What Studying Online at a Siberian University Taught Me About Siberia
Through a university exchange, I had planned to study at Tomsk State University, in Siberia, for five months. However, like most people planning trips away have found, the pandemic decided that my travel plans were not to be. Instead, I spent this time studying online with the Siberian university, and through the joys of zoom I managed to both improve my language skills and learn lots about the culture and history of Siberia. Here are some things that I learnt.
1. It really is that cold
When I think of Siberia, a lot of snow comes to mind, and this expectation was proven true. However, I did not anticipate just how cold it gets there, and how long the winter lasts. In many lessons we would ask the teachers about the weather in Tomsk and feel cold just hearing the answer! By April, we were jumping for joy for them if the temperature had miraculously surpassed freezing.
2. Every town has its own traditions
Siberia is such a vast region, covering over three quarters of Russia’s territory. This means that it is home to many different communities and cities, all with their own traditions. Tomsk was no exception; over the course of our online studies, many local traditions were revealed to us. For example, when the river Tom melts, usually in late April, many people flock to the river to watch big blocks of ice separating from each other. There are also many rituals associated with statues. For example, students ask the statue of St Tatiana, located in the city centre, for good luck in their exams by placing a scarf around her neck and giving her flowers.
3. It is a region of amazing biodiversity
As mentioned before, the area of Siberia is huge, allowing for great biodiversity. Before studying online with a Siberian university, I was not aware of just how diverse the landscape is. Siberia is home to the Vasyugan Swamp (Басюганские болота), which is the largest swamp in the northern hemisphere. Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world with its own ecosystem, is also located in Siberia.
4. Siberia has a rich academic history
Siberia is home to some very old universities, for example Tomsk State University was founded in 1878 by Alexander II. Many students, both foreign and from Russia, choose to study at institutions in Siberia. In Tomsk, every eighth person is a student, and there are six state universities.
My experience shows that studying online does not mean missing out on the cultural experiences and knowledge that studying in person brings. If you would like to find some more tips on cultural and linguistic immersion whilst studying online, you can read this blog post.
Leila, currently studying at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg