During my 3 weeks in Irkutsk, Siberia I had the opportunity to truly immerse myself in a unique cultural experience. In a city with nearly half a million individuals and with less than 1% Anglophones, the adjustments to our new temporal home were both challenging and exciting.
A particularly memorable event during my time in Russia was the celebrations of Victory Day. It was truly admirable to see a unified commitment of individuals of all ages, young and old, appreciating historical achievements as a nation. On May 9th, 2015 we had the pleasure to partake in Russia’s 70th year anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War 2. Streets were filled with thousands of individuals with banners and national colours, chanting and marching their way to the city square. Celebrations lasted from dawn to dusk, finishing off with spectacular fireworks.
Unlike stereotypes often heard of Russian’s rude and often rash attitude towards Westerners, our experience were quite the contrary. From our university contacts to strangers on the street, individuals were not only more than willing to offer help or direction but genuinely excited to hear about our story as Canadians. In an open meeting held with dozens of students and teachers from Baikal State University, individuals were intrigued to hear about education and business in the Western world and our perception of the Russian life. The conversations were both stimulating and encouraging. As a masters business student pointed out, ‘despite political tensions, these discussions are proof that Westerners and Russians can have meaningful dialogues and can bond over commonalities such as the pursuit of happiness and a passion for business.’
Jairo Pinto (HBA), Ivey Business School