Perfect city for Russian experience
Alex Christiansen, the student of Utah Valley University (UVU) came to study Russian Language at HSE - Nizhny Novgorod this winter.
International Students’ Club leader Sara Olmi has interviewed Alex
Sara: Where are you from?
Alex: I grew up on a farm in Northern Wyoming – I am the youngest of six children – when I was 9 years old, my family moved to Mexico so that the children could learn Spanish, and experience a different culture. After living in Mexico for 3 years, my family moved back to Wyoming, and then shortly thereafter moved to Provo Utah, where I have been living with my family for the past 8 years. I graduated from Timpview High School in 2015, and now study at Utah Valley University (UVU).
Sara: Why did you choose Nizhny Novgorod? For how long did you come to Russia?
Alex: For me, Nizhny Novgorod was the perfect city for what I wanted to get out of my Russian experience. Because I was only here for 3 months, I wanted to make sure that I was getting the most out of my Russian experience without spending all the money I had saved. I chose Nizhny because living was considerably cheaper than Moscow or St Petersburg, less people spoke English than in the big cities, and it was central enough to be able to travel around the country and see the things I wanted to see. Nizhny Novgorod is the perfect place to study Russian; it’s historical, it’s central, and the people are some of the best in the world.
Sara: Why did you choose to study Russian?
Alex: Since a young age, I have been encouraged by my parents to better understand people, languages, and cultures. I passionately believe that the vast majority of people in the world are exceptionally good, and that there is far more that unites us than divides us. I also believe that there are always two sides to every story, a lesson I learned from living in Mexico as a child. Russia and the United States have a long history of mutual misunderstanding and distrust, and I knew that dynamic wasn’t going to leave anytime soon. Studying Russian has been a great way to better understand both sides of that relationship, as well as open doors to a massive area of the world previously inaccessible.
Sara: Do you like Nizhny Novgorod?
Alex: What’s not to like? Nizhny Novgorod is the ideal city for studying Russian. During my time I have traveled to other cities in Russia, all beautiful in their own right – Moscow, St Petersburg, Kazan – but Nizhny Novgorod feels like home. Its history is stunning, its people are friendly and helpful, and there is always something to do. I can confidently say, with a whole lot of bias, that Nizhny Novgorod is easily the best city in Russia!
Sara: What do you study here? Do you like HSE?
Alex: I study the Russian language with other students from around the world. It has been an engaging experience and I have learned a lot, but I have learned the most from being able to spend time with my Russian peers at the University. The students and faculty at HSE are so warm and welcoming, and apart from the regular lessons there are plenty of activities and clubs to keep you busy learning the language. I wanted an opportunity to help students here at HSE who were studying English, and it wasn’t long before two other Americans and I were teaching a weekly English course. As a student studying Russian, you will get out of it what you put in. If you want to be involved, there are language clubs, student led activities, and ample opportunities to speak, interact, and connect with students around you, all in Russian!
Sara: What did you think about Russia before coming here and how has that perception changed?
Alex: Aside from the stereotypes in movies, all my perceptions on Russia stemmed from the history I had studied, the news I read, and the few Russians I had met in my language courses. I had a generally positive outlook on the country, but I also knew that modern Russia faced some serious problems as well. After coming to the country myself, I would absolutely say that my perceptions have changed. The people are more friendly than I would have ever imagined, the culture and traditions are unique and elegant, and though it is obvious that Russia still has glaring issues, life in Russia is as normal as anywhere else, and the people just as good.