by the Business and International Relations program has been led by Yulia Nikitina, associate professor of world politics and research fellow at the Center for the Post-Soviet Studies at the Moscow State University of International Relations (MGIMO). Through this internship seminar, students have had a chance to work on-site as well as to learn about business in the classroom. Professor Nikitina helps students to get the most out of their experience through additional papers and presentation enabling students to critically analyze and express the knowledge and skills they have gained on-site.
The internship seminar proved to be one of the most rewarding in class experiences. Taught by an amazing professor, the seminar was designed to encourage us to talk over our internship experiences and ask for support and advice, but it also had an academic component to it. We discussed topics related to contemporary Russia and international relations – topics we are greatly interested in and we could learn a lot about from Prof. Nikitina.
CIEE students and Professor Yulia Nikitina
The list of interesting and intriguing direct enrollment courses is far from few, providing students the opportunity to explore the various fields that pique their interests. This semester, one of the courses that have captivated the interest of our students is the Comparative Constitutional Law course, led by Dr. Elena Kremyanskaya, alumni of the MGIMO and the Hague International Law Academy. Professor Kremyanskaya’s experience as a member of the Advisory Board of the Council of the Federation Committee on Constitutional Legislation, Legal and Judicial Affairs and Civil Society Development makes her a wonderful source of information and knowledge to students.
The study of Comparative Constitutional Law has deepened students’ common theoretical knowledge of Russian law, and has equipped students with the practical knowledge of orienting a different system of law, understanding constitutional basics and principles, and providing students the information needed to forecast the development of the Russian state and its institutions.
Comparative Constitutional Law is a very interesting class where we examine and compare systems of governance throughout the world, as well as their differing legal frameworks. Because the class is made up of mostly international students, we frequently present our own countries' methods of governance, which has led to some really valuable discussions and debates. It has been very eye-opening for me and I've truly enjoyed it.
Moscow is an alluring place that will satisfy any enthusiast of Soviet art: Meandering through the streets of Russia’s capital or even using the metro, Soviet architecture and its allure is effervescent. Nevertheless, a full appreciation of Russian art and its numerous styles cannot be achieved without acquainting oneself with the tremendous architectural heritage of the imperial era. Seeking insight into the life of the eighteenth – nineteen-century Russian nobility, students journeyed to the “cultural capital” of Russia – Saint Petersburg.
Students relished the best views of the city, touring St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Church on the Spilled Blood and visiting “the cradle” of St. Petersburg, the Peter and Paul Fortress. A trip to St. Petersburg, wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the State Hermitage Museum; students spent an afternoon touring the Winter Palace and its vast collections.
CIEE students and Student Services Coordinator, Pasha Sergeev
Unlike any other evening imaginable, Moscow students joined the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center students in the implementation of the semester’s Signature Project, the CIEE Spring Ball. Students dressed in magnificent gowns and costumes of the Russian nobles from nineteen century, and danced in traditional ballroom style – this night will forever stay in the students’ memory as a highlight of their experience in Russia.
Murisa Ahmetasevic (ColoradoCollege’16) with CIEE St. Petersburg student Ben Lourie
Our trip to St. Petersburg was one of my favorite parts of the entire program. The city itself is such a stark contrast to Moscow that it almost felt like being in another country, and it really felt like a European mini-getaway, which we all loved. Getting to participate in CIEE St. Peterburg's Spring Ball was absolutely a highlight of the semester. We were able to rent really elaborate costumes and be transported back to 19th century Russia, which is definitely an experience I'm going to remember for a very long time.
CIEE students and Student Services Coordinator, Pasha Sergeev
During the spring semester, students were presented two guest lectures devoted to Russian history. Both lectures were conducted by Maria Pavlova, PhD in History from Moscow State University and Associate Professor at The Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia at the MGIMO. The first lecture, "They want great changes, we want great Russia," explored the main reforms in Russia prior to 1917. Dr. Pavlova did an excellent job of narrating pre-Soviet Russia’s winding path, covering the most notable and positive leaders, as well as those that darken Russia’s history.
Prior to the second guest lecture, students visited the Museum of Russian Diplomatic Services History, which is located in the building of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This place is unique as it is the only museum devoted to diplomatic services in the world. It was here in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs students had the second guest lecture, “Main historic directions of Russian foreign policy”. Professor Pavlova presented the history of foreign policy and diplomatic services of Russia from the ancient times when Russia was just building its state to nowadays when international affairs is a highly complicated and comprehensive issue.
For our guest lectures we wanted to learn more about pre-Soviet progression of the Russian society, particularly about radical reforms which shaped it. As this was a subject neither of us were well educated about, we were pleased to receive a comprehensive review of early Russian history through interactive and engaging lectures.
CIEE students and Maria Pavlova in the Museum of Russian Diplomatic Services History
CIEE students and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia
One of the most intriguing parts of living abroad is truly immersing oneself in the local cuisine. Our students did not only that, but also spent a decent amount of time with Student Services Coordinator, Pasha Sergeev learning to cook traditional Russian dishes. After the first couple of hours spent with intensive cooking, the table was stacked full with delicious homemade Russian meals, such as borscht, chicken Kiev, and bliny (Russian style crepes) with cranberry sauce. Now students can easily surprise their friends at home by making a delightful dinner po-russki (in Russian style).
Russian cooking night was so much fun! The three of us teamed up to attempt some very traditional Eastern European recipes like blini, borsch, and chicken Kiev, and they all turned out pretty tasty. It was a really great hands-on way to experience Russian culture and I can't wait to try these recipes again.
CIEE students before deserved feast
Taking selfies while cooking!
This semester, CIEE hosted two Cinema Club meetings. Students watched the sensational “Leviathan” by Andrey Zvyagintsev and one of the best Soviet comedies “Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future” by Leonid Gayday. Students enjoyed the movies as well as discussing them with Russian students afterwards.
The CIEE sponsored cinema club events were a great way to meet students at MGIMO and enjoy Russian cinematography. We watched contemporary films and discussed present-day Russia, and we were wowed by some Soviet comedies as well. Better yet, there was pizza, and it definitely improved the experience.
This Spring 2015 Semester was concluded with a visit to an authentic restaurant of Ukrainian cuisine. Students had their farewell dinner with Center Director, Irina Makoveeva and Student Services Coordinator, Pasha Sergeev. The evening was full of kind words of gratitude and bittersweet moments as students recollected their brightest memories of the semester and reflected on all they have experienced. In a couple of days, students will be meeting with their loved ones, as they will be greeted home after an unforgettable journey to Russia.
CIEE students, Center Director and Students Services Coordinator with their favorite Ukrainian waiter, Andrey
It is hard to believe that our four months in Moscow are almost over. There are still so many things to see, so many things to do – this city is so big and culturally rich that our short stay here wasn’t nearly enough to fully explore it. I am sad to leave; especially now when the spring has arrived and our campus is beautifully green.
Vsego khoroshego (All the Best),
Student Services Coordinator