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By Meagan Murphy Ross
Last spring, I was an exchange student at Moscow State University’s journalism department. While there, I along with two other University of Washington Tacoma students and several MSU students collaborated on a 22-page magazine, The Zhurnalist (Journalist). The completion of our magazine took herculean effort and an incredible level of dedication from all. It has now been over six months since my trip to Moscow and much has changed: the U.S. economy is rocking the planet, presidential elections are less than a month away and, on a personal level, I am a new mother.
Soon, MSU students will be fulfilling their half of the exchange, travelling five thousand miles to be here, in the Northwest. Before their arrival I find myself reflecting back to the spring. I was seven months pregnant with lungs the size of a robins. The weather was chilly but sunny and I became accomplished at removing layer after layer of coats and sweaters while trying to keep pace with my sleek hosts on the crowded Moscow streets. I recall that my unwieldy gait brought averted glances from passers by, private people speaking in soft conversations if at all. Would it seem the same to me if I were there now?
Medvedev had just been elected when I arrived, did he end up a Putin puppet as everyone feared or has he struck out independently from his benefactor? Have the students at Moscow State University remained as outraged over the electoral posturing as they were during my stay or has everyone moved on to the business of final papers, new romance, and preparing to graduate? And what about the psychedelic rubber boots everyone was wearing last spring? They were Muscovite favorites back then yet just last week a Nordstrom saleslady knowingly confided to me that, “…they just came in – very popular this year.” While privileged to have witnessed the debut of paisley and bright floral wellingtons I do feel cheated having missed out on the Russian presidential election. Luckily, my counterparts at Moscow State University will not have that regret.
The MSU trip will coincide with next month’s elections, perhaps the most exciting time in our lives to visit the United States. While in Moscow producing the magazine and touring the city I made several good friends. Luckily for me some of them will be participating in the exchange and I am really looking forward to renewing those friendships. While talking with those friends I recall there were many instances where a question I would ask would be answered with a half-quizzical look followed by a short reply. Areas of culture or policy, though plainly clear and accepted from my friend’s point of view, were unfamiliar or uncomfortable to my own. That is what I especially look forward to in their visit, a chance to see our country through their eyes with their history and hopefully adjusting my own view in the process.
This student exchange will culminate in a website, The Journalist, built from both Russian and American perceptions. Stories, podcasts and editorials intended to nudge us from our cultural lethargy and provide new perspectives. As our potential new presidents keep saying, “change is coming." Often as not, change is just a new way of looking at the same old thing.
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