Ian Blair’s study and research adventure in Russia
June 23, 2014
Ian Blair, ’15, Religious Studies major & Russian minor, spent the 2014 spring semester on the Lewis & Clark Russia Overseas Program in Vladivostok. Additionally, Ian applied for and was awarded two prestigious scholarships for his overseas studies. He received a Benjamin A. Gilman international scholarship, and then he was awarded the Lewis & Clark research grant from the Dinah Dodds Endowment for International Studies. Ian was the first recipient who received this grant for Russia and the Russian Far East. For his research project in Vladivostok, Ian examined the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations (1997), the Russian Federation’s most recent legislation that regulates the relationship between the Church and the State and provides legal guidance to religious associations and religious activities. This grant allowed Ian to conduct field research and visit numerous non-native Russian religious organizations around Vladivostok, so he could observe and analyze the effect of the law on people’s ability to participate in worship and proselytization. Jan conducted interviews, collected various documents, and took many photographs. In September 2014, he plans to present his research through a special exhibit at Lewis & Clark.
When asked what was his most exciting moment in the Russian Far East, Ian said it was playing with a bear cub in Artyom. During his excursion to a сафари-парк (safari park) Ian saw a number of exotic Russian beasts he had never seen before, such as Amur tigers, Russian birds of prey, Roe deer and many others, but a little медвежонок (bear cub), lively and energetic, completely stole his heart. Jan remembers being overwhelmed with joy when he played with this happy creature, but quickly learned that even at such a young age the little bears have unforgettable claws to watch out for….
Ian thinks that the Vladivostok program is unlike any other study abroad program and he enjoyed every moment of his Russian Far East adventure. In Ian’s words: “Not only does the program give students the opportunity of becoming well acquainted with the Russian Far East culture, history and life, it also totally immerses them in the Russian language and provides them with a chance at self-discovery. You suddenly find about yourself something you never knew existed. You’ll be pushed in ways you could never imagine, forced to reexamine your life (or at least how you’ve been living it up to that point).” Ian thinks that “the Vladivostok program demands strength, both mentally and physically, as both the physical and culture landscapes are still underdeveloped. Whether it is by navigating the dilapidated infrastructure or the extreme hurdles of the language barrier, you’ll learn to become creative in how you solve problems and maneuver interpersonal interactions.But at the end of the semester, you’ll succeed in your primary goal: learning vastly more Russian than you knew before and you’ll also have the added benefit of self-realization that you are capable of handling more situations than you ever thought you could. … The most important thing I learned was that the most difficult aspects of studying abroad can be the most fulfilling. I discovered an entirely new side of myself. I was pushed far outside of my comfort zone and now I am very grateful for those opportunities (even if they didn’t present themselves as opportunities at the time!) To conclude, all I have to say is that you will never know how strong Vladivostok will make you until you go there!”
Ian blogged about many things when he was in Vladivostok and you can read it here: http://students.sras.org/author/iblair/
Ian Blair created a video about his life and research in Russia: