The first time Dmitry Krizhanovskiy stepped foot on an airplane, he was whisked away from his family and brought almost 5,000 miles from Pskoy, Russia, to UNH.
The new customs and traditions he is experiencing are good lessons to share with his students, who also are learning about other cultures and trying to master new languages.
“There are a lot of cultural differences between Russia and the U.S.,” he said. “Sometimes it is confusing. But it’s interesting. It’s a different perspective, and I am enjoying it.”
Krizhanovskiy is one of two Fulbright scholars spending the year at UNH, helping students learn foreign languages. The other is Mohammed El Idrissi, a Moroccan, who is teaching Arabic.
“UNH is benefitting tremendously from these two Fulbrighters,” said Lourdes Alvarez, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “They bring a fresh and youthful perspective to the classes they are teaching.”
The effort it takes to master another language is clear to Krizhanovskiy, who admits that during his first year of college he skipped as many of his English classes as he could. He found the course not only hard but boring.
During his second-year English class, the teacher showed an episode of Friends. Krizhanovskiy’s classmates laughed, but he couldn’t understand enough of the language to know why.
“The process of learning the language was very stressful,” he said. “But I went home, downloaded the episode and watched it 15 times. Then I made myself Russian subtitles.”
Fast forward a few years, and he is teaching Russian businessmen English and tutoring Russian high school students using Adele’s biography and music for inspiration.
An assistant this semester to Russian instructor Daria Kirjanov, Krizhanovskiy uses his own story to motivate his students.
“I tell them to find the moment you are so interested in the language that you really want to learn it,” Krizhanovskiy said. “Use the music, the books, the movies and the people – whatever you have to build your knowledge and open your horizons.”
El Idrissi agrees. He finds his American students bright and eager but somewhat unaware of Arab cultures and the differences between his culture in Morocco and the cultures of other Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.
“I have been very impressed with the students’ motivation to learn” he said. “They are very interested to know about the exotic cultures I talk to them about.”
While he is talking about his own culture, El Idrissi is soaking up American traditions to take back to his job of teaching middle school children in Assilah.
“There has been no culture shock,” he said. “But I am fascinated. I was invited to a football game, and I thought I was going to see what Americans call soccer. I thought tailgating was very beautiful.”
He is also learning a lot, living with Krizhanovskiy instead of his family, which includes two brothers and four sisters. And he is getting used to the food. “So far, I have tried to pick things that I know,” he said.
Both of the Fulbright scholars can be an inspiration to their students. El Idrissi speaks not only English and Arabic but also French.
And Krizhanovskiy, who speaks Ukrainian, Russian and English, is studying German while he is at UNH, as he hopes to attend graduate school in Germany next year. There are probably many more plane rides in his future.
This story, by Director of Media Relations Karen Grava, originally appeared in UNH Today on October 28, 2013.