By Valentina Antonova, RUDN University
“Students from 15 Asian countries come together to show the best of their native homelands”, President of Association of RUDN students from Asia.
Rev Kadigamuwe Anuruddha Thero came to Russia eight years ago from Kadigamowa, a small town in Sri Lanka. He is currently pursuing a master’s Degree at RUDN University in Moscow and will be a certified teacher of the Russian language upon graduation. At the same time, he is the President of the Association of Asian Students at RUDN – consisting of 2000 representatives from 15 countries of Asia are currently part of this union. In this interview, Rev Kadigamuwe Anuruddha Thero will share about his study experience in Russia, methods to kickstart the first cricket championship in Moscow and survive in the woods of Siberia.
Sri Lanka and Russia are so far away. What influenced you to choose a university in Moscow?
Before I was 10 years old, I attended a regular school and played cricket after class. My grandmother often took me to a local Buddhist temple, and during a Full Moon Celebration we visited the temple; it was then I was truly inspired and decided to study Budhhism. I enrolled in the Sunethra Devi Maha Pirivena theological school and pursued an education at the institution for eight years. My teacher, Ven Pallekande Ratanasara Thero, received a PhD Degree in Philology in Moscow in 1987 and it was he who introduced me to Russia and the RUDN University.
What emotions did you experience when you first came to Moscow?
I visited Russia for the first in 2011 to attend a graduation ceremony of one of my compatriots. I really liked Moscow and its rhythm back then. I still have a vivid memory of the graduation ceremony at RUDN University. When my friend was being awarded his diploma, students from Africa, Russia, Arab countries and Latin America went on stage with him. He has got friends from around the world! The idea touched my heart and made me decide to study in Russia.
During my studies I visited many Russian cities like Saint-Petersburg, Ekaterinburg and Khanty-Mansiysk. In Khanty-Mansiysk we were met by representatives of a rare Russian nation called yurds. Together with them, we lived in the wild Siberian taiga for a week! We prepared food on fire and slept in a wooden house which was heated by a huge Russian stove. But the most unforgettable moment of the trip in Khanty-Mansiysk were the mosquitoes. There were lots of them there, and we wore special protective suits – a real exotic experience for me!
What is your professional dream?
I aspire to follow the steps of my Teacher – Ven Pallekande Ratanasara Thero. He teaches at the University of Kelaniya in Sri Lanka and give lectures to Russians interested in Buddhism. Therefore, I am working on a research topic as part of my master’s thesis which is devoted to the Thesaurus of Russian language and intricacies of translation into Bengali
With students from what countries did you manage to make friends?
(Laughs) It is impossible to remain without friends at RUDN! During the first year I was the only student from Sri Lanka in my group – at that time there were only 20 Shri Lankans at RUDN. And whether you want it or not, you are in a constant contact with your classmates. You learn to understand each other – not only the language, but also culture, traditions and every day habits. The best friends I have in my life now include people from Argentina, China, Russia, Senegal, Vietnam and Zambia. We are all one family. Recently, Boga (my friend from Argentina) and I visited Sri Lanka where I introduced him to my culture, and he was truly impressed by its diversity and heritage.
You are the President of the Association of RUDN students from Asia. How did you manage to achieve that?
I started to work in Sri Lanka Student Union the first year when I enrolled in RUDN. Such unions are called [zemlyachestvo] – a community of students from one country, like compatriots fellowship. I have learnt to help international students because many who came to study in Russia have little knowledge about the country. In addition, they do not speak Russian, hence they will need constant help while adapting to this new environment. Without parents, without relatives, they often cannot settle quickly and well. We offer help to students mainly from Asian countries. For all of us it is a pleasant work and great experience.
I begin working at the Association of RUDN students from Asia in 2011, where I was elected as the Secretary for Culture. I gathered a team and we organized a Big Week of Asian Culture at the RUDN University – it is a traditional set of events attended by high delegations and distinguished guests. My team offered to hold not only cultural exhibitions, conferences, and concerts, but also to have a talent competition – “Miss Asia” and to kickstart the first cricket championship in Moscow. I am proud to share that in 2015 the title of “Miss Asia” was presented to a Sri Lankan student from the Institute of Hotel Hospitality and Tourism at RUDN – Darshika Dasanayake. The Cricket Championship is also now a huge sports event – often attended by the ambassadors of Bangladesh, India, Laos and Nepal.
Two years ago, I realized that besides the organization of cultural events, I was also really interested in helping students solve critical challenges that they may encounter. As such, I made the decision to run for President. My candidacy was nominated for the post of head of the Association of RUDN students from Asia. Even though the campaign was tough, I managed to win the election and became President of the association.
There are more than 2000 members from 15 Asian countries in the Association: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, the Republic of Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. The union of each country are not only responsible for helping their fellow schoolmates adapt to the new environment; but they also act as representatives of their native culture in Moscow. In addition, every year, we will choose the best student unions – in 2017, the Top 3 teams went to Vietnam, China and Sri Lanka.
What advice could you give to those who considering the pursuit of a higher education in Russia?
Bring along a warm scarf. And don’t be afraid of anything.
Join us in the upcoming QS WORLDWIDE 2018 from 22-23 May 2018 in Moscow, Russia, as we discuss the topic on “In Search of University Excellence: Perspectives from Russia and Emerging Countries”.