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Larisa Taradina about the photo contest at RANEPA ‘Beauty: Looking to the Beholder’s Eyes’

11 June2019
Larisa Taradina about the photo contest at RANEPA ‘Beauty: Looking to the Beholder’s Eyes’

From May 1 till May 31, the Presidential Academy hosts the photo contest ‘RANEPA Through the Eyes of Foreign Students. Foreign Universities through the Eyes of RANEPA Students’, arranged by the International Development Department. Larisa Taradina, Director for Development of International Education and Cooperation of the Academy, spoke about the idea of the contest.

– Tell us, please, how the idea of the photo competition emerged

– One of the main pleasures of working in international education is the possibility to touch the special atmosphere of the high school, to get into the university spirit. This atmosphere is unique at each university, it is reflected in the campus structure, is noticeable in faces of students and employees. Every time, when visiting a university, I strive to chase this atmosphere, to capture it with a photo camera, in order to share impressions and discoveries afterwards.

Me and my colleagues from the International Development Department wanted to know, how the Academy is seen by foreign students and we wanted to feel the atmosphere of universities visited by our students under the mobility program.

– What is the purpose of the contest?

– Concept of the university as educational space (i.e., buildings, premises, people) underlies the photo contest. Now, it is customary to use the borrowed term ‘campus’ to describe the ensemble of university territories. But, in the context of our photo competition, it seems for me to be more correct to return to the Soviet expression ‘student quarter’. Territory of each university, whether Russian or foreign, is a city within a city, a state within a state. Universities have their own emblems and flags, hymns, laws and procedures, their own history. Even the languages spoken at universities differ from the national languages by their scientism.

Many university campuses become urban sights. For example, Cité U in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, or Nalanda University built in immediate vicinity of ruins of an ancient Buddhist monastery in modern India, Yale University, the cherished dream of the main characters of American movies, MSU, the quintessential example of the Stalinist Empire style and a symbol of the capital… The list could go on and on and on. Each university quarter has some beauty. Our goal is to help students share their vision of this special unique beauty.

– What will students compete in: what are the criteria?

– The photo contest has two categories, as reflected in its name: ‘RANEPA Through the Eyes of Foreign Students’ and ‘Foreign Universities through the Eyes of RANEPA Students’. The first category is intended for foreign students of the Academy. It takes  hard to distinguish the beauty and twice as hard to see it in customary things. We hope that photos by foreign students not just help Russian students, but also teachers, to take a look at the well-known environment of our Academy and to get to like it anew.

The category ‘Foreign Universities Through the Eyes of RANEPA Students’ is intended for expansion of perception of students, teachers, employees on what a university campus could be. How the social space and networking space is arranged abroad. It is interesting how student initiatives influence spatial changes, peculiarities of holding lectures and seminars. Someone else’s experience may be very inspiring.

– Put it otherwise, to see and be seen.

– And this too. Although, the main task is, of course, to form the international dialog space, and here we are using tools of both online and offlinecommunication. All works will be posted on the official page of the contest in Instagram @photoranepa. The page is open and anybody who wants to, may access it, rather than only participants of the contest. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn something new, to share geo-tags, to find more friends. Upon completion of the contest, a photo exhibition shall be arranged, where all participants will be able to meet and to bring online communication to a new level.

Formation of such dialog spaces is critical for development of a university, its internationalization. Foreign students must be integrated in the university life at all levels: educational, research and extra-curricular. One of key tasks of the RANEPA International Development Department is to help them to overcome segregation barriers and to blend into the student team.

– That is, the photo contest is necessary for a dialog and share experience?

– Yes, but to share it, a dialog is required. The vast majority of employees of the International Development Department took part in academic mobility programs, so did I. For all of us, this is the most valuable experience and unforgettable impressions that left its mark on the whole life, both personal and professional. That is why it seems important for us to inspire Russian students to take part in academic mobility programs, particularly as institutes and faculties of RANEPA offer the widest range of opportunities.

We regularly hold events on academic mobility involving students and invariably hear the same thing: ‘I am glad that my experience is useful for someone else!’ Indeed, it is very important to give an opportunity to speak out, to share, to tell, to feel your value and significance. It is almost the same about photo works. But pixels are used instead of words. So, dear students, share the beauty, inspire your messmates, this is really valuable and important!

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