What these students learned from their trip to World Cup 2018
The Russian football team celebrates in their victory against Spain. Source: Shutterstock

At the University of Arizona, there is a Department of Russian/Slavic Studies where students learn the rich heritage of Russia and the post-Soviet world through a variety of courses in culture, film, literature, and language. Each year, the department also organises a study abroad program to Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia.

The same program was held this year and, naturally, with Russia playing host to the Fifa World Cup, the trip was timed to coincide with the games.

UA’s assistant professor in Russian/Slavic Studies Benjamin Jens and a handful of lucky students got to experience the atmosphere of this celebrated once-in-four-years event from the streets to the stadiums. They even watched the ‘Iran vs Morocco’ Group Stage game.

“It was a great experience, even from the upper rows of the stadium,” Jens said to The Daily Wildcat.

“Just being in the crowds on the metro on the way to the game, as all the fans were chanting, singing, jumping. It was a great build up, and they never seemed to stop once the game started.”

What better way to practise all the negative adjectives in the Russian language than when the national team loses? Source: Shutterstock

You may be wondering at this point how attending the World Cup helps students with their Russian/Slavic studies. How would the experience of being surrounded by rowdy football fans or watching 11 men pass a ball increase one’s knowledge of “Russian literature, culture, linguistics, and language”?

Well, that’s the beauty of the humanities.

It’s a branch of academia that delves into the aspects of human society and culture, using methods that are primarily critical, or speculative, and have a significant historical element.

And the World Cup presented the perfect setting for all these to be on display, not just for tourists to enjoy, but for scholars to observe. From mingling with locals attending street viewings to observing the songs and chants during football matches, students get prime seats to study Russian and other cultures in action.

To Jens, his favourite experience was “seeing the students have an enjoyable time in Russia and put their humanities skills to use as they personally engaged with the people and culture.”

Not to mention, the many, many opportunities to brush up their Russian language.

Russian studies are available in several universities, such as Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, Canada’s McGill University and England’s University College London. In the US, UA’s is the only graduate program in Russian located in the regional Rocky Mountain corridor (Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana) and Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.

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