Что нового? (What’s new?): Saint Martin’s students study at Russian Language Camp

LACEY, WASHINGTON — Four Saint Martin’s University students were among a group of 18 undergraduate students who attended Russian Language Camp in June and July at Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia. Karelia is a small, forested country in the northwest corner of the Russian Federation that borders Finland.

Now in its 23rd year, the camp was founded by the Karelian State Pedagogical University, a highly respected teacher-training institution, and the College of St. Scholastica, a fellow Catholic Benedictine school in Duluth, Minn. The institutions and their students host the camp alternate years, giving students from each country opportunities to polish their language skills, explore another culture and develop friendships.

Saint Martin’s students traveled to Karelia with the program for the first time in 2010 and last summer hosted the Russian students on campus for one week as part of their stay in the United States.

Saint Martin’s Assistant English Professor Jamie Olson, Ph.D., a St. Scholastica alumnus who attended the Russian Language Camp twice during his undergraduate years and accompanied this year’s contingent, says participation in the camp underscores Saint Martin’s commitment to provide increased study-abroad opportunities, and rightly so. He considers his student experience abroad as the most important part of his education.

“An undergraduate education isn’t quite complete without some experience outside the United States,” he said. “Basically, any time you can get away from what you’re used to and spend time in another culture, you come to see the world in a new way. You learn that people elsewhere live their lives differently from us, and then you come back here and see how our own culture informs our lives. Learning about other places is crucial to developing critical thinking skills. It helps students understand who they are and how they fit into the world.”

Attending this year’s camp in Karelia were:
Carelia Agis of Tacoma, WA
Johann Bisbing of Yelm, WA
Emily Molstad of Spanaway, WA
Natasha Swalley of Lacey, WA

The American students spent time in Moscow and St. Petersburg sight-seeing at either end of the six-week camp, but the camp itself revolved around life in a more typical Russian city, Olson says. Petrozavodsk, Karelia’s capitol, is medium-sized – friendly and busy, but small enough to be walkable and provincial enough that most of its citizens do not speak English.

The American students studied Russian language a couple hours each day, then visited civic offices, schools, businesses, museums and other places where they had an opportunity to use what they learned in class. A weekend at a “dacha,” the relaxing cabins where many Russian families spend their summers, and dinner with a local family provided more personal views of Russian life.

Time was set aside in Petrozavodsk for students to practice Benedictine values and volunteer, either tutoring schoolchildren in English or landscaping at a local school for children with disabilities.

This fall, students who attended the camp will have an opportunity to strengthen their Russian language skills in a class led by Olson. He also teaches Russian literature in translation and has organized a Russian film series at Saint Martin’s University.

Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, coeducational university located on a 380-acre wooded campus in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 23 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes 1,250 students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its main campus, and 650 more to its extension campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Centralia College. Visit the Saint Martin’s University website at www.stmartin.edu.

For additional information:

Jamie Olson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English
360-438-4302; jolson@stmartin.edu

Sarah Holdener
Director of Community Relations and Event Management
Office of Marketing and Communications
Saint Martin’s University
360-412-6140; sholdener@stmartin.edu