Written by Katie Moore, a Clemson University Junior
As a feisty Irish girl, it is to be expected that I would celebrate St. Patrick's Day with much fervor and festivities. During my years at home, my mom would provide my brother and I with buttons and green shirts to signal to the world that we were Irish and proud. Our dinners would be complete with green mashed potatoes, green applesauce, green cookies, green pancakes, etc. Thus, coming up onto March 18, 2011, I was a little apprehensive about the idea of celebrating St. Pat's in Moscow (especially because the annual parade on Arbat Street was canceled). You know what they say though, if you can't bring Mohammad to the mountain, you bring the mountain to Mohammad… or something like that.
It's very important for me to make sure that I am always wearing green on St. Patrick's Day. Unfortunately, I did not bring any green items of clothing to Moscow. I instantly changed that by drawing a shamrock on my forearm with a green pen. Problem solved. Dr. Katie McKee, our fabulous teacher for the month of March, shares my affinity for Irish culture and was just as enthusiastic about engaging in an adventure. So, at about 3:30 we set off to find some mischief.
Karlie, Katie and I began our festivities for the day by taking the most convoluted route on the Metro possible. We had 3 line changes and multiple stops on each line; it was an ordeal. I noticed the banality of the Russian people more so today than other days. No one was wearing green, no one was cheerful, and no one was celebrating. It was tragic.
Our destination for the day was an inexpensive souvenir shop on the other side of town. Unfortunately the guidebook did not include detailed direction, so ultimately we were unable to locate this mythical souvenir shop. However, while on our wild goose chase, Katie entertained us with Irish folk stories. We also kept ourselves entertained by singing show tunes up and down the sidewalk, much to the chagrin of our fellow pedestrians. (Our harmonies were incandescent, in case you were wondering).
So, after our unsuccessful venture, we decided to take a chance on a strip mall located close to the metro. Being the lackadaisical people we are, Karlie, Katie and I had no problem absentmindedly wandering the myriad of little shops littered with snobby Russian storeowners. I don't think the concept of customer service is quite as pronounced in Russia as it is in the US. Nevertheless, this did not temper our mood (we were hyper after singing songs from The Sound of Music).
After a bout of unsuccessful, yet entertaining, shopping, we decided to stop in T.G.I. Friday for a little American dinner. I could have cried tears of joy at the sight of chicken fingers and honey mustard. I never realized how much I missed those little bundles of cholesterol. Our waitress was the nicest girl I've come across. She was so enthusiastic and willing to speak English. We
wondered the motives behind this service. We debated whether or not there was a correlation between the customer satisfaction and the American origins of T.G.I. Friday's.
St. Patrick's Day was in full swing at T.G.I. Friday. To make a long story short, I will just say that our night concluded with free t-shirts, full stomachs, and a happy state of mind. But overall, I think it is important to note the disparity in customer service between the boutiques and our waitress at T.G.I. Friday. I suppose Russia is a nation of contrasts, which was perpetuated in our fantastic night out.
Also in this Issue...
- Two Nations, One Classroom by Shelli Danjean
"Having others that think differently than you, with different life experiences, is always useful when developing ideas; however, ideas can be extremely conflicting, and the language barrier can cause problems. It takes patience from everyone involved to make the classroom experience here a successful one."
- Slowly, but Surely, Spring is Coming by Marie Vogler
"Here, we work together to solve problems, discusses issues, and come up with a solution as a class. We learn as a "team" you could say. While it is sometimes slightly difficult, due to the language barrier, it is overall very stimulating. We dive into the information in front of us, and stay at it for six hours.."
- Moscow's Multitude of Churches by Miles Atkinson
"Inside, they are painted from floor to ceiling with Russian iconography; pictures of saints in elaborate gold and silver frames with prayer candles burning beneath them. Old women whisk past to kiss the pictures and light the candles. There are always paintings of God and Jesus up on the ceilings staring down at visitors with the trace of a frown, as if to say "we're on to you." "
Written by Shelli Danjean, an LSU Senior enrolled at Clemson University for Spring 2011
Just as one would expect classes to differ within a University, you can surely expect them to differ from country to country. Though my experiences in the classroom are quite broad, this one is in its own category. In the typical American university, freshman and sophomore classes are large lecture classes, while junior and senior classes are smaller and discussion based. There is usually some group work in these classes. In Russia, this isn't the case. The concept of group work is as foreign to this country as we are. From my understanding, the classes here are lecture only, and each student works by his/herself to get
the job done. This small, more intimate, classroom setting is outside the norm for both the American and Russian students. Almost the entire class is group work, whether it is several small groups or one big group. Here, we work together to solve problems, discusses issues, and come up with a solution as a class. We learn as a "team" you could say. While it is sometimes slightly difficult, due to the language barrier, it is overall very stimulating. We dive into the information in front of us, and stay at it for six hours.
We are made to think for ourselves, and collectively identify and solve problems placed before us. We rely on each other's knowledge and pool it together.
This jumble of ideas can be frustrating as well as useful. Having others that think differently than you, with different life experiences, is always useful when developing ideas; however, ideas can be extremely conflicting, and the language barrier can cause problems. It takes patience from everyone involved to make the classroom experience here a successful one. This is not a temporary skill for the classroom, but a crucial skill for life. Unless a person plans on working in their basement for their entire life, they will at one point or another, have to work as a group.
They may experience conflicting ideas and have to work through it. This international program and unique classroom environment is teaching much more than subject material. It is knowledge and skills that you cannot learn from a textbook or from the Web; it is knowledge that comes only from experience.
Maybe Russia and America are not so different after all. Each country has a generation of learners that will need the skills to work with others. As the world grows and international opportunities increase, we are sure to see a demand for the skills learned here. Working outside of your comfort zone, with different cultures and languages, is something to be embraced.