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Moscow Study Trips Cooperation Proposal

This page describes the study trips I organize to Moscow and the forms that cooperation with academic and other institutions have taken and might take.
Institutions may propose these courses to students (credit, non-credit, directed study, continuing education), to professors for professional development and to staff.

There are two main advantages for institutions:

I began these study trips in 1980 while a university professor in a degree program aimed at working adults and continued them independently since 1984. Most participants have come from North America, but the courses are open to all interested adults.

The composition of groups is usually heterogeneous, with participants from inside and outside academia. Some wish academic credit in traditional courses or in continuing education, others are businesspeople desiring country familiarization and contacts, others are active in labor unions or community associations, others come simply out of curiosity. The wide variety of ages and backgrounds represented has been both advantageous (in particular, a range of expertise that permits participants to help each other evaluate observations) and a challenge.

I am an independent educator, not an "agency" or an administrator. I accompany each group, and while I act as liaison with the host institution on practical matters, my main responsibility is educational: to help the group members understand and interpret the content and the context of their experience in Russia.

COURSE OBJECTIVES

1) To learn by lecture, discussion (formal and informal), field trips, observation and personal contacts what the present political, economic and social situation of Russia is and how the country's historic transformation is evolving. The premise is that there is relevancy beyond the intrinsic interest:. What happens in Russia has inescapable impacts on the rest of the world: politically, economically, environmentally and socially.

2) Travel study should result in better comprehension of one's own country. This aspect is even more pronounced after visiting Russia because, more than just another country, it is a place where the essence of democratic and economic foundations is being debated and tested.

To achieve these objectives takes some time. People often think they have understood a great deal about Russia after a week or two, then they realize that many of their conclusions are incorrect. This is the result of both the "baggage" (assumptions) with which people come and of the many layers of Russian culture and reality. That's why the courses are usually 4 weeks long. Also, a very important component is the contacts and friendships participants make. These may take more or less time to get started, but naturally they take time to develop. It is necessary to meet people several times in order to get acquainted and to learn about their lives.

FACILITIES

I have cooperated with the same host institution in Moscow since 1980, and it has existed for more than eighty years. The people there are reliable and we trust each other. The importance of that cannot be exaggerated in today's Russia. It is located in SW Moscow, in a park area a short walk from the Olympic Village.

A modern classroom building is connected by a closed walkway to the residence hall, making it very convenient to have living, eating and formal learning activities in the same place so that the time spent in travel around the city can be used for something more purposeful than commuting--and there are chances to meet the other residents. A gymnasium has just been built adjacent to the residence.

Rooms are typical for Russian higher education: each suite shares an entrance vestibule, a bathroom and a toilet (separate rooms). The suite has a larger room with two beds and a smaller one with one. The rooms have recently been renovated (parquet floors, new wallpaper and paint, new furniture, addition of refrigerator and TV).

The hall door of the suite locks, as do the doors to each room. There is a kitchen on the floor where residents can store and prepare snacks or meals. The reception desk at the main floor entrance screens visitors and our hosts usually arrange 24-hour surveillance on our floor as an extra security precaution.

Three full meals are served daily, more than anybody can eat, and prepared by a dining room staff concerned principally with our group. A special effort is made to maintain quality by contracting with farms and producers. Renovation of the dining hall began in Summer 1999.

TRAVEL

For travel, I expect to use Northwest/KLM via Amsterdam. People with the time and inclination may stop in Amsterdam on the return trip and visit Europe. (Europeans may depart from Amsterdam.)

Departure can be arranged on one ticket from most US and Canadian cities. I cannot block seats without having names. This means that notification and decisions must be made earlier so that low-cost seats will be available.

Because of the flight schedule, there will usually be an overnight in Amsterdam on the return trip to North America.

I try to keep cost from being a barrier to the extent I can, and I think I have negotiated the best possible financial conditions for inside Russia.

PRE-TRIP PREPARATION

A document (about 20 pages) is available on this site with detailed practical information and advice covering everything from flight details to public transportation in Moscow to Russian cultural habits to a short bibliography and recommended films. I can also provide a list of  previous participants who can be contacted to share their suggestions by phone or Email.

Also available for downloading from this site is a paper called Tools that describes how to study another country and culture and includes practical exercises that can be done before and during the trip.

VISAS

Full instructions and the application form will be distributed directly to registrants or through you. I will procure an official invitation from our host.

In 1996 the Russians changed the visa procedure for all visitors to the Moscow region. The Intrior Ministry must now approve all invitations. This has added about four weeks to the process, making early decisions on participation even more important.

MODES OF COOPERATION

How your institution collaborates is your option. It can range from simply posting or distributing information about the study trips to accepting transfer credits given by other academic institutions to offering the course for credit yourself. Academic institutions giving credit themselves will usually choose to evaluate their own students, but alternatives are possible. Sometimes an institution has sent a professor along to accompany its students.

PAYMENT

If you simply inform and refer participants, I will deal directly with them on all practical matters. If you refer students to another institution which is offering the course for credit, that institution would normally be the intermediary for administrative questions. I would deal directly with you if you are offering the course for credit for your own students or if you were accepting students from outside your institution who would later transfer your credits.

Eric Fenster moscowtrip2007@yahoo.com