From the other side of the globe
Chad Davidson, adjunct assistant professor, English, has taught in South Korea, studied in Mexico, and now he can add Russia to his educational map.
Udmurt State is a lot like JCCC in that it sits in the middle of the country. Its people are friendly and extremely curious about foreign visitors, Davidson said, because the city doesn’t have the tourist draw enjoyed by Moscow or St. Petersburg.
One big difference? While it might be difficult to find more than a few fluent speakers of Russian at JCCC, Udmurt State has many students and faculty who speak English superbly, Davidson said.
He was the only native speaker of English on campus during the spring semester, and though he knew only a few words of Russian when he first arrived (and ended up taking nine Russian classes while he was there), he managed quite well, he said.
“In the department where I taught— Lexicology and Phonetics— each student learns English, Latin, and either French or German at the same time,” Davidson said. “And at the end of the first year, they are already quite good at English.”
One of the classes he taught was comprised of students from both Udmurt State and JCCC. While this class has been taught before, most recently by Keith Geekie, professor, English, it was this time taught by a teacher on the other side of the globe.
“It is an online class where students write about deeper aspects of their culture than one would find on the news or in movies,” Davidson said. “One example of an essay is ‘autobiography of place’ in which students write about the significant places in their lives from their childhood up until now, giving details of the surroundings and what makes it significant. Then students compare their own essay to that of an essay by a student in another country.”
He said the students at Udmurt State are generally very quiet and very smart. “They are different than JCCC students in that they are more hesitant to give their opinions,” Davidson said. And, if you can believe it, “they use their cell phones in class much more than American students do!”
Davidson said he enjoys these differences in culture, which is one reason why he signed up to teach at Udmurt State University.
“I think it is of utmost importance that individuals from different places continually form relationships of mutual respect despite – or maybe because of – their differing cultures and beliefs,” Davidson said. “Izhevsk is a very multi-ethnic environment, and I spent a lot of time not just with Russians, but also with Udmurts and Tatars. Each relationship was a blessing and an opening up of whole new worlds.”
Those relationships are the best part of the exchange experience, he said. “If you look at travel blogs like ‘fluentin3months,’ you will see that they always list the relationships they make as being the most important thing to them about traveling,” Davidson said. “It is definitely true.”