Singing Russian folk songs in New Haven for 30 minutes a day is not be part of the average Yalie’s routine. But without it, Yale summer study students would never have been able to outsing Russians in a restaurant in St. Petersburg.
The nine students used their knowledge of Russian folk songs while visiting St. Petersburg as part of a Yale study abroad program offered for the first time last summer. The program, which consisted of four weeks in New Haven and four weeks in Russia, included Russian language and culture classes, as well as a supervised homework session and a Russian table at lunch while in New Haven. Despite some student concerns, the University will offer the program again this year, with some minor changes.
The Russian program also served as the model for two new summer abroad programs Yale is offering this year in Krakow and Prague, said William Whobrey, director of summer study programs.
In New Haven, the program consisted of four hours of Russian per day, a 90-minute directed homework session, Russian choir, and two hours of Russian culture class per day. In St. Petersburg, there were three hours of Russian, biweekly culture courses, and one hour of study with Russian professors from St. Petersburg State University. Students received three credits for language study at the first, second or third year level and one credit for the culture class.
In the Krakow and Prague programs, students will also spend four weeks in New Haven and four weeks abroad, participating in language classes and cultural activities.
Students and professors said the program had some organizational difficulties, but said it lived up to the high expectations of a Yale course.
“Overall, I had a great time. Certainly it was nice to go to Russia with people I’ve seen this fall,” said Whitney May ’04, who participated in the program. “It’s the first year they’ve done it, so I think they had a lot of scheduling difficulties.”
Oliver Thomas ’03, another participant, said he enjoyed going to Russia. But he said there were so many planned activities spaced out over the course of each day in New Haven that it was difficult to find time to do the nearly three hours of homework required each night.
“The program was really intense and it had some problems, I guess because it was the first year,” Thomas said. “They didn’t advertise the number of hours they would take. The general structure was all wrong in my opinion.”
Julia Titus, who taught first-year Russian, said the program was more intense because it took place in the summer.
Irina Dolgova, who organized the program in conjunction with John MacKay and taught second-year Russian, said she hopes to expand the extent of the program next year, which she said she considered successful. She said she would like to have 15 to 20 students as opposed to the nine they had this year, since a larger group could have field trips by itself instead of having to coordinate with students from other study abroad programs. She said she had several ideas for improving the course.
“The way we’re going to improve our program is to make it more tied to culture,” Dolgova said. “I guess this next year we will try to make it possible for students to have independent research.”
There are no summer schools in Russia, Dolgova said, but she said she wants to organize some kind of independent study through St. Petersburg State University.