Lessons from an 8 year villager
Published: May 10, 2017
My name is Nina, and I am an eight year villager at the Russian Village, Lesnoe Ozero. In English , the name of thisr s wonderful place translates to "Forest Lake". For the last four summers, I was a student in the High School Credit Program. As you may be able to tell, Lesnoe Ozero has meant a lot to me and has shaped me in a lot of ways. First of all, I discovered my heritage at camp. At camp, I could reconnect with aspects of Russian culture and discover new parts. It’s not just Russian culture, though! I also discovered the vastness of Central Asia. For example, for several years, we had counsellors all the way from the Republic of Tuva in Siberia! We were exposed to their traditional clothing, their food, bits and pieces of their language (which felt very different from Russian), and Tuvan throat singing!
On that note, another reason the village is invaluable is because of the people. Where else in the United States would I have met students and professors from the Republic of Tuva? Or be able to have meaningful discussions with counsellors of a wide range of ages about their experiences living beneath Communism or hear anecdotes about the Siege of Leningrad? You also bond with other students who share an interest in the Russian language. Russian was the foundation of all these meaningful interactions I have had with other people. Language matters because you can then have discussions and discover parts of life you wouldn’t have known existed otherwise.
The one month, high school credit program is amazing because you can experience the value of Lesnoe Ozero for double the time! There are several tips to keep in mind to make the most out of this experience: The first tip is to try your hardest. It’s difficult to get out of your comfort zone, especially when not being able to understand everything is unsettling enough, but that’s how you grow! Everyone at camp is encouraging of risk-taking. This can take the form of speaking as much Russian as you can. You’ll never be alone doing if you take on the challenge of being Герой Русского языка (Russian Language Hero) and only speaking Russian tbat day. A more obvious one is to do all your homework for class.
Another tip is to branch out to other people. Talk with your counsellors. Ask them why they study Russian (many are students just like you!) or why they came to Concordia. They are more than willing to talk with you! Bonus points if the conversation is in Russian! Also, talk with your cabin mates and classmates. Here’s your conversations starter: “Why on earth did you decide to venture into the Minnesota wilderness to learn Russian this summer?” You will find a range of answers that will deepen your appreciation for the world. Удачи!