From the Appalachians to the Urals: Students from HSE Perm and Ohio University Promote Cross-Cultural Understanding During Summer Break
While most university students spend their summer vacations at the beach, a group of students from Ohio University and HSE Perm Russia are spending their summers in a most unusual way—taking part in the Bobcat-Crow Cultural Exchange Lab (BCCEL). Named after the mascots of the two universities, BCCEL brings together twenty-six students from the two universities in a weekly cross-cultural exchange on Zoom. During the sixty-minute virtual exchange, Ohio and HSE Perm students share their views on topics such as cultural values, the American and Russian education systems, stereotypes, national symbols and holidays.
The programme is led by four faculty members, two from HSE Perm and two from Ohio. At the same time, the program also helps to develop students’ leadership skills, with each session being led by students from both schools. Faculty have pre-planning meetings with these student leaders prior to the full group sessions.
The lively online sessions feature games, surveys, mini-presentations, breakout rooms and large group discussions, and participants have discovered some surprising commonalities and differences. After each session, students fill in a short survey with comments and follow-up questions.
Here’s what some of the students had to say:
- I really enjoyed the game where we compared symbols. I learned that apple pie is a traditional American dish.
- I learned that Thanksgiving is a huge holiday in the USA—Jane loves Thanksgiving food so much that she asks her family to cook it on her birthday!
- I've decided to celebrate not only Russian holidays, but American ones too!
- I learned how good the Russian education system is when it comes to geography. They know more about different places around the world than people in the US.
- I learned the truth about a number of stereotypes about Americans—and even about Russians!
- For me, the point of our discussion is that we should forget about stereotypes and try to form our own opinions about other people. And this is so important. I also never knew that Americans were so easy-going and approachable. It was a nice surprise!
- Today I found out how people from other countries see us, and I was also very lucky to unlearn some stereotypes that I had about them. I’m glad that we got deeper into it instead of discussing the usual stereotypes. I also made my first friend on this project, and that’s amazing!
The goal of the BCCEL is to improve cross-cultural understanding between young people in Russia and the US. The programme was also promoted in a presentation at the ‘Neighbours in Research’ conference that took place at HSE Perm in May. We look forward to telling the public more about the programme and building upon the momentum we’ve already created.