The semester exchange program developed out of the Summer Russian Exchange program, where SLUH sends 8 to 12 rising seniors to St. Petersburg, where they live with host families and go to classes at Gymnasia 209, and then host their Russian counterparts the following spring.
“I think it’s another opportunity to expand our global programs,” Russian teacher and Foreign Language department chair Robert Chura said. “That’s a goal for us institutionally moving ahead.”
This program is also a result of the success in hosting exchange students from China in past years, as well as students from Colombia.
“I talked with the school about a year and a half ago just to see what their interest level would be and they said absolutely,” said Chura.
Both Kolgo and Blokhin attend Gymnasia 209, and have taken eight years of English and four years of Russian. Even with eight years of experience, there are still some miscommunications.
“He was learning British English in Russia and we speak American English here, so there are a few miscommunications,” said Biermann, who is hosting Kolga.
Chura also sees this exchange program as an opportunity for the introduction of different cultures at SLUH.
“They seem to be enjoying the experience here, the opportunity to expand their horizons here at SLUH and be a part of the community,” said Chura. “It provides a neat opportunity for not just them but for our kids to have more contact with other cultures, and we hope we can continue to do it.”
“I like it very much,” said Kolgo. “(There are) a lot of good people. Some people in Russia think America is very ugly and arrogant, but I think that not to be true.”
The new program has proceeded relatively smoothly, but there have been some minor bumps.
“With the first time going through it you discover little obstacles that you didn’t realize when you originally planned it: getting all the records to match up and translating everything,” said Chura. “Going through for the first time there were some things that I didn’t realize we needed to take care of.”
These small setbacks have been taken care of and resolved, and both Kolgo and Blokhin are taking sophomore level classes
Due to differences in curriculum and organization of the school year, both Kolgo and Blokhin are leaving St. Louis and the U.S. in late November to return to Russia to study for and take a significant semester exam before their winter break.
—Rob Garner contributed reporting