Mount St. Mary’s Goes to Russia!

 

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Dr. Patrice Flynn

Mount students and faculty embarked on a transcontinental, transoceanic adventure to the Russian Federation during Spring Break of 2014. First stop was Chelyabinsk in the majestic South Ural Mountains where Europe and Asia meet. Then onto Saint Petersburg, the ancient capital of the Russian Empire.

The program was directed by Dr. Flynn, Associate Professor of Business (and world traveler) who believes understanding global business and culture is at the heart of embracing our shared world at this unique time in history. Mount students in Dr. Flynn’s business courses over the past four years have expressed a desire to see the world but do not want to study abroad for a whole semester. For these students, a shorter trip embedded in a business course is preferred.

Hence, Dr. Flynn created a new course entitled, Global Business and Culture in Russia, which was launched in January of 2014. The course included a special 12-day trip to Russia with 12 business students and Dean Karl Einolf who joined us both in the classroom (homework and all!) and Chelyabinsk. Our journey through Eurasia provided a unique opportunity to explore Russian customs, business practices, and much more.

In Chelyabinsk, we were warmly greeted at the airport by Russian students and faculty of South Ural State University on a night when temperatures fell to a brisk -31° F. Our hosts immersed us in Russian life immediately, beginning with interactive activities on campus at the Institute of Economics, Trade and Technology that led to quick friendships and exchange of ideas.

It was wonderful to work with Dr. Olga Shabalina, our faculty host and guide in Chelyabinsk. Dr. Shabalina became part of the Mount community as a Fulbright Scholar who taught in the Bolte School of Business in the spring of 2013. Hence, she knows a great deal about Mount St. Mary’s and our business programs. We were introduced to her business students, faculty coworkers, and senior administrators at South Ural State University (SUSU) who were eager to teach us about their country, history, and customs.

Excursions to the Museum of Local Lore, Victory Garden, Nepryakhino, and Cossack Village of Travniki steeped us in Russian history and the importance of the Chelyabinsk Oblast as a key manufacturing hub for the USSR. Evenings spent preparing traditional Russian foods with SUSU students, ice skating at the famous Uralskaya Molnia, and watching a student theatrical production gave us even more opportunities to get to know our Russian hosts.

Curious to hear what Mount students think about the Russian Federation, our students appeared on Russian TV, thanks to the production crew at SUSU’s school of communications. Departure day from Chelyabinsk was sad as we had to bid farewell to new friends who are still in our lives thanks to social media.

The six-hour flight across the vast Russian tundra to St. Petersburg landed us in a very different environment in the northwestern region of Russia along the Gulf of Finland and Volga River delta. Created in 1703 by Czar Peter the Great, St. Petersburg was the capital of the Russian empire until 1918 when the Bolsheviks moved the capital to Moscow. We visited many famous sites: Catherine’s Summer Palace in Pushkin Village, Victory Square, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Peter and Paul Fortress and Admiralty, Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, and the world-renowned State Hermitage Museum, an art-lover’s dream.

Other cultural excursions included the St. Petersburg circus (lions, tigers, and bears!) and the Mariinsky Ballet made famous by the Ballet Rouse, Tchaikovsky, and other famous Russian artists. The city of St. Petersburg elegantly blends Russian and European cultures in a way that beckons travelers from all corners of the globe.

The winter of 2014 was an historic time to be in Russia following the ouster of Ukraine President Victor Yanukovych, to the chagrin of the Russian Federation. Within days of our arrival, the American Ambassador departed Moscow. The next day, President Putin ordered the Russian Navy to exercise combat readiness in the Black Sea in an attempt to annex Crimea from Ukraine. US-Russian tensions were high as talk of military conflict mounted, something unforeseen when planning our Mount trip to Russia.

Exhausted, full of wonder, insights, and memories of new friendships, we made it back safe and sound to the Mount on March 3, 2014. I am happy to report that all the trip logistics put in place over the six-months leading up to our journey went smoothly, no one got sick, and we came in under budget. Mission accomplished!

We welcome Mount students considering a student exchange experience to talk with participants in the 2014 Russia Program to learn more about foreign travel opportunities with the Mount and ways to take advantage of the University’s new Global Encounters initiative.

Are you ready to learn about the world?

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