Victoria Avtaeva: «Siberia for foreign pupils - is so cool thing»

At the end of October, the Surgut district once again accepts schoolchildren from abroad who came to get acquainted with the northern territories within the framework of the international camp "Dialogue". On the eve of this event, we talk with the regional representative of the AFS program in Russia Victoria Aleksandrovna Avtaeva. 
- As I know, it was you who came to the idea of developing a program in our region with such a huge educational potential. Camp "Dialogue" is the main platform of the project? 
- Yes. The Surgut district joined this program in 2011, and already in 2012 we risked organizing an international camp. The camp consists of foreign participants of AFS, studying in various regions of our country. These students are given the opportunity to travel around Russia during the holidays. We understood that taking foreign pupils is a big responsibility. But we did it! 

- According to the AFS program, the Surgut district not only accepts foreign pupils, but also sends Russian pupils for various periods of study to other countries? 

- However, having checked personally all the nuances of the program, we can say that we trust the program AFS, 
above all, in terms of ensuring the safety of our children. 
Children of the Surgut region travel abroad as part of an exchange program for schoolchildren. Dozens of schoolchildren from twenty countries visited the settlements of the Surgut district during the existence of the camp. This year we are replenishing our "geographical collection" with two more countries - Turkey and Brazil. That is, there will already be 22 countries (this is all Europe, the East, Japan, America and India)! Two hundred and twelve children from 22 countries already know what Siberia is. And at the same time, 18 people studied abroad in countries such as Italy, Finland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, England and others. In 2015, we joined the AFS school exchange program "Classroom for class". Children from India, students from one of Indore's schools, visited our country, and in 2016 we visited their school. Negotiations are currently underway to admit school children of the spring season to the Surgut district. This time, two schools have already joined, since both from India and from our side there is interest in such an exchange. 
This non-profit, non-governmental organization exists in Russia for 25 years! And this movement began in 1914 thanks to volunteers, volunteers. 

- Can you identify the most active educational institution working in the area under the AFS program? 

- I think the most active school № 7 of the town of Lyantor, excellent in equipment, staffing of the administration and teachers-volunteers, who took the responsibility to open the camp. Volunteers from school of Nizhnesortiesk, schools №1 from Beloyarsk and Barsovsk are also activists of the project, but geographically distant territories from each other, so we are still focusing on school №7 of the town of Lyantor. 

- Why do you think foreigners choose the North of Russia as a territory for exchanging schoolchildren? 

- It's not just curiosity. Teenagers like take risks. For them to be here-it's cool. Siberia is amazing place.And for those who have never seen snow, especially for children from India, Thailand, Brazil, the extraordinary sensations from our nature and visiting Siberia for them is something unimaginable. And, first of all, this experience, of course, destroys stereotypes. Everyone has absolutely identical stereotypes based on a political background, just like we do: Siberia is a reference, penal servitude, bears, cold. 
Working with the Foundation "Intercultura", the school can: 

• Raise the prestige and recognition of the school among the public in your city 
• expand the horizons of their students, make the school life brighter, more saturated, more attractive. let students, without leaving their alma mater walls, get acquainted with the world: with new countries, with new languages, get rid of stereotypes 
• to enable the pedagogical team to prove that they can teach everyone, even those who do not speak Russian 
• enable the members of the teaching staff to get acquainted with the world's pedagogical experience 
• give students the opportunity to understand that a foreign language is not just a school subject, but, above all, a means of communication between people. 
• have at school a medium (s) of a foreign language, 
• have a partner school in one of 58 countries of the world 
• participate in international programs, competitions, projects- Do these stereotypes collapse when children come here? 

- It is impossible to destroy stereotypes theoretically, we work on them practically - only by showing our territory, having acquainted with the real culture, and talking with people it is possible to do it. When children leave the country, they fill out the questionnaire "My vision of Russia before and after the program." This is such a small procedure, informal, but it is very interesting, it is necessary, in general all countries conduct this monitoring. After all, we have any country associated with a certain product. What do we know about Holland? Dutch cheese. And that's all. Switzerland? Swiss chocolate. Clock. What about Russia? Vodka and matryoshka! Here they are, stereotypes. The AFS program helps to destroy stereotypes about countries, it tells us that we are all people. This program is about people. And there is no such thing as "better or worse", a clear understanding is formed - we have this way, and in another country it is different and this needs to be accepted and understood. And it is very flattering that later foreign children talk about Russia, having studied it better. First of all, they note in it such a feature as good kind people. They also note: "Russian women work hard." On the spot, new associations arise: "Kind people", "pelmeni, borsch"; "Russians are cheerful and drink a lot of tea." The old stereotypes are destroyed unobtrusively, we show our culture, life. We show how multinational our country is. 

- Do you study Russian with foreign guests in the AFS program? 

- Of course! But in the camp "Dialogue" it does not happen sitting at the desk, but directly in the current events and communication. Those who are in the camp have a partial language, since they have been living in Russia for three months already, they had intensive courses in Russian, so they have a base. All that we show and tell the exchange students is in Russian. Slowly, in order, in small doses. In any case, they see our way of life, hear our speech, speak Russian. The idea of this program is to study the culture of another country by studying the language of the country. For example, the children who are currently studying in Surgut are four Italians and a Frenchman. And then the Frenchman came with zero Russian, unimportant English, but he overcame this language barrier. An interesting boy, his name is Victor. Every child is, of course, unique. This is a separate story. I remember them all. I see them all, I meet them at the airport. And when you greet him for the first time ... Unique feelings ... 

- An interesting experience. 

- Very interesting! The program helps teenagers just love life. And see her prospects. Imagine, this child will have all his life in himself carry these memories and experiences. Perhaps they will not link their lives with this country, but most of the children who have visited Russia, link their future destiny with Russia. Many are discovering new horizons in the future career choice by participating in the AFS program. This program is voluntary, and it is the only one that has retained this volunteer essence for 103 years. But its essence lies not only in this. 
One of the most important goals of this program is to bring the children of former enemies together. And if it is sometimes difficult for adults to agree, we will try it! After all, we are all just people. This program is about people and for people. 

- In any case, even if children do not connect their lives with any of the countries, this program has a huge impact on their worldview. 

- Imagine, the children of 22 countries visited Russia. Children grow up, children communicate, communicate with adults, then mature and then form an attitude toward the world in their children.

- What countries did you visit last year? 

- India. Interesting country. And before we went there, we tried to study the etiquette of this country, culture, traditions and norms. After all, this project is far from a tourist format, it is aimed at establishing intercultural dialogue. And when you come to the country not as a tourist, you see all aspects of life in this country. We do not compare the cultures of different peoples. No. I repeat, the goal is an intercultural dialogue. They just have it, but we do. And this does not mean that we are worse, but better there. Children, plunging into the atmosphere of the project, already understand this. 
Many tourists complain about how the life in India is arranged, too spicy seasonings for food, but this is the philosophy of their life. How we were surprised by the cows that walk the streets. For them it is so, and they live with it, for them this is the norm. I myself lived in an Indian family, and this is very interesting. We learned interesting things, for example, learned the language of Hindi, learned to dance and tried to cook dishes of national cuisine. Thus, in various ways we established contact with the culture of the country.
The Interregional Charitable Public Fund for the Development of International Educational Programs "Intercultura" (AFS of Russia) is a non-profit non-governmental organization that exists in the Russian Federation since 1992. 
AFS IP is a non-profit non-governmental organization, since 1947. carrying out multinational international cultural and educational exchanges of high school students. 
The main objective of the AFS IP programs is intercultural education and global education, which gives young people the knowledge necessary for life and effective work anywhere in the world, contributing to the development of the individual, fostering tolerance, respect for other cultures and vital values. 
AFS IP includes national partner organizations in 59 countries and has a status in the UN, UNESCO, the Council of Europe.

- And what, in your opinion, was the main feature of the school of India that accepted you? 

- Discipline: 5000 children in school, and all sit very quietly, the teacher is the main thing. Dress code. And also great attention is paid to the development of motor skills in the school, because it develops thinking. Each student is multifaceted - he dances, he sings, he can draw, something to sculpt. And what was especially striking was the lack of gadgets at school! No phones, and parents are warned immediately. This is the law they have, despite the advancement of their country on the information plan. Only a textbook, a teacher and a person. 
A lot of attention is paid to physical education and creative component. Chess is compulsory. Swimming pool, all kinds of gyms. Education in priority. They have a cult of education. You yourself achieve good results, participate in olympiads, competitions, everything that you earn in the portfolio - an independent job, outside the school. 
There is no dining room in the school, lunch with you. But what are their classy cook-classes (classrooms on cooking technology)!

- Perhaps, there were some memorable, amusing cases on your trip to India? 
"There were nine of us, at the lessons, we began to learn the first words in Hindi -" quiet "," please, be quiet! ". For us it's so quiet to behave strangely. And we also saw a prize in the school (in the form of a cup) from Solar School No. 1 "For High Sports Achievements" for 2015. We with a class from India played in Sunny in basketball. This school is international, so they put this award on a place of honor, when they brought it from Russia.

- What does the AFS program expect in the 2017-2018 academic year in the Surgut region? 
- For us, everything has already reached the traditional level. We are waiting for the camp; our children are preparing to travel to other countries; Negotiations are held with India on the exchange of new groups of schoolchildren. New - only emotions! After all, people are so different. If any new country joins our program, we will be happy to participate in the new exit program.

- In your opinion, what is the importance of Russia's cooperation with AFS? 

- ASF clearly shows how future diplomats, future doctors, and future journalists with new views on the world as a whole are growing in our country. After experiencing the whole essence of this program, children understand the importance of intercultural dialogue in the life of modern man, in the life of all mankind.


Victoria Avtaeva:

"I live with this program. 
So much accustomed to it, that I visited all the subroutines. 
And I'm sure of this program. My daughter is growing, and I will do everything to make her experience the same wonderful sensations that our children and all the volunteers who participated in the AFS program experience. 
This is a unique opportunity not only to learn about the country, but to communicate with the bearers of the culture of these countries, to delve into their philosophy of life - it's worth a lot. I never wanted to live in another country, but to know it - yes. Our country is worthy, and I feel such a feeling of pride when it comes to us, the northerners, the great interest of foreign students. 
We are direct participants of special "diplomatic moments" when ordinary people, representatives of 22 countries are not afraid to send their children to Russia. Last year there was simply a "boom" - twice as many people came to us (of the possible 15 came 32 teenagers). And we accepted everyone. For this many thanks to the host families, without them nothing would have happened. 
An interesting statement by a boy from Japan: "You will not be in Siberia - you do not recognize Russia" and for us it became an aphorism. 
And I am charged with special energy thanks to this program: when I work with volunteers, child volunteers, parent volunteers, educator volunteers, when I see such interest of others, I am charged with the energy of common activity, the common goal. " And we can say with all responsibility: "We are trying to make the world a better place." 
These are not loud words, it is the motto of all participants of the program of the Interregional Charitable Public Foundation "Intercultra" (AFS Russia).

Elina Fatkhieva

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