Jean-Marc was a non-traditional student who took advantage of SRAS’s program flexibility to organize a short stay in Irkutsk.
SRAS: Introduce yourself to us, Jean-Marc.
Jean-Marc: I’m a 35-year-old French civil servant. I’ve been studying Russian in France for four years now at night courses, just two hours per week. But in fact I’ve been interested in Russia since I learnt a little of its history, geography and literature at school. Only in 2001 did I go for the first time in Russia and start learning Russian, which is a rather difficult language. I can say that my fascination for Russia is growing more and more, and I hope to eventually settle there, in one or two years, as the country is enjoying a fast growing economy, developing ties with other nations, and may even face a workforce shortage in near future.
SRAS: How did you first hear about IGLU and why did you decide to go there?
Jean-Marc: I wanted to spend a month in Siberia, see Lake Baikal and Irkutsk, and improve my Russian; so when I saw on Internet the possibilty offered by SRAS to attend intensive courses in IGLU for a short period, I just applied for it.
SRAS: What did you experience during your “short period?”
Jean-Marc: I took 3 weeks of RSL in July 2004, with intensive courses 4 hours per day with an individual tutor. She was very professional and competent and made interesting and lively teaching. As I wanted to learn as much as possible about Siberia, the courses concentrated on facts about the region, focusing largely on history, people, natural resources, economy, cultural and artistic life, and current events. Living in complete Russian immersion in Irkutsk was of course the best way to feel more at ease with the language, and in my particular case, I found the courses in IGLU very helpful to improve my oral expression in Russian and correct my strong foreign accent.
SRAS: What sort of excursions did you take with the cultural program?
Jean-Marc: I took part in two, one in the Museum of Wooden Architecture, which shows what typical life was like for Russian settlers in Siberia. The other was to a small town where the Buryats live. They were one of the first native peoples to settle in Eastern Siberia. I really enjoyed seeing the Buryat customs, particularly their traditional wrestling: it was funny to see Buryats inviting foreign students to take part in wrestling and easily defeating them, especially as I politely refused the invitation and quietly watched the show.
SRAS: How do you think your experience in IGLU has better prepared you for your future plans?
Jean-Marc: I got a maximum of information about Siberia in a minimum of time, plus the confirmation that this area of Russia has a strong potential for economic growth and that living there is not so tough, so I’m now planning to emigrate there in near future.
SRAS: What advice would you offer a student thinking about taking courses at IGLU?
Jean-Marc: Simply not to hesitate, Russia really is a fascinating country and the Russian language is worthy of study, whether you have academic, cultural or business purposes; I think IGLU can provide high quality courses matching those of the universities in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and Siberia is a very exciting region with a strong potential for business, and a strategic location near Far-East Asia.