Friday, December 18, 2009


I just had a wonderful "end of the semester" evening: cooking Russian food (vareniki) with adding some Maldivian flavour (tuna) and filling everything with the joy of being with amazing people. The meal was followed by a nice movie "In Her Shoes". It was a nice light story to watch, but it had a touching poem read in it, which I really liked. This is
"One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop:
The art of losing isn't hard to master:
so many things seem filled wih the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother's watch. And look, my last,
or next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
I lost two cities. Lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Teaching and learning issues

As a memeber of TESOL I have just participated in a virtual seminar titled "Closing the Achievement Gap for Limited Formal Schooling and Long-Term English Language Learners." This theme was especially topical because yesterday we had Rita McDonald speaking about WIDA standards where she touched upon the same issues. Partcipating in this type of events I realize more and more what a difficult job American teachers are doing and how challenging it is to teach in an American school. From 9 years of personal teaching experience I can say that teaching is not an easy task. And I taught Russian students in Russia, where all students speak Russian and literacy rate is about 98%. It is difficult to imaging teaching in this country where the population is so diverse with different cultural background and some people come without any formal education at all.

Monday, November 30, 2009


I think that the warmest memory I will take home from the United states will be Thanksgiving Day celebration. It was my second Thanksgiving and both of them were so touching and remarkable.

This year my wonderful kind-hearted friend and classmate Leigh Smith invited me and other Fulbrighters for the celebration. Her house was so welcoming and family so friendly. It was a pleasure to spend this beautiful time with my class-mates, friends and Professor O'Dowd (the kindest person ever). Playing trivia challenge organized by Leda Chavarria, a Fulbrighter from Nicaragua, was not only fun but educational! We had learnt a lot about the history of Thanksgiving. Sharing "Thank you" among this huge company was very touching and I felt so anxious because so grateful to my life I was.

I am thankful to St. Michael's College, first of all, for the opportunities of cultural exchange, education, and - most of all- personal growth I am provided here. I am grateful to my friends for sharing this wonderful time with me. I am grateful to Leigh for being so kind and caring. I am grateful to my life which I live and which is so kind to me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One Week Without a Computer

I heard that in one of the classes a professor asked students not to use their cell phones for 3 days and describe their feelings about that. I thought that I would love to try something like that and a week ago I got this opportunity: the power cord for my computer stopped working, the battery died, no one's cord fitted my computer and it was the week of Thanksgiving- short hours or the library did not work at all. My first reaction was shock with horrible images (I am Drama Queen, I know): last weeks of the semester which means projects, big assignments and so forth. But then I recognized the beauty of it! I have never had such a wonderful weekend! My friends and I went bowling, organized a few movie-evenings in my apartment and went to the movie-theatre and much much more fun stuff. I have read a good book "The Rainmaker" by Grisham, I read a few chapters of The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain and I read a few stories of Sherlock Holmes- I had not read for a while so it was just ecstasy time! Whenever the feeling of guilt came to my mind- I had justification. I think I should organize No Computer Days more often!

Monday, September 14, 2009

My First Teaching Experience in the USA

Today was a very anxious and responsible day to me. I had to teach English for the first time in the USA after a one year break in teaching. I was concerned about many questions, starting with: "Do I remember how to teach?" up to "Will I be able to manage a group of multicultural diverse students of different ages?"
First of all, I should say that I have the best teacher ever to work with, Patricia Hoffmann, who is an experienced teacher of English in an Intensive English Program, highly respected both by her students and colleagues. It is a big responsibility and pleasure to be under her supervision. Another wonderful point is that this group of students is the most amazing group I have ever met. They are 11 young people in the age of 19 to 26 from Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Japan. I will have 5 classes with them and the first one was really challenging to me. The reason for that lies not in my anxiety about my ability to teach. I forgot about it after the first minute when the students entered the room so supportive with shining smiles. My biggest challenge was the topic I had chosen. We spoke about the human rights. It is a very interesting topic to discuss. Just interesting to discuss for me. But for students from Haiti, it happened to be a quite painful topic because they live in a country where their rights are very often violated. During this hour I had learned a lot about the life of people in their countries. It was difficult to lead a discussion when students expressed their pain along with their opinion.
However painful my first experience was when emotions tried to prevail over the process of language teaching, it was really wonderful and educational both for me and for them. I am looking forward to my next 4 lessons where we will try to find out beautiful aspects of the life of young people.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


this is my view on language use by men and women....

Men and women belong to different species, and communication between them is a science still in its infancy.
Bill Cosby

A great debate rages as to whether there exists a difference in the way men and women communicate. The feminist movement tried to equate the two sexes, claiming the only differences are biological. Objective reality and everyday life, however, proves that men’s and women’s speech and talk differ considerably. Different perspectives on the view of the same issues cause confusion, misinterpretation and therefore misunderstanding. There is noticeable dissimilarity not only in the use of language by men and women but in the language they use.
In her article “Sex, Sighs, and Conversation,” Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics dealing with gender differences in language use, argues that men and women have goals and ways of expression in communication innately different from one another. From a general look, women are usually more talkative and expressive in their speech whereas men prefer to keep silence and are more neutral in the ideas they express, unless the topic they speak about is sports, politics or there is a necessity to impress a woman or conquer her heart. Women are seemingly or actually more talkative because they tend to speak in longer sentences with plethora of adjectives, epithets, and emotionally colored words. They are visually and aurally more expressive because they contribute to what they mean by gestures, facial impressions, variations in tone and timbre. Men, in turn, appear in women’s eyes to be cold rude animals without any feelings or ability to understand because they speak in short abrupt sentences with neutral vocabulary and only when they think that there is a real need to say something. Worse than their inability to speak is their inability to listen to a complete story or event because they will stop you with constructive-in-their-opinion comments or questions completely unconnected to what you are speaking about.
The lack of listening skills is embellished by the use of language which turns to be a more sophisticated and troublesome issue. When something bad happens, what a woman wants and needs is just talking. She is not looking for immediate solutions which men are ready to offer; all she needs is to tell someone close about her problems, feelings, emotions and the only thing she wants is to be listened to and heard. Probably, not so much heard?! To please her in her confession, because any problem-report will definitely turn to a confession, men could listen quietly first and then slowly get deeply involved into exploration of why this happened, what led to it, looking attentively at all tiny details of the event, because the tiny details are always the most important. Missing tiny things we can miss the whole essence of the event. However incredible it can be but men do not pay attention to small things.
Instead of noticing details such as who said what, how he or she looked at him or her, what implications that word or intonation had, men prefer global problems and global solutions. Globalization of speech is noticeable in topics men choose because they prefer to speak about politics and sports. It is very important who will win the next election, and why and how the country’s situation will change. They discuss fine football strategies spending countless hours predicting the next champion. However, when women speak about upcoming sales and the opportunities for personal improvement or about their friends’ daughter’s new boyfriend, men call it worthless gossiping. Why don’t men realize that what “the female searches for is connections” and speaking, sharing ideas, thoughts, events of everyday life is the best way to create these connections?
Life shows that men and women are different both biologically and in communication. Because a conversation helps find friends and make enemies, solve problems and worsen a positive situation, women like to relish each word of the story. The more words are said, the more enjoyable the story is. The more words you share, the more unity it creates. Men, because of the way they communicate, in many women’s eyes are severe, impolite, and unfeeling. A man and a woman therefore will never understand each other because they have different expectations and outcomes from a conversation. But isn’t it what makes our life more interesting?!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

That Was the Music From Above

Sitting at home by the computer, still impressed and charmed by the divine music played in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel, St Michael's College. I can still hear that majestic playing and singing by the Bardot Youth Choir from France. I have not attended any classical music concerts for a while and this opportunity allowed me for living through various emotions during a short period time. Images in my head changed from whirling in a dance couples to gorgeous cathedral arches and from spinning around me emerald-green Russian birches to the high transparent blue Siberian sky with the huge hot sun. It seems that I have lived through my whole life, my homesickness, my happiest and saddest moments of life, my whole being...
Captivated by the sound of music, I, at the same time, questioned the realism of what was happening. That thin fragile girl had such a strong magnificent high voice. How is it possible? To have such a voice you need strong big lungs. How can those little kids take very difficult tones? How long and how much effort it should have taken to become such a brilliant choir?!
The music of the Solemn Mass in Honour of Saint Cecile by Charles Gounod will stay long in my soul, in my mind and as a background for my imagination.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Are Changes in Russian Education Necessary?

During the Soviet Union’s era, Russian education was considered one of the best in the world. Nonetheless, in 2008 it appeared 45th as rated by the World Economic Forum. According to the world specialists the main reason for moving far down the list is that Russian education does not meet the world’s, Western-oriented, standards of education. Because of that, diplomas earned in Russian higher education institutions are not convertible in foreign countries. Russian specialists in education also point out that education in Russia was not properly modified for quite a long period of time, but education cannot exist without a systematic change and development. Ensuing reforms with an attempt to adjust Russian education to the Western standards created an educational tangle. Therefore, this development should happen inside the educational system and be organic because copying others’ methods of success will not lead to the same achievement.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, most progressive countries tried to achieve alignment with Western education. The Russian government, unfortunately, put aside the matters of education. The consequence of this neglect was that according to the world reviews, Russian education was not practical and could not compete on the world market. In order to recover world status, the reformation of the Russian education system began in accordance with Western standards. This total Westernization of education, however, contradicts Russian mentality. The aim of Russian education has always been to give children the knowledge about the world, to develop children as many-sided personalities who are able to take responsibility for themselves, their society, and their communities. With current orientation to Western standards these qualities are mostly denied. The market approach is introduced into education which can lead to creating a “biocomputer” consisting of programs which are in demand on the market. This is proved by the fact that in former times we spoke about the ‘art of teaching’ and ‘pedagogical creativity’. Nowadays, we more and more hear and read about ‘educational technologies’, ‘anthropotechniques’, ‘human resources’ and other terms which are in conflict with human nature and soul.

Another significant reason for modifications in the Russian education was that Russian people who received education in our educational institutions were accused of the lack of practicality and absence of pragmatism. However, alterations targeted at meeting these requirements have lead to the loss of the valuable foundation that the broad holistic approach has provided for the Russian education system. As the results of a few years of reformation show, the knowledge that formed a holistic scientific picture of the world is being substituted with exclusively pragmatic and technological information and skills. Following Western standards in the Russian education reformation and corresponding loss of the holistic approach have meant a dehumanization of the Russian education system, revealed by the sacrifice of humanitarian disciplines with world- outlook building such as history, literature, philosophy that shaped moral core and broad thinking of a personality to socio-economic sciences such as political and social studies, economics, marketing, and management.

In an attempt to fit our education into the Western system, the Russian government has been carrying out education reforms during the last decade. This reformation, however, leads to a huge loss of a solid holistic base of Russian education. It seems imperative that we should create such a system of education in which Russian academic school and culture and corresponding benefits are integrated with the Western model of education instead of being sacrificed entirely in the name of reformation.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

There is no more lovely, friendly, charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.

Martin Luther said that and he was soooooo right!

These days I am very sentimental. I have just returned from my friends' wedding where I could witness a dazzlingly young and beautiful couple joining their hearts and lives. It is always so touching to see sparkling eyes of the two loving people and happy tears of the parents and relatives. And how wonderful the tradition of weddings is because so lots of people can come to witness the happiness and the beginning of a new family.

However, at this wedding I targeted at two things:

First, and the most important, was to share my friends' happy and significant step of the life.

Second, secondary :-), but still important, was to attend an American wedding.

NB: I am sorry, but cultural exchange is present in each and evry moment of my life in the USA. :-)

I should say that the American wedding differs a lot from what we have in Russia.

First of all, it was fun to do everything on-line: to inform that you are attending the wedding and to choose, buy and send the present. Moreover, I will tell you a secret: I am still worried that I have neither seen nor touhced the present and hope that it is in a good condition and as good as it was described. Besides, I do not know if it have already reached the addressee or not. In general, I know that everything is allright with it, but as it is something new to me, it makes me nervous.

Second, it was surprising to me that newlyweds had to care about the clothing for bride's maids. But the most surprising was that they had to give presents to their maids, parents, grandparents, and those people who helped them to prepare the wedding. In Russia, the young couple are the only people who receive presents to have a good beginning in their family life. So, it was very interesting to learn about this good tradition.

In this wedding there was one moment which made me very anxious: I knit a shrug for bride's dress and till the last moment I was worried how it was going to be. It was nice. A beautiful woman makes any clothes look beautiful :-).

However different or surprising some moments were, I was charmed by the church ceremony with beautiful organ music, magnificent voice of the psalm singer, and the grandeur of the ceremony itself. In Russia people can get married only in the registry office (some definitely have church marriages as well, but they do not have legal importance and they have to go to the registry office) which are also beautiful but different events. I am wondering if in the USA a couple still has to have some civil procedure to finish all the formalities of the marriage or the church ceremony is enough. It is what I should make my inquiries about :-).

The reception after the wedding was very nice, with lots of people, nice food and dancing. This is what might be common to weddings all over the world.

I wish all the best to Michelle and Edward in their new step of life and hope to see their children soon :-).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Three Values in Russian Society

As I mentioned in one of my posts, I am taking an advanced writing course and one of the first trials for this course was writing about values in my country. I do love Russia and miss her very very much. I would love to introduce to you my view on our values. Maybe, this will help you understand Russian people. At least, a little bit...

Three Examples of Cultural Values in my Society

Russian people have always been unpredictable and difficult to understand to other nationalities. The reason for that lies in the national values and beliefs which shape people’s mentality. For centuries, Russian people have had a rich system of values and beliefs making them so different to from others. The most important values among them are relationships, spirituality and patriotism.
Relationships are highly valued among Russian people, especially family relationships, friendship and relationship with all people around. The most precious are relationships between the family members. Parents and children’s ties of affection are very special. Parents provide their children with emotional and financial support until children are able to provide their living themselves, or, as we say in Russia, to stand on their own feet. Children, in return, provide full care to their parents when they become old. Besides, Russian children have been taught since childhood to be not only brothers and sisters, but friends. It explains why relationships between friends are priceless for Russian people. They share happy and sad moments of their lives. Moreover, friends are considered family members, or, sometimes, they are even more important. In some countries, when people have problems, feel depressed, or do not know what to do in their lives, they go to psychiatrist. Russian people go to friends in such moments. Finally, relationships between people in general are very important. Sometimes, Russian people can sacrifice something important to them in order not to hurt or offend their classmates, colleagues, or any other kind of ‘team’. To summarize, relationships are more important to Russian people than their individual necessities or problems.
In addition to relationships, Russian people are characterized by strong spirituality. Spirituality is much more than religious beliefs for Russians. It combines both religious values and superstitious Russian soul, creating Russian spirit by this combination. On one hand, Russian people are true Orthodox. However, they do not consider themselves religious. They do not die FOR God, but they die WITH God in their souls. Russian people do not trust in God, but they consider themselves God’s children which means that God is a piece of them. Russian people do not convert other people into Orthodoxy because they believe that there is only one God for everyone and it does not matter how you call Him. However, we cannot call it religiosity because, on the other hand, Russian people are superstitious and believe in signs. For example, a Russian person will not continue his way if a black cat runs over his way. Or, if a cat washes its face by the door, people say that unexpected guests are coming. Besides, Russian people believe that while they are on their land – Mother Earth supports them and this belief creates wonders. With this strange combination of religiosity and superstition Russian people believe in a strong spirit inside each person. For Russian people it does not matter how strong your physical abilities or intellect are. The most important is to have a strong inner spirit, or, in other words, a strong inner core. This spirit helped us survive and win in many wars when other nations tried to invade our country and in difficult times for our country.
The last of the mentioned, but not the least, value which comes from and, at the same time, helps keep relationships and spirituality, is patriotism. Russian patriotism means love for and devotion to our Motherland. Motherland for Russians includes our land which we call ‘Mother Earth’ and our beautiful landscapes. Moreover, Motherland is a place where you and your parents, family and friends were born and live. Russian patriotism has nothing to do with political system or government. When a Russian person says ‘I love my Motherland’ or ‘I miss my Motherland’ he means the people, wide space, the wide Russian soul, the strong Russian spirit, and friendly support, but he does not think about political system of the country. It is Russian patriotism that helped to win a victory over all invaders to our country and to overcome all difficulties which led to victories because when Russian soldiers went to war they protected their land, but not the political system.
Looking at the history of Russia and spending time in Russia with Russian people shows that strong ties of affection, strong inner core of Russian people and their love for their land, place where they were born shaped the culture and life of this country. Care about the relationships and little thinking about the political system explain why Russian economy and political situation have always been unstable. However, as our famous poet Fyodor Tyutchev wrote in 1866 and F. Jude translated
Russia is a thing of which
the intellect cannot conceive.
Hers is no common yardstick.
You measure her uniquely:
in Russia you believe!

And it is still true…

I found this translation in

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Differences between my Culture and the US with Regard to Nonverbal Behavior

In this summer semester I am enjoying the writing class taught by Sheena Macpherson. It is a good challenge to brain because we need to read, reflect on the reading, compare to what we know or to our culture and to do other brain activities. This time I would love to share with you my essay about the differences in nonverbal communication in Russain and US culture.
“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said”, said Peter F. Drucker. In understanding what is said during communication, words play a very little role. Verbal communication is strongly supported by nonverbal communication which helps us understand the implied meaning of the speaker, his emotions, attitudes, and values. However, only knowledge of the culture can help us interpret most of the forms of the nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication in each culture differs in three ways: repertoire of behaviors, display rules and interpretations. Repertoire of behaviors includes body positions, movements, gestures, spatial requirements and postures specific to a particular culture. In their turn, display rules define what forms of nonverbal behavior are required, permitted or preferred in different situations. Interpretations of the same nonverbal behavior also vary from culture to culture. Being in the USA and watching people showed me that Russian and the US nonverbal communication have many differences and a few similarities among which especially noticeable are space, time and touch.
Spatial requirements for Russians and Americans are very similar but still different. I remember in the Intercultural Communication class consisting of international and American students having an assignment to converse for 2 minutes at the distance of one small step. By the end of the two endless minutes all American students were very far from their conversation partner. Those who kept one step distance were bent like gymnasts to have more distance at least between faces. It was no wonder because in the US culture it is typical to have personal space of about 4 feet and it is noticeable even in friendly conversations. When friends meet they shake hands or give a short hug and immediately step aside to have some distance for conversation. No one can invade American’s personal space.
Russian people, on the contrary, do not require that much personal space. They like to speak sitting or walking quite close to each other. When they converse facing each other, at the beginning of the conversation people usually keep some distance of about four feet, like Americans do. But, as the conversation proceeds, they tend to come closer and closer. However, they will still keep at least two feet distance. It is considered rude and unfriendly to keep large distance during the conversation. At the same time, people should leave some space between them for both partners feel comfortable. Remarkably, Russians like to converse with people opposite to them. For example, if the conversation is happening at the dinner table, they will more likely speak with that person who sits across the table rather than next to them.
Perception of time is a big issue for some cultures because of the differences in their time orientations and in the time systems they use. In the United States, time is money. The daily routine is scheduled and properly organized. Even meeting with friends is planned. Most of the European Americans always come on time whether for an appointment or a party. Americans speak in time measures and for each activity they assign a particular amount of time. When you need to meet with someone, you have to discuss the time a few days in advance. Each American has some kind of planner, organizer, or calendar where they look periodically. Time orientation in the US culture is for the future. Americans believe that tomorrow is the most important and that they create their future themselves. Looking at the US time-orientation and time system they use, they seem to be slaves of efficiency.
Russians, in contrast are present oriented. Russian proverbs say, ‘new time, new songs’, or ‘new time, new burden’. Russian people value their past, are proud of their rich history, and show respect to their past and history. However, they do not live by their past. Every new time brings something new and this newness is the most important. At the same time, they do not necessarily rely on something that will be good for the future. Russians often say, ‘I want everything and now’. For that reason, long-term projects are not much appreciated in Russia. Spontaneity and impulsivity are typical of Russians in any field: business or daily life. They can put aside a decision, prolong doing an important activity, but finally it will be done very fast and unexpected even to them themselves. The time system is also different to Russians. Being 15-20 minutes late or coming earlier is quite normal for Russians and is not considered impolite or disrespectful. Being not concerned about time themselves, Russians expect foreigners to respect the time of others.
With regard to the last concept under discussion, physical contact, the United States is considered a non-touching culture. Both men and women greet each other with a handshake or it can be a slight hug with stroking or patting. Hugging and kissing are not common for the US culture. Very often an attempt to hug, pat, or any kind of touch can be considered sexual harassment, depending on the people involved. If people walk touching each other in any way such as hugging or hand in hand, it can be viewed as a sexual relationship, especially between the same sex people. Touching your conversation partner can be considered aggressive and pushy. The necessity for personal space explains the lack of physical contact between conversation partners in the US culture.
Touch in Russia plays a role of energy exchange. When men meet, they shake hands. When women meet, they hug. Touching between opposite sex friends is not common, although close friends can sometimes hug. Shaking hands between a man and woman is considered rude and non-feminine. The attitude towards the same sex touching varies. On one hand, it is extremely undesirable when two men touch each other. Shaking hands is the only possible way of physical contact and any other contact will be socially unacceptable causing discomfort in other people. On the other hand, it is common when two women walk to hold each other’s elbows, or sit speaking and leaning toward or on each other or hugging one another. It is especially common between a mother and a child, sisters or good friends, and good friends of parents and their daughters. While speaking, especially explaining something, speakers can grab each other’s elbows or touch partner’s arm. A teacher can pat a pupil when he did a good job or as a way of encouragement. Touch in Russian culture shows affection, friendliness and give energy and strength to people.
Nonverbal communication varies from culture to culture. Russian and the US cultures have big differences in nonverbal behavior in terms of time, space and touch. Being more efficiency oriented, Americans differ from the spontaneous, relying-on-today Russians. Russians seem pushy and aggressive with their necessity for physical contact and view European Americans as cold, distant people. Only in spatial requirements they have some similarities which are still easily broken by Russians in a longer friendly conversation. All these differences tell that people should learn more about other cultures and try to be tolerant to others.
Thank you for reading such a long post!
Have a good start in the week!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

I am back!

Time really flies!

This May was so busy for me that I did not have time to slow down, stop and look around. However, I am so happy that my spring semester is successfully finished with excellent grades, calmness in the soul and one more goal fulfilled: I aimed at finishing this semester with only A’s and I did it! But my happiness about this ‘achievement’ seemed not so important because I was going to Europe. Yeah, I’ve just returned from Germany where I visited my Russian friends. It was so interesting that during these weeks I meet all my past: my childhood (my friend, who invited me, and I grew up together from 2 to 10 years), my school years (another my friend and I were classmates) and my happy youth, my college years (my friend whom I met at college and we were group mates). Isn’t it great to meet with your past?!
A trip to Europe has brought calmness to my soul: I spent all the time with Russian people speaking only Russian, watching Russian films and eating traditional Russian food. I hope that energy I got will be enough for one more year in a distance with my culture. However, during the trip I also enjoyed Europe: we visited the Island of Flowers with wonderful flowers and trees from all over the world which were in full springy bloom , beautiful old castles and went hiking in the Alps!!!!! For the first time in my life I saw famous Alpine meadows, ate Alpine cheese (I have never tried anything better!) and saw high mountains.
What I found out is that my friend is amazingly crazy! One morning, Zhenya woke up and told us, Lena (his wife) and me, that he wanted to drive us to Mont Saint Michel Abbey in France on the Atlantic Coast. And we did it! I enjoyed the drive through France. The way was very long and tiring but we forgot about it when suddenly after one of the curves in the mist we saw a high island with a beautiful abbey on it. The view was so magnificent that for a moment we could not even breathe. This Abbey is more than 1000 years old. It is on the island and every day there are high and low tides which are considered the highest in Europe. This Abbey has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1979. On the way back we stopped in Orleans where could see the city saved by Janna d'Ark. It is so beautiful!
In this trip I could not but do the best thing in the world… SHOPPING! :-) I enjoyed French perfumes, French and Italian wines, and European clothes and food. At the same time, I did not forget that I am a student and followed my summer classes. I am so happy to have a writing class and hope to improve my writing skills. What I like most about this class is that everything we write now is about our culture. Being with my friends helped me to write about three values in my society which I would like to share with you after I completely finish it.
I am so happy that I saw new beautiful places, visited my old friends and now I am ready to enjoy my studies in St Mike’s and communication with my friends!

See you soon!

Sincerely yours,


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lock yourself out and explore the world!

I know that it sounds confusing but today I have learnt about the world more than in 10 years of school, college and university all together. What happened is that the door to my apartment locked when I went downstairs to open the front door for my friend Leda. My first reaction was “This is the end of the world: I have unfinished grammar assignments, I have a couple of days to finish 2 projects for another class and my roommate might come home only after 5:30 (in the case of good luck), and I have a class in the evening”. Panic calmed down and my friend called the landlord who could come only in one hour.

However, my motto which I constantly repeat to my friends is “life is beautiful in spite of anything”. Therefore, I had to react according to my motto. My friend and I were invited to my neighbor, Mazeena, (it is lovely to live in an international community!) to wait for the landlord. Conversation about everything in the world finally came to problems in education and politics in our countries: Nicaragua, Maldives, and Russia. This conversation was like a lesson of history, geography, sociology, political science and philosophy combined. We spoke about current situation in our countries, what was better in the past, how it changed, what type of states and government we have, how it works, etc. It is unbelievable to me!
After politics we moved to cultural exchange: Mazeena showed us traditional Maldivian dress, which is beautiful! For the first time in my life I saw Maldivian, Shri-Lankan and Indian money. We tried traditional Maldivian food “roshi” with famous Maldivian spicy tuna fish. Besides, we spoke about a Russian way to organize parties and discussed our ideas how to do so that we meet more often in our small community of Fulbrighters and our American friends. Is it possible to learn all that in class?! Never! Speaking with my friends I came to understanding that those were precious moments of life! I always spend time preparing for classes, travelling or suffering of being homesick. Being busy with those things (especially, homesickness and studying) I miss something important in my life. But now I know I have many friends with whom I can explore the world without even leaving the house. Isn’t it marvelous?!

Appreciate moments spent with your friends!

Enjoy your life!

Explore the world!

Good luck!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

St Michael's Traditions

The Department of Applied Linguistics in Saint Michael's has a beautiful tradition: International Coffe Hours. Every Wednesday from 3:15 to 4:15 students are welcomed to try food from different countries in the lobby of St Edmund's Hall. There, they are also served tea and coffee.

I love this tradition! This is a wonderful opprotunity to learn more about the culture of the country to which the coffe hour is devoted. We have had Chinese, Japanese, Latin American, Greek and many other international coffee hours. Sure, we also have American ( the USA) coffee hours! A day before the coffee hour all students are sent messages with short information about the "topic" country and description of food they are going to try. Along with learning about new (or simply another) culture, it is a great time to socialize, to meet new people, and just to be in an international community! And, sure, food! The food is always delicious! I love American apple pies. And I am addicted to Arabic deserts...

This week it was an American coffee hour devoted to the Patriot Day which will be April 20. I enjoyed my favourite apple pie! Shamefully, I did not know anything about this holiday, but "Long live, long learn". And, you know, Russian curiousity lead me to the question about what Patriotism mean to people of the USA and of other countries? I know, I always ask difficult questions, but I am for a cultural exchange here... :-) Interestingly, the question was quite confusing. I could not even expect that! In Russia I was brought up with understanding of Motherland and Patriotism. Probablly, coming from a small distant limited world of a distant place in Russia, I expected that all people have similar attitudes and beliefs. And it makes my experience here even more exciting because I learn really really a lot about the other side of the world.
All the best!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Children are flowers of our life!

Yes, this is what we say in Russia, "Children are flowers of our life". They show that life never stops and they bring happiness into our life, don't they? :-)

I am so sentimental now because I have just returned home from a babyshower for my classmate. Life in college really never stops! We are here not only to study, but also to celebrate new life. I am so happy for Kim and Markus! I am sure they will be wonderful parents.

By the way, this tradition of having babyshowers before the child's birth is very interesting to me. In Russia we celebrate it when the baby turns 1 month. Probably, it is a superstition, because parents usually do not like to show their child in the first month of his or her life. We consider that it is bad for the baby's enrgy. So many countries, so many customs...

And in this nice mood I am going to return to the reality of my life which consists, basically, of the project which I should finish as soon as possible. Life is beautiful! :-)

Enjoy your life!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hello from Denver!

Hello from Denver, Colorado!

Actually, it is my last night in Denver and tomorrow in the early morning I am going back to Colchester. I feel emotionally and physically exhausted, but inspired, happy and full of fresh ideas about and for teaching! Oh, sorry! I forgot to tell the reason of my being in Denver! Here was the TESOL Convention 2010. It is a wonderful event!

At some moments I am thinking, “Why am I going back to Colchester, student’s life and 2 exams on Thursday???!!! I want to go back to Russia!!! To tell my colleagues about the Convention and the ideas that were pronounced and discussed! And to employ them in practice, and to see how my students could do them. I am sure, they would like them. But it is Life, and I am going back to college life.

It was such a pleasure to meet my group-mates from St Michael’s here, Fulbrighters whom I met in the Ohio University (at the pre-academic training program) and, what I am proud of, to attend my professors’ presentations which were a complete success.

Unfortunately, I did not have time to see the city and the Rocky Mountains (seeing them somewhere far meeting the sky does not count). Probably, I will have to come here again as a tourist. However, I am more than happy, to carry home (hm, unconsciously, for the first time during my 8 months of say in the USA, I called a place in this country “home”) a big luggage of knowledge, fresh ideas, inspirations, books for my friend and myself, and dictionaries.

I hope my overexcited speech is comprehensible, but now I should pack my luggage and file the ideas in the brain which does not accept doing any proofreading now.

Warmest regards,


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

About Me

Hello everyone! :-)
I am Natalia Kozyakova, but prefer to be called Natasha. It is less formal, and simply friendly.

I am a Fulbright scholar from Russia at Saint Michael’s College. I taught English for a year at a secondary school and then for 8 years at teachers training college in the small town of Slavgorod in Siberia. And here I am, in the United Sates, at the Applied Linguistics Department of St Michael’s, working hard on my Masters Degree in TESOL. Hopefully, not hardly working… :-)

I call myself a “forever student”. You ask why? Well… 10 years at school, 4 years at teachers training college, 5 years at the Linguistic Institute of the Pedagogical University ( by the way, a college and a university/institute in Russia are two different things:-) ), now 2 years at Saint Michael’s Colleg, always a full-time student, and I am thinking of further studies.

I am having a wonderful experience studying at Saint Michael’s! I feel at home: everyone is friendly, attentive, caring, helpful, and the list of attributes is endless. Classes increase my knowledge and provide an opportunity to link my studies to personal experience and their practical use. I am excited to share my educational and cultural experience with my Russian colleagues when I return home.

I am enjoying my stay here in Vermont, although I believe it is not cold enough here in winter, and not hot enough in summer. It is a gorgeous state! I have fallen in love with the autumnal Green Mountains and sunset on the Lake Champlain awakes romantic poetic soul…

I am a newly-born blogger and all questions and interactions are highly appreciated to help me grow as a blogger.

Sincerely yours,