Archive for September, 2010

Still Settling In

Over the last two weeks I have been learning about Volzhsky and how classes are taught at my home institute.

Volzhsky is a young city, which prides itself for being green because of its successful cleanup campaigns and its many planted trees. I am told that most trees here would dry up naturally on the arid steppes if they were not watered and cared for by the city. Still, the city also boasts several factories that produce plastics, chemicals and pipes. I am currently living in one of the nicest and oldest parts of the city with my host family in a “Stalinesque” designed apartment building.  Overall, I am grateful to be surrounded by so many trees in a nice part of one of Russia’s “greenest” cities with better air quality.

I am an English Teaching Assistant for the Linguistics department and I currently work with 2nd, 3rd and 5th year students. The class schedule seems to always be changing so I am still unsure when my classes are but I will hopefully know with certainty by October. The institute is a branch of Volgograd State University and has a four year bachelor’s degree program and a five year master’s program. I am already leading a class on essay writing/composition with advanced students that I really enjoy. Teaching their standard English classes with their textbook is proving to be more difficult but no one said learning to teach would be easy!

Students have classes nearly every weekday lasting an hour and a half. When students enter the institute they are put into groups according to their major/specialization and will take nearly the same classes together all four or five years of their education. Students typically enter higher education after finishing secondary school when they are 16 or 17 although there are always older students.

I have been elated to be invited to anything social, including day trips to Volgograd across the river, a dinner at a dacha, walks on the river banks and beach parks among other things . . .

Enjoy my pictures for a glimpse of some of my adventures.

Sculpture of the Grieving Mother


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The Arrival

I was first greeted in Volgograd by strong gusts of wind and blinding sunlight. Including the time I drove to Seattle and waited in airports it took nearly three days to arrive to Volgograd. But I won’t complain about the trip here because for some reason the airline upgraded my ticket from the East Coast to Moscow  to business class (it was nearly a 10 hour flight).  I could actually stretch my legs and even lay down! I was so amazed I wanted to take pictures but noting the nonchalance of my fellow business class passengers I tried to feign my disinterest (Anyone who knows me well can attest to how difficult masking my enthusiasm would be for me but it was good practice!). For instance, they actually gave us a choice of gourmet dishes, refilled my water in a fancy glass and even offered me warm lightly salted nuts in an elegant glass container. Yes, I am easily impressed! I hope I will always appreciate such luxuries.

Sleeping was still hard because of the time difference but I don’t want to imagine such a long flight in the economy section. I had a long flight from the West Coast to Korea once before but Korean Air offers much more space and luxuries than the U.S. carrier I took this time.

I was so relieved to retrieve all my baggage and even more happy to see the familiar face of my Fulbright coordinating host at the airport.  I stayed in the Institute’s guest room for several days and my coordinating host even ensured I had food, water and tea. Did I mention this guest room included toliet paper? What luxury compared to my arrival to Vladivostok as a mere exchange student just two years ago!

Everyone at the institute has heard about my arrival and I am pleased to be received with such enthusiasm. I am very grateful to have met so many kind people. I was even invited on a boat trip on the Volga with some German guests, the Dean and other administrators of the institute.

For now I am living with a very sweet host family until I can find a suitable apartment for the year. My class schedule is also still being configured so I have been trying to get oriented with the city and learn as much as I can about how I can imitate my host mother’s delicious food.