Debora Nischler: Unbelievable Adventures of an Italian Girl in Russia

Debora Nischler: Unbelievable Adventures of an Italian Girl in Russia
22.09.2014

Last year Debora Nischler, Aurora Erasmus Mundus grantee and Master student at University of Bologna (Italy), was on an exchange at Northern (Arctic) Federal University /Institute of Philology and Cross-Cultural Communication and had an internship in the NArFU International Office. Debora was glad to share the most memorable moments of her experience in our student city.

How could I express a 9-month experience in just one article? Even a book of the size of "Anna Karenina" would not be enough. The readers might expect to see a typical feedback of a student who first introduces herself and proceeds to describe the main aspects of life abroad (dormitory, studies, International Office, city, free time etc...). So let me introduce myself. I am Debora Nischler, a student from Italy majoring in translation, including translation from Russian. Due to my major field of study I thought it was reasonable to spend some time on the vast territories of Mother Russia. Many people have, and probably will ask me - why not Moscow or St. Petersburg? The answer is quite simple - big cities don't appeal to me. I ended up in Arkhangelsk by chance. My gut feeling has led me to this place, I would say, and it turned out to be a right choice.

And now the above-mentioned aspects:

Dormitory. Probably, the nicest one in whole Russia. I'm serious, everything was renovated and furnished in modern-style, and more than affordable. Sometimes there was no hot water, but to be honest, foreign students expect such adventures in Russia and they even get upset if there are not any (don't worry, you can take a shower downstairs where there is a hot-water boiler).

Studies. It is known that usually curriculum differs in every country, however, the quality of courses and their delivery was quite good. The teachers are glad to have foreign students in their class, they fully understand our difficulties and are always ready to help.

International Office. In this place the stereotype of Russian bureaucracy that may drive you crazy doesn't work. You can ask any questions in any time. I can say it for sure, because I took part in an internship at the International Office for three months and the workers were always ready to lend a hand and to solve students problems no matter how busy they were. It’s important to mention that every year a volunteer team is organized to assist foreign students, who help find places or even buy household goods. It seems impossible to feel abandoned in this city.

Leisure activities. As in any student city, Arkhangelsk offers many options to have a good time. I could have listed all possible kinds of sport or one of the many organizations open to international students, but brochures and booklets give more detailed information on this matter. I strongly advise you to check listings of current events throughout the city. The Russian North is not only known for its folklore. There are many museums to visit, events to take part in, and so much more that can peak any kind of interests for all types of individuals. Arkhangelsk I consider to be genuine Russia. And above all, don’t be shy to talk to people.

I’ve learned so many interesting and unexpected things from the locals! The Northerners are proud of their culture and traditions, but at the same time they are extremely modest and don’t express their pride in a straightforward way. However, if foreigners show interest and curiosity they discover a whole world: people (even those that you hardly know) are ready to share their knowledge and experience, give unexpected presents, invite you for tea or dinner or for a walk in the countryside. It was the first time in my life I met such hospitality, generosity and warmth. Those who do not dare to go studying to the North just because of the cold miss a lot. You can always shelter from the cold; the main thing is to have warmth in your heart. And in this sense Arkhangelsk is warmer than the tropics.

Well, it’s time to finish up my article; otherwise I run the risk of getting sentimental. What can I do, I am not Tolstoy and this is not “Anna Karenina”. If I could write like Tolstoy, I would tell more of the vast solemn forests. Of the crystal snow in the winter night. Of the dill – the best friend of all Russian cooks. Of the blizzard, which blows not only in Pushkin’s stories. Of winter fishing in the White Sea with gulls and ravens. Of the absense of spring. Of the true Russian New Year. Of the talks in the workshop. Of the German language camp on the outskirts of Arkhangelsk. Of endless days. Of the road through the river. Of dancing houses. Of one thousand and one try to get on the roof of the local “skyscraper”. Of superheroes. Of a little green wooden house. Of the salmon. Of Father Frost’s helpers. Of the unbelievable adventures of an Italian girl in Russia.

But maybe you’d better come to Arkhangelsk yourself to feel the fascination of the Russian North!

Debora Nischler,
Student at the University of Bologna (Italy),
Erasmus Mundus / Aurora grantee

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