After a first encounter with Russia during a university field trip, Tyler Wood was looking for ways to go back to a country that fascinated him. The north2north program was just what he was wishing for.
Thanks to the UArctic mobility program, Wood, 22, a student at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), Canada, is spending a full academic year at Syktyvkar State University (SSU).
UArctic’s north2north program is a student exchange program which allows students to experience living and studying in different UArctic member institutions around the world.
Since he arrived in Syktyvkar in late August, he has been studying Russian and Soviet History. “I love all my classes,” he says, “but especially Russian. I have never experienced a class that allowed me to so quickly apply what I have learned into my day-to-day life.”
Learning the Russian language was the main reason Wood decided to go back to Russia. After participating in an ethnographic field trip in the Komi Republic in 2005, the Kamloops, B.C. native became fascinated with the Russian people and their culture. He decided that, after he finished his undergraduate degree, he wanted to enter a master’s program and conduct research in Russia. There was only one problem: he didn’t speak the language. It was one of his professors who told him that there would be an opportunity for a north2north exchange between UNBC and SSU in 2006-2007. “I saw this as an excellent opportunity to learn the Russian language,” Wood says.
Although his Russian skills are getting better every day, Wood admits dealing with the language barrier wasn’t always easy. “At times, it was quite stressful, especially during the first week.” However, Wood’s situation improved greatly when he was placed to live in a Russian family, and was able to communicate in English with one of the sons, while practicing his Russian on a day-to-day basis. “It provides me with an environment where I have to speak Russian and my family always helps me with my progress,” he says.
Spending time with his host family has been a highlight of Wood’s stay in Russia. “The best things so far have been the social experiences with my family and the people I have met through them and the university…