Russian Students

I regularly evaluate application packets from groups of students from different countries who are in some stage of their Masters degree and want to come to the US for a year to take courses at US universities. As part of the packet, they include a personal statement. There’s also a CV, transcripts, test scores. It’s a great thing for the students because they get all their expenses paid, a stipend, a tuition waiver, and an opportunity to teach one course per semester about their culture.

I’ve evaluated applications from different countries but yesterday for the first time I got a bunch of Russian students to evaluate. Yes, it’s all silly hype about Russians being banned from study opportunities in the West. This is all done through the Department of Homeland Security, and there were zero problems with getting visas for these students. Next year, I’ll do my damndest to get Ukrainian students instead.

In any case, I made some interesting observations that I wanted to share. The first thing is photos. Apparently, in Russia people often put photos even on academic CVs. Several of the photos were downright inappropriate outside of the context of a dating site. The group I got is 100% female.

One of the applicants wrote an essay (and these packets were done in December of last year) about how Ukraine is bombing peaceful cities in the Donbass and pretending it’s not true. Another wrote about how the West hates Russia. Yet another student informed us she wants to come to the US to dispel the stereotypes about Russian bears, vodka, and the KGB. I’m thinking, “honey, the kind of stereotypes that exist about Russia right now, you should be praying people thought the worst thing about your country has to do with bears walking down the streets, playing their balalaikas.” Yet another one wants to study how the US oppresses women through gender stereotypes. One student wrote a long pouty essay about how the US culture is dominant in the world while the Russian isn’t, and that’s unfair. One positioned herself as an ethnic minority, and I stared at the photo for a long time to figure out what minority she is because she’s clearly 100% Russian. I’m guessing she’s an ethnic minority not in Russia but globally. Which is everybody who isn’t Chinese but whatever.

In short, it was fun.

14 thoughts on “Russian Students

  1. — Yet another one wants to study how the US oppresses women through gender stereotypes.

    This one is smart. Cynical but smart.

    The rest of them – I doubt it. One may believe whatever one wants to believe, but one should understand that putting some imperialist stuff into the statement of purpose may not go well…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly what I’m saying. They should know better. But when it’s as normal as the air you breathe, this thought doesn’t occur. It’s a commonsensical statement that you don’t need to rethink.

      I know somebody who believes in the Rothschild conspiracy theory. It’s a highly educated person. But she rolls out the conspiracy theory so naturally at any pretext like it’s common knowledge and beyond dispute. “OK, so which one is related to the Rothschilds, Putin or Zelensky?” I say neither one but she goes, “no, it’s got to be one of them. OK, I’ll find out and tell you.” You can guess what she found out.

      A wonderful person but it’s like an illness. Very successful in hard sciences but incapable of seeing how nuts this is.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess these kids spent their whole lives being exposed to Putin’s propaganda. Only if you are looking from the sidelines, you can see how propaganda alters the thinking.

    Growing up I was exposed to a lot of socialist propaganda. My family was against the whole concept of socialism, so I never believed in it. But then, there was the anti-nobility propaganda, and the anti-privileged-social-class propaganda which nobody in my family opposed. When I first came to the US, I’ve seen little girls playing princesses, and I found it odd and rotten. Everyone is the product of the culture they grow up in.

    I’d want these Russian girls to come to the USA, experience different ways of life, learn for themselves that they were fed lies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is an excellent observation. I so wish more people understood this because it’s crucial. You can’t stand completely outside of the ideology. There’s always something that you interiorize, and noticing how it has an effect takes a lot of work.

      And by the way, I agree that they should have a chance to experience something different. Who knows, maybe something will sink in. I gave the go-ahead to all of them except the one who’s a propagandist. I won’t be able to find her a research adviser or a teaching placement, so what’s the point?


  3. Did you accept any of them, or not because of their ideology?

    Another thing I’ve been wondering about is whether they had someone older “helping” them to write those statements.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I accepted all of them except the propagandists of the Ukrainian war in Donbass. She says she wants to do a research project on this topic and I don’t have a placement for her. The rest, I gave the go-ahead. I ranked them but only on the basis of language skills and teaching experience. The one who neber taught got ranked the lowest but that’s fair. I’d do the same for any country.

      Let nobody accuse me of ideological discrimination.


  4. // Apparently, in Russia people often put photos even on academic CVs.

    Read that in Germany job seekers must attach photos to their applications / CVs.

    Seems a great way to discriminate against foreigners before they have a chance for an interview.


    1. I don’t think it’s for discrimination purposes because that can be done on the basis of the name. You see my first and last names, and do you really need my picture to know I’m not German?


  5. Thank you for two minutes’ comic relief. And yes, the smart one is the student who wants to study gender oppression in the US. Not enough material in her own country I suppose.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The country that legalized wife-beating and defends forced marriages of teenage girls to olden definitely can teach us a lot about women’s equality. 🙂

      The ethnic minorities one was also fun. There are many ethnic and racial minorities in Russia but she’s definitely not one of them.


  6. // I don’t think it’s for discrimination purposes because that can be done on the basis of the name.

    Germany had a wave of Arab ‘temporary’ workers around half a century ago. (Grand)Children of immigrants probably often have usual names and family names. They do in Israel.


  7. Quite a few Russians are against the regime, and some are very talented in the ways expressing thus.
    Loved this YouTube famous ‘Grandpa Archimedes’ and not only since the nickname refers to math. 🙂
    He is quite talented poet, a good singer and actor in one.

    Loved the most his two songs – re covid money making and re informants (don’t know how to translate доносы) linked below.

    Песня деда Архимеда о доносах на врагов народа

    Песня Деда Архимеда о том, как мошенники наживаются на людях во время пандемии!


    1. They might be against Putin but I can guarantee they have the exact same beliefs in their superiority and the inferiority of Ukrainians that caused the war. I have concluded the fabled search for “good Russians” many years ago. I wish them all the best but far away from us. I don’t want to hear that they are against the war or against Putin or anything. I’d like them to just go away.


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