“Speaking Your Mind, Writing Your Opinion” with Vadim Ivanishchev

Vadim Ivanishchev, a World Economics major from Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow, attended Dickinson College in 2012.  As an Overseas Assistant, Vadim assisted Russian language professors in the classroom and served as a Russian writing tutor in the Multilingual Writing Center.  In comparing his U.S. and Russian writing experiences, he focuses on cultural differences when it comes to self-expression, essay structure, sentence length, and word choice.  vadim4


12 thoughts on ““Speaking Your Mind, Writing Your Opinion” with Vadim Ivanishchev

  1. It was definitely special for me to listen to someone discuss adapting their writing style from an international perspective, because I will likely work with international writers in my future as a tutor. This collaboration will involve dealing with two very different composition styles, so having insight into possible differences before tutoring will make the sessions more successful and less judgmental. Expression of opinion is one aspect of the podcast that stood out to me. I didn’t realize American students were more encouraged to speak up in class and that Russian students are less prone to give their feelings in a summarizing paper. When you become accustomed to a certain writing style (voicing an individual opinion in writing), being exposed to a culture that composes using other formats seems strange. It is important to remember these formats are just as legitimate, so as I learn more about global composition I’ll keep telling myself to stay open-minded.

  2. It’s interesting how the type of instructional method (lecture vs. discussion-based) influences the way papers are approached and composed.

  3. I found it interesting how the class structure varied between the U.S. and Russia. Obviously, not every American school is the same as Dickinson, just as there are progressive schools in Russia. I think that the American idea of speaking up and giving your opinion in class is important, though, like Vadim, I often feel compelled to mull over what I would like to say before I share. I think that our small classes go along with our emphasis on each student learning and crafting his or her own future, and, since I’ve been raised in an individualistic society, I think that small classes and individual importance are crucial to a good education. This seems to have been a valuable experience!

  4. Vadim’s comments about sentence-level differences between Russian and American writing stuck out to me. In Russia, composing long sentences is the “right” way to write, while Americans stress writing short, concise sentences. This point really demonstrates the fact that “good” writing is often culturally relative, rather than a universal rule.

  5. I found Vadim’s experience at Dickinson to be very interesting. I think it is important to remember the different teaching techniques that come into play with international students and how it influences their ways of learning. For instance, Vadim talked about how it was difficult for him to really express his opinion in class at first, since most of his classes in Russia were larger or lecture classes. This is important to remember when tutoring an international student in the writing center because they might be less likely to voice their true opinions during a session, disabling it from fully helping the student. I believe that having this knowledge of other teaching systems is imperative in order to successfully tutor in the writing center.

  6. What struck me most about Vadim’s stories was his likening his term paper to an annotated bibliography. While he mentioned that the form was different, the fact that his task was simply to summarize the articles and references (instead of interpreting them afterward) probably made it a bit difficult for him to adapt to this type of American writing. Also, just in listening to his speech patterns, I could hear the Russian style of talking around things instead of stating them directly. I find it interesting that even with the succinct mechanics of American writing, we still have to write papers that are 20 pages long. I would love to ask if their papers have a longer length requirement, because being able to dance around the main point of your essay sounds like it would make things easier for us in the US!

  7. I really enjoyed how he could clearly see the differences and the similarities of Russian and American learning. He mentions that at Dickinson, you are taught how to think . As a goal of a liberal arts college, so Dickinson represents itself well. It appears to me that Russian writing is less interested in the writer’s opinion. He mentions that it is common in Russia to write summaries of articles in Russia, but the writer’s opinion has little importance. Not only this, but he discovered how much more structured American writing is to Russian writing. Overall, this podcast was fascinating to listen to in comparing culture writings.

  8. I love hearing about the differences between experiences being a student in both Moscow and the United States. Vadim noted that classes in Moscow consist of at least 25 students while at Dickinson that is the number that most classes are capped at, and that since classes at Dickinson are discussion-based, it really emphasizes participation here. At Dickinson, he says you learn “how to think,” and a multitude of perspectives are addressed, while in Russia that is not emphasized as much. I could easily see how that would be the case in Russia, because for years and even still in some regards today, everything is fairly censored.

  9. The frustration that Vadim faced with speaking up in the classroom is one of numerous cultural differences that play a major role in education. Others include not looking the teacher in the eyes, or waiting until someone directly asks you a question before you speak. His experiences just verify the need for teachers to consider these differences when it comes to setting the standard for writing, and other academic settings settings. Vadim’s writing process has assimilated as he now makes structured outlines before writing, and it seems like he has grown comfortable “code switching” between the two writing styles.

  10. While I know we talked about the differences between expectations of professor-student interactions in other countries, Vadim’s description about his adjustment to America’s expectation of a much more open and opinion based writing style was the first time I’ve heard it so well-articulated. I am very glad that I had the chance to hear his thoughts about the adjustment from a, in my opinion, more restrictive system in terms of individual opinion, to the more argumentative one that we have here. I believe that I will be able to apply what I’ve learned about Vadim’s experiences and adjustment to help temper the way in which I go about tutoring other international or visiting students. This also made me wonder how I might adjust to a different writing system should our positions be switched.

  11. I noticed throughout the interview the importance of “writing explicitly” in the USA, unlike in Russia where you may usually start outside the topic then come to a thesis and then support that idea through “implied opinion.” I like hearing that an American way of writing allowed for a way to really express oneself, and can help someone learn to develop of solid opinion. While the structures do seem to be the same, the “how to” in writing through that structure seems to be the greatest difference.

  12. I found this interview with Vadim fascinating because I know so little about Russia and so I loved hearing about a place so different than where I am from! What really struck me during the interview was when Vadim says that at Dickinson the students are learning how to think. This is something that I’ve also noticed about Dickinson and have thoroughly enjoyed. A huge part of my learning process is participation and debating with other students, the class sizes and structure at Dickinson allows me to do this. I also sympathized with Vadim about the difficulty of participating in class when the language being spoken by everyone is foreign to you. I have to push myself even farther in my french classes than I do in english classes because I need to think in a language which is foreign to me. The same goes for writing, which is a whole different endeavor when taking on an assignment in a foreign language. I really appreciated Vadim’s comments on the differences and similarities between Dickinson and his university in Russia. Thanks for sharing!

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