Fulbright Scholar tells personal story of modern Russia

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Valencia professor of English as a Second Language, Steven Cunningham shared his perceptions of modern Russia, and broke down stereotypes and preconceived notions about the former American adversary. His work with the Fulbright Scholar program gave him the special opportunity to explore another culture as an educational ambassador.

“Living abroad and learning from a new culture really helps you to learn who you are and appreciate what you have,” said Cunningham. He spent three months in the small Russian town of Orsk learning everything he could, working with students in a foreign language program teaching English.

Discrediting preconceived notions about Russia was the first topic discussed at this open lecture. They don’t all drink vodka — in fact most prefer a warm cup of tea, and though photos do exists on the internet, bears do not randomly roam the streets wherever you go. And though the country has undergone a post-communist identity crisis, they are now reaping the economic benefits of trade with a booming oil industry.

One area that Russians are trying to catch up in is the advent of the latest technology. Classrooms in Russian Universities are still using technology from over 20-years-ago, and newer devices and networks are not readily available.

There was even a delegation of Russian educators that came to Valencia in Feb. to discuss incorporating old teaching programs into a modern school system and showcase what technology has to offer in the form of online courses and digital textbooks.

Russian politics is also a hot topic, with the recent and questionable re-election of Vladimir Putin. The last 30 years of Russian leadership was explained, leading up to this most recent election and why it has inspired protests from Russians, like when voting ballots were being openly changed by election officials.

To prepare for the cultural and linguistic challenges before his trip, Valencia foreign language student and Russian citizen Yelena Burkduskaya helped Cunningham with personal tutoring and advisement.

“If you are going to travel to another country, you have to be prepared or you will be disappointed,” said Burkduskaya. “It’s a completely different country, like a different planet in a way.”

Professor Cunningham hopes to continue his work with Fulbright Scholars in the future and continue to explore and interact with foreign cultures. More information on the Fulbright Scholar program can be found at their website at http://www.cies.org/us_scholars.