France and North-Eastern Federal University are connected by long-term cooperation: NEFU and French partner universities develop joint master's programs, scholarships, exchange students, and hold Olympiads. However, it’s just so rare that you can talk to a French student. This opportunity proved that students who come to Yakutia, in general, expect, if not good, but at least something interesting and intriguing. But more on that in the interview.
This year, the first master’s students from the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines have successfully defended their studies in Environmental Law. Anna Cibert improved the Russian language in six months and spoke Russian to the commission during the defense.
Hello, Anna, tell us a little bit about yourself - what are your hobbies, what sights of Yakutia have you visited before the pandemic?
Hello. I love to travel whenever I have the opportunity to discover a different way of life, new cultures and different languages. I am also very interested in ecology, which explains why I joined the dual-degree master's program specializing in environmental law.
Unfortunately, I did not have time to explore Yakutia well. However, I was lucky to see the Lena Pillars in winter. The view is breathtaking and reminds of the “Game of Thrones” landscapes! In addition, I have visited several museums and a traditional dance performance in the House of Culture of the Indigenous Peoples of the North. I would like to visit the villages and see what Yakut life looks like, but due to the pandemic, the trip was canceled. However, I spent a lot of time walking the streets of Yakutsk and taking pictures. I think that now I know Yakutsk better than Paris.
Why did you choose NEFU? Have you heard about our university before?
I came to Yakutsk under the exchange program that exists between NEFU and Paris-Saclay University. This year, five Yakut students went to study in France, and we - three French students came to study in Yakutsk. This program has existed for two years and we are the first French graduate students. When I joined the master's program, I chose between the classic course in France and this exchange program. The choice was obvious for me, considering my passion for travel, languages and, of course, my desire to learn more about Russian law.
Have you noticed the difference in education systems, French and Russian?
I learned that the LMD system (license, master's, doctoral degree), which we use in France, often coexists in Russian universities with a traditional education system within five years ("specialist"). The scoring system is also different. It seemed to me that constant monitoring in Russia is more important than in France.
In your opinion, how does the system of support for foreign students work at NEFU?
During the process of administrative procedures (visa, insurance), the university has been incredibly supportive of foreign students. And there is very convenient "buddy" system in the hostel - when students help newcomers in exchange for good points. This is very convenient if you do not know the city well and do not speak Russian.
By the way, congratulations on the successful defense of master's thesis. They say you defended your thesis in Russian. Was it difficult?
Thank you very much! Indeed, thanks to the support of my teacher Maria Solovieva, I was able to defend my thesis in Russian. I also practiced pronunciation a lot that even my vocal cords were damaged.
Did you start learning Russian after your arrival or did you have basic knowledge?
I studied Russian two hours a week for two years in high school. But there was only a general knowledge of the language. I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn Russian every day for six months, which NEFU gave me.
What are the three difficulties you have encountered in learning Russian?
For me, the most difficult thing was to study declensions (case system), tense verb forms and intonation / accentuation.
Name the stereotypes about Yakutia that have come true or dispelled.
The only stereotypes that come to mind when I talk about Siberia are severe frosts and a snowy desert. It is cold in Yakutsk in winter. But it is dry cold, and it is quite bearable when there is no wind. I bought gloves for polar expeditions in France, but I never wore them because they were too warm.
As for the snowy desert, my views are quite mixed. I have to admit that I never thought that Yakutsk was such a big city. I imagined huts and herds of reindeer. I would never have thought that there could be a city with 300,000 people in the center of the taiga. And even today I find it incredible that it is possible to build a city on permafrost. Yakutsk is an amazing city in many ways, I am very glad that I was able to live here for more than a semester.
What would you wish to foreign students coming to study in Yakutia?
I want students to meet as many incredible people as I happened to meet and feel the amazing moments that I experienced. I want them to take this opportunity to discover a region of the world that is still little known and where authenticity is preserved. I was surprised at the richness and diversity of the Yakut culture. I am leaving with fond memories in my heart and stars in my eyes.
Photo: from the archive of the master’s student
Anna Cibert, Master's student from the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines