Today was a slightly different Saturday of teaching English. Normally, I would be covering for other teachers or hosting Life Clubs (where kids can speak English in more informal settings), but today, I spent my afternoon at Moscow State Pedagogical University using Harry Potter as a way of teaching English. It was a good time teaching, but I’d like to focus on the university itself. Granted, I was away from the main campus, so the building I was in (a science building) may not necessarily be indicative of the entire school. One thing I couldn’t help but notice was that one could just enter in off the street. I mention this because my school I went to didn’t quite have that feel, so it’s a bit of an adjustment thinking about that; I guess that it’s a European thing, especially in the big cities. Also, maybe it’s because the building was farther away from campus and thus not capturing enough attention from the administration, I couldn’t help but noticing that it was a bit decrepit. It wasn’t unusable by any means, but I was thinking that it badly needed a new paint job, if not thorough renovations. Anyways, I trudged up the stairs to the third floor, where our session was at. I want to mention that given the event of the day (a festival about science), a lot of the area was closed off, so there were only a few rooms available per each floor. Adjacent to our room was a relatively small and empty one that had, if I’m remembering this correctly, sawdust. So, it would appear that at least on the third floor, the maintenance is a bit lacking.
During these few hours, the whole thing felt surreal. I mean, I took my college campus tours way back when in high school, so experiencing different academic buildings is nothing new. However, getting to experience a Russian university was out of the ordinary; how many Westerners can say they’ve done that? I just think about my dad and his generation, as this would have been absolutely unfathomable to even contemplate stepping one foot into these institutions. While this blog focuses on more travel-related moments and tips, I will say that whether or not I intended for it to happen, I got the opportunity to gain a small glimpse into Russian academia culture. Over the eight-plus months I’ve been here in Russia, teaching has allowed me to find new insights into the life of Russians, and I’m blessed having this chance of a lifetime.