Lera Fedorova is the devoted and deliberate Russian TA who graciously sat down with The Bates Student to give us her story.
Lera Fedorova: I’m from Russia, I live in a city called Orel, ah yes it is not far from Moscow. So I studied at the university and I got a bachelor’s degree there, and now I am getting my master’s.
William Ebert: What did you do for fun as a kid?
LF: First I went to puppet theater, I was participating there with all the puppets and all these things. And then I decided to go to art school and I studied there for 6 years and I finished it quite early since most people there were 2 or 3 years older than me, than I was. Me and my friends usually, we just, we just went out for walk. I noticed here, that people don’t really walk, just to walk. So people usually go to some places to cinemas, to theaters, to park. But in Russia, it is a general thing, you always see kids outside, they are just walking, just in the streets. Once when I just arrived here in Lewiston, I decided to walk a little bit and I needed some stuff so I decided to go to Walmart, and I walked to Walmart. And I think 3 cars stopped and asked if everything is ok with me, do I need a ride or something? I was just walking! Yeah, so it was crazy a little bit for me.
WE: What was it like living in Russia? What was different than living here?
LF: I can’t say that I feel much difference, because I am here as adult, I am an adult here. But I can say that we had lots of freedom from our parents. I think, well as far as I can judge, here it is not that freedom. If I may say so again, because they let me go to the city center to meet my friends especially in the summer; I just had to be home at certain time, but everything was fine. Yeah, I think these moments that they give you freedom to grow up or to be with your friends or to somehow understanding to behave yourself and yeah.
WE: What is one defining moment in your life?
LF: I think this was the moment when I, um, moved out from my parents flat, because before that, the period before that was somehow defining and when I started living on my own was also one of those moments. So before that for five or six months, I was working hard, I was studying all the time, I almost didn’t show up at my parents place just to sleep, and not even every night, so I was real busy. I almost didn’t talk to my parents, they of course didn’t like they, they didn’t see their daughter in a while, she was supposed to be with them all the time. And there was one moment when I, some evening, I decided to talk to my father and he told me about his hunt, he’s a hunter, yes and I asked about his friend, something like ‘How is he?’ And he looked at me strangely and said that he died two months before. And this was horrible for me because he was one of my parents, my father’s best friends, and I didn’t know about it. Yes, at this moment, I realized I needed to change everything somehow, and my parents probably realized that we need to do something. And I think a month after it, I moved out to my apartment and I don’t know why, I separated from my parents and it was hard for all of us, but we became closer and uh, I realized the importance of talking to your close people to spending time with your close people, and finding this time. Because before I thought, come on I live with them, they see me; isn’t that enough? Haha, they sometimes see me. Yes, but after that, all this period, I realized this importance. I always talk with my mother, I call my father maybe once a week probably and we talk a few hours, so yes. This is very important thing.
WE: What do you think of the States?
LF: I like it a lot. I didn’t think that, States um, were going to be much different from Russia. Of course they are different, but I mean the mentality and all the things. But it is. It is very different, it very interesting to see how people here behave how people here communicate. And I really enjoyed being here while the elections. Yes, I realize that for you guys it is not that fun, but for me it was just interesting to see how everyone reacted to everything because in Russia for the last few years people don’t really care about the elections and just political things they don’t care. They like to discuss something, but they never understand anything and it can only be a couple of words. But here people are really into politics and people understand what it is, I don’t understand what politics at all or anything, it is just impossible for me to talk about it, so I was quite fascinated by this moment and I don’t know, just general mentalities of things.
WE: What is the best thing and the worst thing about America?
LE: I really like that it is possible to bring your dog to every place. It is so amazing! And seeing dogs everywhere and even in planes, and during studies, some teachers bring their dogs, Roger Williams where I work, there is one teacher who bring her dog all the time. And this is amazing. It could never happen in Russia, I don’t think. I never saw this, and it is really hard to bring your dog to a restaurant or some place. Um to shop no, everywhere is no dogs, no dogs. And the worst thing…um…I had some moments, I dislike this American smile. Yeah, not the smile, the smile itself. It is very curious how people, when you’re just some person walking and the person smiles. But this is not the thing. The smile is in their face but then you never know what they really mean, what they really say, what is really on their mind. Yeah, we are cool, and you are cool, and everything is cool, but in reality they have something in their mind, something different.
WE: How did you end up at Bates?
LF: My university has some kind of collaboration with Bates. So every year or two uh teacher assistants from my university come to Bates, and students from Bates, sometimes, once in a few years, come to my city to study Russian studies, Russian culture and Ecology a little bit also so, yes two years ago was the last time they came, and I helped with the organization of everything with their coming and after that yes, the previous spring, my professor asked me if I want to go here. And I agree. Yes, I really like being here. Just the organization, and the students, I really love my students you know, choosing to study Russian. Is a very difficult decision to make since it is difficult, but I really enjoy it a lot.