Maranda Valantino traveled to Saint Petersburg, Russia to learn the Russian language and to observe and study the culture. For five and a half weeks, she studied at Peter the Great Saint Petersburg Polytechnic University where she was enrolled in a beginner level Russian Language class and a Russian Contemporary Life class. Both classes were taught by local Russian teachers who brought more to the classroom than just lectures and notes, but also showed their interest in the American lifestyle. While she was not in the classroom, Maranda was living in a homestay with her host mom Olga and her host dad Dmitrie. Her host parents spoke English, which helped her ask and receive answers dealing with the Russian culture. The most interesting conversations were held around dinner or nightly tea, when they exchanged conversations about Russian politics and what life was like during the Soviet Union. Both of her host parents played an important role in teaching Maranda how to read, speak, and listen to the Russian language. Nightly lessons were usually taught for about an hour after tea and would not stop until she was showing any sign of being tired. On the weekends, Maranda would travel with her AIFS group to different locations in Russia including: Pushkin, Peterhof, Moscow, and Novgorod and observed the Russian culture in the diverse areas aside from Saint Petersburg.
CEE Title: Hard Conversations: Addressing the –isms
The CEE "Hard Conversations: Addressing the -isms" focused on different problems or issues that were seen in each of the CEE team members' host countries(Senegal and Morocco, Germany, Thailand, India, Australia, and Russia) and addressed how they can be addressed within the Waynesburg community. These issues were sexism, racism, terrorism, voluntourism, poverty, and domestic violence. The first part of the event started with a quiz that separated people into suggested stations they should visit during the event. We explained the significance of the quiz and explained procedures for the rest of the night, as the audience members would switch stations every fifteen minutes. This also had a bit of flexibility, which allowed for people to switch stations and have a snack. Guests would visit a designated station that would allow for them to learn about a problem or issue that was seen in a country and then make connections with how it can be helped within the local community. All of the stations promoted conversations among people who came to the event and with the leader who went to that country. The purpose of this event was to provide information and allow conversations to question these problems and brainstorm ways they could be fixed. After three 15 minute stations, the community guests were called back into the room where the introduction was held. We asked questions that provided feedback and allowed the guests to reflect on different facts they learned and ways they can help.