“Tolerant People Live in Chelyabinsk” – Interview with the Head of the Center for Sociocultural Adaptation, Dina Valeeva

By initiative of the United Nations (UN), March 20th is celebrated as Earth Day around the world. The UN’s statement states that “Earth Day is a special time which is dedicated to bringing people to understand that the planet Earth is our home, feel our international “one-ness” and dependence on one another.”

Starting from 2016, the Center for Sociocultural Adaptation has been founded at South Ural State University. The Center does not only work with international students to help them adapt, they also organize trainings for the staff from SUSU dormitories, libraries, and human resources, including English lessons and introduction to different cultures and traditions, which is a very important part of developing tolerance in relationships between representatives of various nations.

The Head of the Center for Sociocultural Adaptation Dina Valeeva tells us about what tasks the Center fulfills, and how its staff works with international students.

– What tasks are set for staff of the Center for Sociocultural Adaptation?

‒ Our Center has 2 main goals. The first one is teaching the SUSU staff to communicate with international students. And the second one is geared towards the international students themselves. We have many programs, one of which is the conversation club, where students come to speak Russian. We also go on excursions around the Chelyabinsk Region with them, for example: to Gardarika Park of Historical Reconstruction, Sunny Valley ski resort, to Zyuratkul, and Shikhan mountain. International students’ favorite location is the SUSU’s Olimp recreation camp. We also have a Creativity program where our volunteers hold various master classes.

– How are lessons held at the CSA?

‒ The lessons are taught by lecturers from the Department of Russian as a Foreign Language, Candidates of Science (Philology) Elena Doronina, Elena Kharchenko, and Yulia Kazakova. They know exactly how to have a way with international students, how to communicate with them so that no one ever gets offended, and they also know the unique features of many different cultures.

– How do you understand tolerance?

 ‒ For me, tolerance is a respectful, patient attitude to foreign culture, traditions, and language. Based on my own experience, I can say that tolerant people live in Chelyabinsk. I frequently speak with people from other countries and I’ve never heard any complaints from the foreigners who come to our city about aggressive behavior towards them. Chelyabinsk residents smile at foreigners and are always ready to help. In terms of SUSU, I know for myself that if Russian students find out that someone is a foreigner, they try to help or guide with advice.

– What plans does the Center have for the coming year?

‒ We have a lot of plans! We want to organize a round table for faculty teaching staff on issues of teaching international students jointly with the Department of Russian as a Foreign Language and the International Affairs Division. We are planning on taking part in an international festival for foreign students. We will also continue our trips to the Olimp recreation camp, taking various excursions, and of course we will keep communicating with international students and bringing in more Russian volunteers. The doors of our Center are always open to international students. They know that they can always come to us with any problems they might have. Sometimes there are things they don’t understand, or they missed an assignment, or didn’t take their exams on time, or got sick, so they come to us and we help them out of course. The theme of tolerance is woven through all the events that the Center organizes.

Marina Kovyazina
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