In September 1994, I arrived at the Yaroslavl train station with 4 boxes of books and 4 large and 2 small suitcases, ready to start a five month personal and teaching adventure. Two previous visits to Moscow and St. Petersburg; advice from two friends, Blair Ruble and George Gallant, who had taught at the university; a brief visit with Professor Igor Kiselev, while he was visiting in the states; and minimal language skills were all the personal preparation I had for this journey. Upon my arrival, as I remember, Mama Sasha (She will always be Mama Sasha to me.) greeted me with Olga, Natasha, and Zoya, who worked in the offce, and directed the unloading of my belongings. She had arranged for me to stay in an apartment, which was similar in size and accommodation to my apartment in Washington, D.C. On my second day, Professor Kiselev took me on a tour of the old city and showed me how to shop.
As I look back on the experience and think of what was most challenging adjustment, it was the simple every day life activities. I had to learn to plan tasks like shopping and laundry. How, where, and when to shop were more complex than running into my Washington D.C. supermarket and picking up a few items on the way home from work. I thought a map of Yaroslavl stores indicating which one sold what would be helpful. After a few weeks, most of exchange students and faculty shopped in the ”shop in the park”; as well as the local markets. We also bought bread from the hole in the wall; I still remember the grey bread. I came to enjoy shopping as a social experience, not just a task.
My university experience reflected the best of what I have experienced in university teaching. My students were wonderful-bright, interested, enthusiastic, and willing to experiment with the American professor. Lilia Karnizova and Alex Sitnikov interpreted, as my Russian skills were minimal. (I have continued language studies, but am a poor student.) I keep the two waxed pigs, which my students gave to me at a 1995 New Year’s party, where I can see them and remember the good times. My students taught me much - to be flexible, willing to experiment, and to appreciate differences in teaching styles.
I learned to appreciate group learning. I believe that my students became comfortable asking me questions, which, at times, led me to changing what and how I taught. Much to my amusement, when I think about the university administrative challenges I observed or confronted, I realize that these challenges are similar in all academic bureaucracies. At Yaroslavl, my particular challenge might have been finding a computer or Xerox machine, but a faculty member at any university usually has to negotiate for something. Also, faculties usually have divisions, differences of opinion regarding how things should be done. In Yaroslavl, I learned to look for the familiar in what seemed to be difference in order to be better able to handle the challenge.
My overwhelming Yaroslavl memory is the love of my students and friends. I have seen Alex and Lilia during the last year. I met Professor Mizulin in the U.S. and Moscow. The others are faces in my mind, in my heart. Whatever happens, whether or not have I have the opportunity to return to Yaroslavl, the memories and images will remain with me forever. Love to all at Yaroslavl State University.