Today after class the Dean invited us to meet students from Angola and China. They were receiving their certificates after completing 8 months of studying Russian and were going to have a small ceremony. We went into the room where it was to be held, sat down and waited for the others to arrive. Before long some students came in. At one point the Dean showed some students in and told them that they had the opportunity to meet with some students from America. Immediately we were surrounded by students coming over and introducing themselves to us, asking us questions and speaking to us. The one rule set was that we could only speak in Russian. There were groans from the students all around but, in the end, I think between some of the other students, their Russian was better than their English. So we began chatting in Russian entirely. Because the two other American students I was with didn’t know Russian that well, I ended up doing a lot of translating. It was also interesting to see their level of Russian and to explain to each other words that the other didn’t know. But we understood one another perfectly even though we were speaking in our second language. Incredible, to say the least.
It was quite exhilarating, communicating with them and sharing our experiences of learning Russian. Then they had a small ceremony where they gave out certificates. Several of the students came up and spoke, in Russian, which I think was quite brave of them. The Chinese students seemed very shy but the Angolans were more than happy to get acquainted with us. We ended up exchanging phone numbers and made plans to meet up again during our stay. It was also such a strange feeling to realize that we may have been the first Americans they’d ever met.
I almost began to wish that I was a beginning student studying in Russia because the group of students had such great energy and camaraderie between them. I’m sure the bonding that takes place between them is amazing as they have such understanding and support while they’re living away from home and going through the same things, living in another culture and learning a new language.