Aleksandr Zaitsev: “Program Russian Language Ambassadors to the World is a True Cultural Exchange”
Aleksandr Zaitsev, a Master Degree student at the Institute of Philology of PetrSU, took part in an expedition of the Russian Language Ambassadors to the World program. Aleksandr has visited Armenia where he has taught the Russian language and presented Russian culture in schools of Hrazdan, a city in Kotayk region, which is an hour drive from Erevan.
- Aleksandr, why have you decided to take part in the program?
- For the last two years, I have been a volunteer of the SLOVO Agency that adapts international students of PetrSU and holds various classes for Karelian schoolchildren. Thus, participation in the program that works with foreign schoolchildren seemed like a logical extension of my activities and an interesting experience in itself. Besides that, I have taken part in a similar educational expedition of the SLOVO Agency to Kyrgyzstan, the city of Osh. Thanks to the Agency and PetrSU support I already had the experience necessary for the trip to Armenia. Moreover, I know many Russian Language Ambassadors who are or have been studying at PetrSU. They are amazing people who have inspired me, so I’ve decided to be a part of this program.
- What is the main goal of these expeditions?
- The goal is to engage and inspire children from different countries to study the Russian language and Russian culture. I am sure that we have succeeded in this. The program is a true cultural exchange and by telling schoolchildren about Russia, I have learned a lot about Armenia.
- Who and what have you taught?
- I held classes for two 6th grade and two 9th grade groups. On the first day, the classes were similar as at first I had to get to know the children, learn their interests and assess their proficiency in the Russian language. Based on that I prepared the next classes.
For instance, with the 6th-grade children each class was creative: children painted Russian nesting dolls, made toys from fabric and staged performances based on Russian fairy-tales. For the 9th graders, we prepared a quiz on the history and culture of Russia and classes on Russian literature and rap music, their similarities, and differences. After the class, they could even recite poems by Russian classic poets to a beat.
- What are the specifics of the work?
- During the expeditions, the Ambassadors hold classes in the Russian language and culture for foreign schoolchildren, and sometimes students. There are two intricacies.
Firstly, the level of proficiency in the Russian language varies greatly even within one country depending on a school, let alone in different countries. So the Ambassadors do not come to a country with ready-made lesson plans, instead, they prepare classes then and there with the help of a resource teacher from the Pushkin Institute. Secondly, it is impossible to teach Russian in a week, so the principal aim of the program is to inspire school children to study the Russian language and culture. That is why all classes take the form of games.
- What was the most memorable about the expedition?
- While preparing for the expedition, we have been studying the Armenian culture and classic works of Armenian literature. In Armenia, we have seen many sights, for instance, Geghard monastery, the Temple of Garni, and Lake Sevan.
At the end of an expedition, the ambassadors always arrange a performance at which schoolchildren show what they have learned in the form of dances, songs or staging of fairy-tales. In their turn, the ambassadors demonstrate what they have learned. At our school, we recited a poem in the Armenian language and the applause after each verse was the most memorable moment for me.
- Would you like to be a participant of the program again or, perhaps, come back to your students?
- Yes, of course. I hope that the next year I will go on an expedition once more. Yet, it is unlikely that I will see Hrazdan and my student again in the framework of the program, as destinations change each year.