When I first arrived in St. Petersburg on August 18, 2004, I was alone in my small flat and I said to myself, “What have I done? I wonder if I made a big mistake?” My original plan was to give lectures only at St. Petersburg University of Economics and Finance (FINEC). It was really a thrill to get my passbook for entrance into the university.
Later, during my break, I decided to write a book that would be designed for easy and interesting reading for the students. It was eventually decided that the book would be translated into Russian. The university will publish my textbook, and I will try to integrate it into the curriculum in fall 2005. The dean at FINEC said that they were very happy to have me there. The dean stated that I was the first foreigner to offer them something.
After January, everything started to fall in place. I gave a lecture entitled, “The American Corner Library,” which the dean from Saint-Petersburg State University of Engineering and Economics (ENGECON) attended. He later offered me an opportunity to lecture to his students. Two weeks later, I began lectures at ENGECON and got another special pass to enter their university. I wondered what the odds were for a former Nebraska farm boy who used to feed the chickens, horses and cows, of getting two passes to enter two major universities in Russia.
On May 30, I presented certificates to those students who successfully completed the requirements of the course. The dean came in and told us all that it was a great opportunity and exciting for the university to be offered a business course in English. The students were very happy about this momentous occasion.
|Everyday I looked up and marveled at this magnificent building. Why you may ask? Because this is where the composer Tchkaivsky lived and died.
In April, I met two students from the Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL) and told them that I would like to give some presentations to their classes. The next week, I met the dean and was offered to lecture two different classes. Unfortunately, it was the end of the semester, and I could only attend for two weeks. All three universities willingly invited me to come back the next fall and teach.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney shipped textbooks to me, and I donated some of them to The American Corner Library. The director stated that she really appreciated updated textbooks and that they were very popular and are being used quite extensively.
At ENGECON, I was toasted at a seminar and very well respected by the administration. I was told that some administration faculty are former heads of the KGB. What a thrill it was to think that they were shaking my hand and honoring me. In the not too distant past, this would have been unimaginable. I wonder what mother would think?
On May 30, I was humbled and happy for the students at ENGECON who received their certificates for completion of the course that I presented. As I was leaving the building that day, I was told that the lady I had just passed by in the hallway was one of the deans and also President Putin’s godmother.
The last week of classes at FINEC, I gave a lecture to students on how to interview for a job. The next week, one of the students interviewed with the accounting firms of Ernst & Young and Price Waterhouse. He received job offers from both firms. This student had perfect attendance in my classes, and I know that I was a tremendous influence for him.
At IFL, the dean and students were very much a pleasure for me to work with. After every class on my way back to the city center, I was always on such a high. I felt that I was really making my presence felt here in Russia.
When I first came to visit Russia in 2001, I could not read any signs or speak the language. I was here for six nights and did not speak to anyone. I can remember that to get to the city center from my hotel it was seven metro stops, and I held back a finger for each stop but always forgot where I was after the fourth or fifth stop.
Now, after living here for over 10 months, I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the culture here. I can read and understand the signs, and communicate much better with the locals who speak no English. I have heard many stories from Russians concerning past and present events, and more fully understand some of the heartaches and frustrations that occur here. I have a more heightened awareness of the social and cultural diversity and I have great respect for the people who have survived great difficulties over the years of transition. I have a greater appreciation of what it is like to live without many things that we as Americans often take for granted.
The view of the Neva Embankment overlooking the Peter and Paul Fortress in the evening is the most incredible I have seen. It really is something to experience, especially during the White Nights.
The Fulbright Program has greatly enhanced my credentials and has given me the chance to learn and experience business operations in Russia. Before my Fulbright award I had no previous books or articles published. As mentioned earlier, I wrote a book that will be used by the university. Additionally, I published an article, and my story as a Fulbright Scholar will be published in a newsletter.
I would like to say that I have met so many very kind hearted people here. I find it much easier to meet people here then in America. The local citizens who speak little or no English will make an effort to communicate with me when I present myself for conversation. They are especially interested in spending time with me when I tell them I am an American professor and Fulbright Scholar. If you were to ask the people I have met here ten years from now if they remember me, I am sure that almost all of them will say yes, and that I have made a favorable impression on them.
I can honestly say that the Fulbright Scholar Program gave me the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many people from another culture. Of course, I will never forget a single minute of my time in Russia. When I reflect upon my experiences, I will be able to say proudly that I was a cultural ambassador in one of the most beautiful, mystifying and exciting cities in the world. It is honestly the happiest and most incredible time in my life, and I will gladly share my experience with others.
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exchange is the most significant current project
designed to continue the process of humanizing
mankind to the point, we would hope, that
nations can learn to live in peace"
--J. William Fulbright