Opportunities await three JanPlan courses in Russia

Do you like to travel? Are you interested in ethnography, art and/or economies transitioning from a command to free market system? Does a month of total immersion in a foreign culture sound like your idea of an adventure? If so, spending a month in Russia on Colby’s direct exchange JanPlan may be just the program for you. “In addition to exploring Russia’s rich history, literature and art as part of their coursework, students invariably come back inspired by the wealth of artistic and cultural experiences,” Program Director and Colby Assistant Professor of Russian Elena Monastireva-Ansdell explained.

Monastireva-Ansdell has headed the stateside end of the program for the past four years. She learned the value of a foreign exchange education firsthand when in 1990 Monastireva-Ansdell left her home university—the Piatigorsk Linguistic University in the Caucasus Mountains of Southern Russia —to spend a year at the College.

During her undergraduate studies, “Professor Cheryl Gilkes’ inspiring class on African American Culture opened up the world of cultural studies for me,” Monastireva-Ansdell explained. “Having discovered an entirely new dimension to the study of literature and culture, I decided to continue my education in the U.S. at the graduate level.” After receiving her B.A. in English from Piatigorsk State Institute of Foreign Language, the now Assistant Professor of Russian went on to earn her M.A. in Russian from University of Iowa and a Ph.D. from Indiana University in Slavic Languages and Literatures. Before coming to Colby, Monastireva-Ansdell taught at Oberlin and Bowdoin College. Monastireva-Ansdell is excited about the upcoming JanPlan and the rewarding experiences she expects the students will have. While enrolled in Colby’s host institution in Russia, the St. Petersburg’s Classical Gimnaziia program, participants are able to customize their schedules and earn up to three credit hours. Courses offered include RU113: The Literature and Art of St. Petersburg, RU114: Russia’s Transition Economy, RU115: Russian Ethnography and RU125j: Elementary Russian 1. These courses and many more are also available to students who elect to spend an entire semester with the Russian partner university.

Monastireva-Ansdell has high praise for the way Domestic Program Director Sergei Buriachko and Language Assistant Marina Tchernyskena operate. “They tailor the program to the students’ interests and abilities,” she explained. In addition to accessible administrators and teachers, and small class sizes, students are paired with a host university student guide. This one-on-one connection has been an excellent resource for students navigating Russia’s cultural capital, adjusting to local customs and managing academic responsibilities. Central to the experience of JanPlan in Russia is the experience of staying with host-families. “Students take their meals with their hosts and are encouraged to enter into the life of their families. Home-stay is the single best way to get beneath the surface of Russian life, to be a resident of the city and not merely a tourist or visiting student,” Monastireva-Ansdell said.

Other ways students immerse themselves in Russian culture is by visiting St. Petersburg’s many cultural attractions. The State Hermitage Museum boasts the largest collection of paintings in the world and is often compared in both size and scope to the Louvre. Ice sculptures and traditional music fill the streets as students join in the celebration of Orthodox Christmas on January.

Although Monastireva-Ansdell encourages students of all majors to consider the program and often sees large turnouts at preliminary information meetings, the program is sadly shrinking. “Each year many more students express their interest in the program than can actually afford to go because, unlike with semester-long study abroad, Colby tuition does not cover any of the trip expenses. Because of a smaller group size, our challenge has been offering more than one of the four courses listed in the course catalogue,” Monastireva-Ansdell said. She fears monetary restrictions may keep enrollment in similar programs low. Interested students are encouraged to pursue supplemental funding options alongside program staff.

For a month filled with new places, experiences, and people the JanPlan in St. Petersburg is an excellent opportunity.

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