Ksenia Naberezhneva of Samara State University is spending four weeks at Binghamton University, learning about the American university system. She is part of the Fulbright Russian International Education Administrators program.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
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It did not take long for Ksenia Naberezhneva to notice the similarities between students from Binghamton University and those from her home institution, Samara State University in Samara Oblast, Russia.
“Students are very motivated to get higher education because they understand the value of it,” she said. “They develop not only professional skills, but personal skills, as well.”
Naberezhneva is spending four weeks in Binghamton as part of the Fulbright Russian International Education Administrators program (RIEA.) She is one of 10 Russian participants who is spending three months in the United States, learning about the American university system.
Located in Samara, 540 miles from Moscow, Samara State University has about 15,000 students in 10 schools. Naberezhneva is a university administrator in the Center of International Activities and Marketing Services. Since 2007, she has served as a documentation manager with expertise in student migration issues and translation. She also is pursuing her PhD in social philosophy at the university.
“I like being involved with students,” she said. “The students at my school don’t see me as a student because I’m an administrator. But it’s nice because I’m still young and I can understand them better in some cases.
“The Russian International Education Administrators program is a great opportunity to see how American universities work,” she said. “You can read a lot online, but unless you see how things really work, you’ll never fully understand.”
The RIEA participants arrived in the United States in January and spent a month training at the University of Minnesota. They also attended an international education conference in San Francisco and met with State Department officials in Washington, D.C., and Fulbright leaders in New York City. The group then split up for more university visits before arriving at their host universities for four-week practicums.
Naberezhneva admitted that she had not heard of Binghamton University before arriving on March 13.
“The first thing I had to do was learn how to pronounce it,” she said. “It took me a couple of days!”
At Binghamton, Naberezhneva has worked with and met with staff from Undergraduate Admissions, the Career Development Center and International Student and Scholar Services.
“It’s important for me to see how admissions works because a lot of students come to me and say, ‘I want to get a degree at an American university. What do I do?’”
Naberezhneva has attended various classes on campus, ranging from global studies to English as a Second Language to African-American studies. Over spring break, she even got to take part in a Syracuse University panel on Russian history.
Hosting the practicum has been “a great opportunity to showcase Binghamton’s comprehensive internationalization efforts,” said Ellen Badger, International Student and Scholar Services director. The University received the invitation from the Institute of International Education.
“We were told that the participants would want professional insights and hands-on experience working in an American university, and I knew that
Binghamton would have much to offer,” Badger said. “But what has made this practicum so successful has been Ksenia herself. She has been open to new experiences and new ideas, extremely flexible and very pleasant to work with! We have also learned a great deal about Ksenia’s home institution and some of the challenges to expanding internationalization efforts there.”
Naberezhneva said there are several differences between the universities at Binghamton and Samara. Binghamton’s campus is bigger, has more student organizations and offers greater course flexibility. In Russia, it is not common for students to change majors or take a year off and return to school.
Perhaps more importantly, Russian universities do not provide as much academic and personal assistance to students as U.S. schools such as Binghamton. Russian schools lack academic advisement offices, Naberezhneva said, and students are believed to be more mature, independent and capable of keeping track of their own records.
“It’s not that they don’t want to be involved; it’s just tradition,” she said. “We don’t follow academic records as much and say ‘How can I help?’ if they have some problems. I like the involvement component here very much. I wish we were more involved with students.”
Naberezhneva, who leaves April 8, said she expects to do more grant writing and program development with other universities when she returns home. The visit to the United States and Binghamton has proved valuable, she said.
“This trip has given me ideas about things to do at (Samara State),” said Naberezhneva, who added that she is thankful to both the Institute of International Education and Binghamton University for the opportunity. “Whether it’s training someone to help students with résumés and cover letters or having the same classes for a study-abroad component, there are many things we can do at my university.”