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    Education in Russia: A Colombian Student’s Opinion

    Jerson Martínez Parry was passionate about aviation and Russia since the very childhood. Finally, his dream came true, and he became a student at St. Petersburg Mining University. What does he have to say about the educational systems of Russia and Colombia? 

    Jerson’s family could not afford their son to study abroad, so once he had graduated from school, he applied to a local university in Colombia. But luckily enough, Jerson was employed by Aserpa, a large Colombian company that was working closely with Russian partners. The company’s executives encouraged Jerson’s interest in learning Russian. When Jerson’s internship at Aserpa came to an end, the company’s CEO recommended the young man to get in touch with Rossotrudnichestvo. 

    Rossotrudnichestvo is short for the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation. It is an autonomous Russian federal government agency under the jurisdiction of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With the help of the organization, Jerson found out he had a chance to compete for the state-funded study place in one of the Russian universities. The year when he applied, 95 quotas were allocated for the whole of Colombia. The number of applicants, however, reached a thousand.

    Jerson says, “As of now, I am the only Colombian student at the Mining University. People usually think I am studying oil & gas or geology. It is understandable – Colombia is known for its large deposits of hard coal, oil, gas, emeralds. Therefore, everyone becomes surprised when they find out I am studying mechanical engineering and hoping to continue working in aviation. Strange as it may seem, but the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Mining University provides even better teaching quality than specialized engineering schools”.

    In the beginning, Jerson used to compare – often unintentionally – specifics of studying in a Russian university with the Colombian ones he had previously gone to. First of all, the amount of workload, as he mentions, varies greatly. According to the student, academic requirements in Bogotá are more than low. One can easily master the educational program while working and learning a couple of foreign languages at the same time.

    Then, teachers’ attitudes towards youth differ. The Colombian approach is as follows: “Study if you want to, do not study if you do not want to, but above all do not forget to pay. After all, it is up to you to how you use your money.” Partly because of it, so many employers value overseas education a lot higher than the local one. The most valued are Russian, American, German, and British universities.

    There is also a massive gap in infrastructure quality:

    Jerson comments, “From my point of view, engineering education is something that cannot exist without practical training, use of machines and simulators, working in labs. In Colombian universities, if you are to be told how a particular device works, it is always an oral explanation. A simple example: when learning how to use a certain software product, four students on average have to work on one computer. Here, in Russia, all the mentioned resources and facilities are available to each student”.

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