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What's the difference between MGU and Carleton?

April 5, 2010 at 6:50 am
By Karl, Ben, and Lily

Last Tuesday was our first day at the university, and thank goodness we met at the nearby metro station and walked over with our Carleton professor, because we would have been completely lost on campus without her. As it says on our student IDs, we are officially first year students in the philological department (for those who, like us, were not familiar with the word "philological", it includes what Carleton would call foreign languages, literature, and linguistics). This department is located in a building that houses hundreds of classrooms, where about two thousand students come to study—and that's only one department. All together, there are around 40,000 students at MGU, so perhaps it shouldn't be such a surprise that the 11-story building we study in is still short on classrooms.

Before Thursday, we had only been in the philology building (or "First GUM"). We take language classes three days a week, for a total of twelve hours. It might not seem like that much, but it demands your full focus and concentration at all times, or else you might completely miss, say, your homework assignment for tomorrow. One class period in Russia is called a para, and it lasts one and a half hours. We have one para a week of phonetics, three of conversational practice and three of grammar – all taught in Russian. Our teachers are all professors at MGU and very experienced in leading foreigners through all the twists and turns of the Russian language.

Moscow MGU

On Thursday, we met the handful of philology students who will be going on excursions through the city with us throughout the trip. They are called praktikantki (the –ki implying they are all girls); our first excursion with them was a more in-depth tour of campus. Most of the tour was spent in the first GUM and the main building (glavnoye zdaniye, see the picture). It took a while to see all of the interesting parts of the main building, since it is over 28 stories tall. And we all agree that it seems a lot taller than that. When it was built, the idea was that you would not have to leave; everything you need is inside: it has a huge pool, museums, a theater, and lots of dining halls and little drug stores. It is also houses the university administration graduate students, and a few lucky undergrads, as well as a few departments, such as geology.

Moscow MGU 

We rode the elevator up to the 28th floor and ducked into the university's geological museum just as it was closing, for a prime bird's-eye view of the center of Moscow. Then we exited through the main entrance across a long boulevard to the Cmotrovaya Ploschad (literally, the Viewing Square), from which, surrounded by souvenir vendors with tables full of matryoshkas, we looked out over the city once more. As we headed back towards the Glavnoye Zdaniye, the praktikantki told us about Mikhail Lomonosov, the man who founded Moscow University in the 18th century. He was born in the northern countryside and came to Moscow on foot (so the story goes). He studied at Moscow's best academy of the time and was an esteemed expert in a broad range of subjects, but apparently that wasn't enough for him, because he decided to found Russia's first university. Quite an example to live up to!

Moscow MGU 


  • April 6 2010 at 4:36 pm

    More pictures of you guys!

  • April 7 2010 at 2:37 pm
    Lisa Hellerstein

    Ben - Have you grown a beard?

    Just asking.  Love, Mom

  • April 8 2010 at 9:34 am

    Great to hear from you and your fellow traveler!  You've covered a lot of territory in a short time.  I look forward to further submissions!    G

  • April 14 2010 at 11:09 am

    Ben--Tell you friends that I enjoyed their excellent additions to the blog.   G

  • April 14 2010 at 11:10 am

    Forgive my persistent typos!     G