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Vegetarian Food and American Music in Tolstoy’s Russia

This spring, HSE University - St. Petersburg has been especially lucky with old and new friends coming to visit. From 14th to 30th of May we hosted a group from University of Dayton, Ohio, that came to participate in the programme ‘Tolstoy’s Russia’ and to learn more about the past and present of our country.

Over two weeks, students and their group leaders, Dr. David Darrow and Dr. Caroline Merithew, attended lectures on Russian intelligencia, Petrograd and its involvement with the revolutionary movement, as well as construction of collective memory, delivered by our renowned professors Tatiana Borisova and Sergey Akopov.

Emily Ruebelmann (student, University of Dayton)

"They have been super informative. Our lesson was about European influence within Russia and that has been very intriguing to hear about. I never realized that there could have been some similarities between the countries, so hearing about the influence that different cultures have within the world… that has been very insightful".

Erin Geraghty (student, University of Dayton)

"The lectures were really interesting. We got to see a different perspective. I liked the topic called ‘Is Russia European?’, especially how it was kind of related to United States. Everyone here has really good English, which has been surprising".

Dr. David Darrow (group leader, University of Dayton)

"For me, the lectures provided by HSE were also a critical part of the cross-cultural international educational experience, as it gave students an opportunity to consider alternative narratives about Russia's past and present than they hear at home, and get some sort of an idea about the similarities and differences in our two educational systems".

The courses were accompanied by various fieldtrips and visits to museums, cathedrals and palaces of Saint Petersburg. This place is not referred to as ‘the cultural capital’ for nothing, and programme participants got to see it all. Treating the Russian museum as their classroom, students have learned about collective memory and its role in current Russian politics. They have also visited the Hermitage, Museum of Ethnography, Catherine Palace and Peterhof:

Caroline Dixon (student, University of Dayton)

"That [the cultural programme] was really really great. We went to most of the big things, like museums and cathedrals. I really liked the Hermitage, so beautiful, and I also really liked Peterhof".

Saint Petersburg is a place that never fails to amuse. Programme participants have made some surprising discoveries about Russia and its inhabitants:

Eric Sheffield (student, University of Dayton)

"I was just amazed by how influenced Russia is by American culture, like how I know all the music here. I read all the T-shirts here and there are more English T-shirts here that there are in the United states. I am always wondering – do they understand what’s on their shirt?"

Dr. Caroline Merithew, (group leader, University of Dayton)

"I am a vegetarian, and I think, yet another stereotype has been exploded. Over the couple weeks I have been here I have had wonderful food: local food, vegetables and that again is a very nice surprise".

Valuable studies, exciting lectures, cultural experiences and, equally important – connections and friendships. Accompanied by members of ESN HSE Saint Petersburg, who have proved themselves to be very helpful, students participated in our annual Culture’s Day event, getting to know the university community and presenting USA and Dayton.

Studying abroad is an experience like no other, that allows one to discover the country they visit from a different perspective.

Dr. Caroline Merithew (group leader, University of Dayton)

"It is very important for college students to have an international experience and I think that liaisons between universities is the key to making that experience meaningful and successful. The programme that the students have experienced here has ratcheted up their experience not only because they have met other students their age, but also because of the lectures they have been able to participate in".

Dr. David Darrow (group leader, University of Dayton):

From an organizer's standpoint, the professional care and attention to detail from the HSE staff was exceptional. I really appreciated the Erasmus Scholars too (as did my students). For all of my students, this was their first trip to Russia. For many of them, it was also their first trip abroad. HSE did much to make it a valuable learning experience for them that shaped their outlook and future plans.

Having Dayton students and professors as a part of our international community, even just for a couple weeks, was a wonderful opportunity. 

We thank our dear guests, and hope to see you again soon!

The Tolstoy's Russia programme became possible with the support of HSE St. Petersburg's International Office and the academic supervision of Irina Shchemeleva.