Perm State University Language and Culture Winter School

Perm State University snow scene

Perm State University snow scene

Karen Hewitt kindly sent me details of a proposed Perm Winter School to comment on.  I am in almost complete agreement with her comments below, and I would add:

i) they need to decide whether they’re aiming at real or recreational students. Looks like the latter at present, but whatever the answer is they need to be a lot more specific about course content/aims/methodology/etc

ii) it’s stupid to assemble people at the University and then take them off somewhere else for the ‘real business’. Give them lectures (if necessary through an interpreter) on the Permian Era and Extinction/Mikhail Fridman (was at PSU, pioneer of General Relativity)/those wooden statues/the armaments industry then and now/their experiences in Afghanistan/etc/–or just the time-honoured ‘Round Table’ with students (and/or staff). Or have a lecture course on something like Modern Russian Society…

iii) similarly to the above, I think something called a Winter School should have some superstructure of lectures, competitions, quizzes, tests, reading lists–not just classes and excursions

iv) they don’t say anything about tests or formal academic credits

v) you also need a ‘find your level’ guide–and something about how people will be assigned to groups

vi) I think the selling point has to be something like ‘Real Russia with Real Russians’, where your horses can gallop for 3 weeks in any direction without reaching another town, never mind country. All this stuff about Zhivago and bear statues is a bit embarrassing in my opinion

vii) they should say a bit more about the homestays–who the host families will be & what to expect

viii) while I’m dead keen on Aims, I don’t understand the ones given here and I don’t think I’d agree with them if I did

ix) they don’t say that they’re going to supply visa support/invitations–I presume they are

x) they need to say what the weather/temperature/hours of daylight are going to be (and that it will be nice and warm indoors).

Well, I have lots of thoughts, but you may have different ones that may be better advice. So I am attaching this draft, and if you have ANY comments, do let me know. Don’t worry about the mistakes in English and unidiomatic English. I can sort that out.

My comments would be – Remove the photo of the huge modern cathedral in Moscow and the lamppost non-Perm one. Put attractive photos of Perm streets/buildings in their place. AGREE

Better, in general, to do the lessons in the morning and the excursions after lunch. It won’t be too dark because Perm is such a long way west of sun-time. And you can think better in the morning. AGREE

You need some information about levels of Russian and teaching methods. And presumably there ought to be some time for homework and study. AGREE. Also class sizes, how they are made to be of ‘similar’ standard, what happens if there’s no-one else at your kind of level, who the teachers are. 30 contact hours (are these 60- or 45-minute hours?) is not much of a payload for a trip of two weeks.

I wouldn’t begin on Monday with the Perm University museum or botanical garden. Both are worth seeing, but neither is SPECIALLY striking in comparison with what we can do in Britain. Better to get a sense of the city and what will seem exotic to visitors. AGREE.

I think there should be a maximum of 2 day trips. Participants will spend a long time in the coach looking at white and black scenes. AGREE. Day trips are an easy way of getting a visiting group off your hands, but they need to engage with the local population if they’re going to learn anything.

I’ve been to all the places, and would rate the Museum of Political Repressions high on the list, for its intrinsic historical interest and because there is a good road with fine scenery. AGREE.

They are planning lots of theatre trips and cultural entertainments. But perhaps spending some evenings with ‘ordinary Russians’ would also be much appreciated. Or taking their hosts out to dinner. Or a barbecue in the snow…. PARTLY AGREE. Best if they can go to the theatre etc with ‘ordinary’ (even English-speaking) Russians and share the experience with them.

I think the price is OK. AGREE.

Remember that this visit will take place when snow lies thickly on the ground – so the participants won’t be able to see some of the things you saw – but they will be able to ski cross-country, for example.

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