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“Peer students” – interview with Kristina and Tatyana

"Peer students" - interview with Kristina and Tatyana

In this article, we are going to tell you about “peer students” – students and communication partners who teach Russian to foreigners. Two students of Daugavpils University Kristina and Tatyana who have been working with foreign students for few years are going to share their personal experience.

When did you decide to become a communication partner?

Kristina: “We got an offer from the professors from the Department of Russian and Slavic Linguistics to take part in this project in 2014. That time we were first-year students and we were the first group which started working with foreign students. So, we have been in the project for 4 years already.”

What are the advantages of working with foreign students?

Tayana: “First of all, the experience, of course, establishing contact with any person regardless their race, outlook, age, gender, religion, or mentality. It is also the introduction into new cultures, meeting new people; very often we became friends. We get to know a lot about other states, life and traditions of foreign students. One of the advantages is that we can proudly show them our city and tell a lot about it. It is a really good culture exchange. We often go on excursions or field trips with our students, or spend some more time with them, do some things together. It is a very interesting communication, new adventures, as well as the language practice”.

Peer students

What difficulties did you face when working with foreigners?

Kristina: “The main difficulty is that every time when you work with a student you should be ready to improvise and come up with a topic for conversation, as we have to speak a lot with students.  You should give a student a “push” towards an interesting and detailed conversation. Every time we deal with various people, extroverts, or introverts. Our aim is to get everyone talking, as people sometimes find it difficult to make a contact. It is also important for foreign students to listen to a real speech, learn aspects of youth slang and student jargon, since they do not learn these things at university. Moreover, with a “peer” student, they feel equal and we can communicate freely and light-heartedly.”

Could you tell us about the problems you have faced?

Kristina: “One of the problems is that it is difficult to say goodbye to a student. We very often say goodbye having tears in the eyes, as sometimes you can find a real soulmate during 4 weeks. We also have to work with students whose level of Russian proficiency is really low, therefore you need to work really hard pronouncing every word. Sometimes we lack some information in communication, and you have to put the conversation off. You are open for a discussion but they speak about the things that we are completely unaware of. On the one hand it is a problem, but, on the other hand, is an advantage as you can learn something new”.

How do foreign students change while working with you?

Tatyana: “They, of course, become more open, they adapt to a Russian-speaking environment. Speaking about their progress, in 4 weeks they start speaking much more confidently. They usually have to sit a test after their study abroad programme. Therefore, we try hard to contribute to their good result in the test.  It is important for them to learn how to apply to practice everything they have learnt. During this time, you became not only a “peer” student but also a friend, a guide, or sometimes even a psychotherapist. We do our best to create such an environment in which a student can speak Russian practically as if it is their first language.  Foreign students say that they sometimes have dreams in Russian”.

Peer students

Does your work in the project contribute to your self-development?

Kristina: “Every “peer” student learns how to help a person who studies a new language. You help to improve a foreign student’s linguistic abilities, but at the same time you work on your teaching skills, practice your pronunciation, and test your patience.  It is a good “school” as you have to take care of what and how you speak as well as the person you are working with.”

Why do you like working as “peer” students?

Tatyana: “We like this job because it is experience and at the same time a challenge to yourself, the ability to cope with the tasks and find a way to any person. During all this time, you get additional knowledge, a huge set of stories and expand your outlook. The programme is the same, but working with every new student is an exciting adventure which goes too fast”.

What advice can you give to beginners in working with foreign students?

Kristina: “Be patient, tolerant, and tactful. It is necessary to develop your language, your speech, and the feeling for language. Be tolerant when communicating with foreign students, and treat every foreign student with care. You should always remember that you work with a person whose first language is not Russian. You should stay open to all new things and try to enjoy the process of teaching”.

How would you assess yourself as a “peer” student?

Tatyana: “A 9, as there is always room for improvement. We always strive to work better”.
Peer students

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