I am still trying to convince myself that it was not all a dream. After passing a highly competitive selection process, I became one of 20 young Russian journalists to be granted the opportunity to participate in the MEGA program and study journalism in the United States.
· How were you feeling as you prepared to depart for the U.S.? How are you feeling now?
My two dreams in life were to become a journalist and come to America. I never imagined that they would both come true together in one moment. When I got the acceptance letter I burst out crying in tears of joy.
The managers of the program prepared us for the “culture shock”, the long flight, and overall for the new experience that we were about to embark on. Upon arrival, I immediately fell in love with the country, the friendly people, the best team leaders (Nadya and Den) and our group of young journalists.
I was inspired by our group of young journalists from different Russian cities. All of them are smart and have interesting backgrounds.
· What are some similarities and differences you’ve noticed between U.S. and Russian life?
I was surprised that Americans actually don’t have any negative biases about Russian people and were quite nice after learning that I am Russian.
During the program, I’ve met several Americans with Russian roots. They were happy to hear about my country and some people said that they love Saint Petersburg — my hometown. I was so glad to hear it.
It’s nice to see that small talk is usual in the U.S. On many occasions I would be standing next to someone in a line or in an elevator and they would say something like: “How’s it going?”. However, in Russia, if someone next to you in line strikes up a conversation, it feels weird and awkward.
I once heard someone say, “Russians are like coconuts. They are hard on the outside, but on the inside, they are sweet and soft.” It’s funny, but I believe the saying holds some truth. I did my best to explain to Americans that on the surface we can look cold and reserved, but on the inside we are nice.
- Smile. The first difference that we noticed was on the plane from Amsterdam to Boston. When we came on board the plane, we saw many people with smiling faces that enjoyed small talk. This is not typical for Russians, especially for me as I am from the north of the country – St Petersburg. In general, Russians don’t smile if they don’t have a reason. If you smile at somebody, they usually think they are supposed to know you.
- Food. Before the visiting of the USA, I believed in the stereotype that the American diet consisted mostly of burgers, coca-cola, and junk food. While this is not really true, compared to the Russian diet, the meals are somewhat less healthy and the portions are much larger. Also, it was interesting that all of the drinks were served with ice, which is not very common in Russia.
What are some similarities and differences you see between U.S. and Russian student life?
We didn’t gain much insight into the lives of U.S. students, but we were still able to observe a few differences:
- The U.S education system is more based in practice than theory.For example, Emerson College in Boston gives students the opportunity to work in a real TV studio. Similarly, Champlain College in Burlington provides all the equipment for shooting reports and making creative projects.
- It is not abnormal to have a gap year between school and university.In Russia, it usually means that you failed your exams and have to wait one year to try again.
- I’ve never stayed in a Russian dorm, but the dorms at Champlain College were beautiful. They were modeled after Victorian Housesand the rooms were very cozy. I really liked the American student lifestyle.
And regarding similarities:
- On the MEGA program, we went to The Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts and it looked similar to the Graduate School of Management SPBU, where I’m studying in regards to the design of the campus, the educational program, and the subjects that are taught.
- Professors are very inspired by their work and always want to motivate students to try their best.
· What have you learned so far from the people you’ve met?
To be open to the World and new experiences. Also, don’t be afraid of small talk and ignore all preconceived notions.
· As you think about the time ahead, what are you looking forward to? What are you concerned about?
I think our group was most looking forward to seeing and experiencing New York.