By Marina Shumilo
In recent times, around 10,000 foreigners have been studying in the country annually. Though insignificantly, their number continues to grow. It’s no secret that foreigners with Belarusian higher education diplomas tend to enjoy good careers in their home country.
“I’ve come to Minsk following the advice of an interpreter who has visited Belarus several times,” explains Tanaka Hitosi, from Japan. “Belarusian universities are very much admired in our country.” At present, Tanaka is improving his knowledge at the Belarusian State University’s Summer School of Russian Language Studies. Already, his success is evident. The BSU is organising its Summer School for only the second time but already enjoys popularity among foreigners. This year, almost a hundred foreign students have taken intensive courses, with most lessons organised as business and role play games.
Speaking to those in advanced level studies, their standard of Russian is quite high. Among them is Polish Matvey Martinek, who’s come to the country to enhance his existing knowledge. “I knew Russian before coming to Belarus, as it’s taught at our local schools. Belarusian is also taught in many Polish regions bordering your country. I want to become a diplomat, so I’ve come to Minsk to enhance my Russian. I’ve heard that your teachers are true professionals,” he says.
Chinese Din Shan has come at the advice of her aunt, who lives in Minsk. She dreams of becoming a philologist and explains, “After these courses, I’ll be attempting to enter the Belarusian State University’s Philology Department. I love learning Russian and Belarusian.”
Many of these youngsters will return home after completing courses but some — like Din — plan to enter Belarusian universities. Students are now choosing their future professions, as the Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs at the Belarusian State University’s Pre-University Education Department, Alexander Zhuk, tells us. The most popular specialities for foreign guests seem to be International Relations and Economics, he notes, adding, “Interestingly, enrolees from different countries choose different professions. For example, those from Turkmenistan usually prefer geography and engineering, while the Chinese and Japanese choose to study languages. The Institute of Journalism is also popular, although we have foreign students in almost every department.”
Foreign students pay for their studies and it’s cheaper for them to study in Belarus rather than at home. “In China, I would have paid much more,” admits a 3rd year student from the International Journalism Department, Haiyan Chzhan. “I chose the BSU’s Institute of Journalism not only for its accessibility. I want to become a specialist in the field of Belarusian printed media — as you have so many different newspapers and magazines.”
Foreign students have an intense schedule of studies at the University. However, they also find time to travel through the country. “With my friends, I’ve visited Vitebsk; it’s a very beautiful city,” Haiyan says, with admiration. “Your countryside is very impressive. Even before coming here, I’d heard much from my friends about the beauty of local nature and the kind-heartedness of people. My expectations proved true.”
The BSU’s Summer School also acquaints students with local culture. “Studies offer the chance to learn more about Belarusian culture,” says Tamara Sushinskaya, a lecturer at the BSU’s Department of Russian as a Foreign Language and General Disciplines. “We organise excursions to museums for students, while reading Belarusian classical pieces at lectures. They love hearing these.”
Shiori Kiesawa, from Japan, is attending the Summer School before entering the BSU’s Philology Department. She already knows some cultural figures from Belarus, explaining, “I know such prominent Belarusians as artist Marc Chagall and poet Maxim Bogdanovich. I’d like to further study Belarusian culture, as it has a rich history. It would be great if people in Japan knew more about your culture and arts.”
Quite often, foreigners stay in Belarus after graduating from university. “Many are attracted by the calmness of the country and our attitude towards guests,” says Mr. Zhuk. “They learn about life here while studying, which inspires them to stay, setting up their own businesses or merely starting a family.”