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Trip to Russia Teaches F&M Students About Country's Culture, History

Franklin & Marshall sophomore Gabrielle Ferry took two Russian language courses during her first year at the College, learning about the nation's culture and history. But as Ferry learned in August, actually visiting the country whose language she studied can leave a deeper impression -- and take learning to a new level.

Ferry was among a group of less than a dozen students who traveled to Russia Aug. 6-18 on a trip organized by the College's Department of German and Russian. Led by Assistant Professor of Russian Jon Stone, the group visited historic sites in the cities of St. Petersburg, Moscow and Vladimir and learned about everyday life in Russia during meetings and discussions with local residents. Stone is planning a similar trip next summer, and is offering a series of information sessions for interested students.

  • Russia trip
  • Franklin & Marshall students trek toward an 11th-century church in Vladimir, northern Russia, during an August trip organized by the College's Department of German and Russian. The department is organizing a similar trip for the summer of 2013. (Photo courtesy of Jon Stone)

"We wanted to offer a trip that would give students a brief initial encounter with Russia, something that would give them a chance to learn about daily Russian life," Stone said. "The trip is ideal for students with interests in literature, language, politics, history, international studies (and) contemporary culture, and anyone who wants to experience Russia firsthand."

Ferry said she was enlightened by Russian culture, and was particularly struck by reminders of the former Soviet Union in many places the group visited.

"I learned a great deal about the importance of Russian history -- especially the Soviet Union -- in Russian culture today as we visited museums and monuments," Ferry said. "Despite the fact that the Soviet Union fell, it seemed to have a brooding presence in Moscow with all of the statues and symbols on buildings and in parks."

Stone organized the trip to give students a distinctive opportunity to learn about Russia while visiting and experiencing the local culture. The professor said the trip was an alternative to traditional study-abroad programs in Russia, which often require some level of ability in the Russian language. "The inability to speak Russian can be limiting for students who want to visit the country," Stone said.

Ferry said she enjoyed experiencing a range of new adventures with other F&M students.

"Whether it was having a Russian quartet sing us 'Bohemian Rhapsody' or walking up more than two hundred steps to see the breathtaking view from St. Isaac's Cathedral (in St. Petersburg), everything that happened during the trip was enriched by the great people who were with me," Ferry said.

Students who are interested in participating in next summer's trip to Russia should contact Stone. Dates for future information sessions will be announced by Stone in the coming weeks.