Monday, April 4, 2016

The International Seminar

On Friday my director, in coordination with my work, the Ministry of Education of Bashkortostan, and the English Office of the USA Embassy in Moscow just to name a few, organized a large seminar for English teachers in the republic I live in. When my director first told me about it I was not excited. We have to do 90 minute presentations every so often, and I dread them. I am NOT a public speaker, and I'm not entertaining to watch. This conference was a little different than the rest because it was an all-day event instead of just a few hours. Also, I was able to team up with Elizabeth, another native speaker, to do a presentation together. We also only had to present for 45 minutes, which was AMAZING! The day actually turned out so much better than I expected, and I had a lot of fun!

The day started off kind of rocky. I could not find the building. I accidentally walked into a random building my GPS told me to go to and quickly realized it wasn't right. I walked to my school which was nearby only to find that no one was there. Eventually, I called my director and was able to find the place. At 10 am we started with introductions and the three presenters from other areas of Russia (Moscow, Kazan, and Yekaterinburg) gave presentations which really really interesting. Then we had a 30 minute coffee break. While everyone else went to the university cafeteria we went into a back room where we were greeted with tons of pastries and candy.

After our tea break the 45 minute (which turned into 30 minute) sessions started. Elizabeth and I presented in the first slot and it went over so well. There were some technical difficulties, like not having a projector which we planned for, but we didn't really need it. Also, we never actually met together to go over our presentation because we were both so busy the last few weeks we just talked via Whatsapp. We decided to focus solely on ten terms and idioms that were created in America since we are both American. Elizabeth already had an activity ready so I just made the powerpoint. It actually turned out really well, and we think the teachers enjoyed it. Each group got to pick an idiom then on one side they had to draw the literal translation of the idiom and on the other side they had to draw the actual meaning. Then we asked them to use it in a sentence.  After each group presented I asked them where they think the idiom came from to give them a little history. Actually, most idioms they picked came from baseball. Afterwards, so many people wanted to take a picture with me and Elizabeth. It's so weird being in a place where it's rare to see foreigners, especially foreigners that speak English. I felt kind of weird that they were so interested in us, but they were all so nice.
After our session we had our hour lunch break. Lunch was being served in a building across the street, and there was a long line waiting to get our coats so Elizabeth and I decided to just walk across the street without them. It is FINALLY starting to warm up here and most of the snow is melted. After having to deal with snow since the beginning of October I'm glad to see it finally go.

Again, we ate SO much food. One thing I love about Russia is the hospitality. No matter where you go they always want to give you so much food without anything in return. After lunch there were three more time slots for presentations. Since Elizabeth and I only had to present once we were able to choose to go to the other presentations. I LOVE professional development and conferences because I get to learn new information and it's usually a lot more engaging than having to sit in a classroom all day.

We finished up the seminar with everyone returning to the main auditorium. There, my director organized for us to be entertained by performances from the students of the university. I wish I had taken videos of the first two girls because their music was so beautiful. I did get one of the girls singing a traditional Bashkir song, which you can watch at the end of this post. I don't know if I mentioned this before on my blog, but in the republic I live there is a large ethnic diversity. The two largest groups are the Bashkirs (hence Republic of Bashkortostan) and Tatars. The language, culture, and food is still very much present in the area, so I am glad I get to share it with you because it just goes to show how diverse Russia actually is.
I also created a quiz for the participants with questions about the United States. They were asked to complete the quiz and then at the end three winners with perfect scores were given a prize. I actually don't even know what the prize was but it looked heavy. Finally, at 5 oclock the seminar ended. We took a few last pictures with the participants. I could not believe how fast the day went by.
The seminar was over but we were still not done. My director organized a tour for all the presenters which included the three presenters from around Russia, Patrick, Elizabeth, me, and Irina, who didn't present but she's here on Fulbright and participates in some of the events my director organizes. I had seen most of the places we went to but I still enjoyed going on the tour and hearing the history of Ufa. The tour was in Russian, but Irina was able to translate for the few of us who don't speak Russian fluently.
After the tour we went back to the university for a large dinner. There was so much food. I literally felt sick from how much I ate. What I have pictured wasn't even all of it. There was a second course of these little meat pies and soup, a third course of chicken, rice, and cabbage, and a fourth course of dessert and tea. I didn't even eat the dessert they gave us because I thought I was going to explode. We spent about two hours sitting, drinking wine, eating, and talking. Another interesting cultural aspect of Russia is that throughout the night people will make toasts. One person will say a toast, then you clink your glasses together, and go back to eating. Then sometime later it will happen again. I really like this tradition, but I never make toasts because I hate having that kind of attention on me.
This conference was just what I needed to reenergize myself mentally. Although it was a very long day, I met some great people who reminded me why I went into teaching. I know it's strange to say that I was so happy when I walked home that night but I did and I won't apologize for it. :)


  1. Idioms, we were explaining some to a coworker the other day. Some are quite hard to explain.

    1. They are hard! Even little phrases like "get home" and "go home" are hard to explain. I did that one tonight. :)

  2. What a fun day!! I love Russian hospitality and all those little cakes and candies.

    Totally agree with you on the toast thing- everyone gives these amazing toasts. Once I tried to memorize some toasts to compete with my Ukrainian friends (like, Желаю всем столько горя сколько осталось в стакане... I wish you all as much sadness as what remains in our glasses after this toast [meaning, none]), but people just looked at me weird so I went back to long awkward toasts in English.

    1. We were just talking today about how it's so hard to be sarcastic here because Russians just don't get it. I usually just follow up by saying "just kidding."

  3. so fun! Love the video at the end.


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