Agbeniga Mayowa Johnson is a student of SPbU Preparatory Course from Nigeria and a 2021 Open Doors International Olympiad Scholar. As a man of many talents, he decided to opt for a Russian language course to be able to understand the greatest influencers of Russian history.

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  1. When and why did you decide to learn Russian?

I had always wanted to be a polyglot as a young child growing up, with Russian on my top priority list. Luckily for me, I got selected as a 2021 Open Doors scholar, and I had to choose a course. So, I decided to opt for a language year, which would enable me to learn from the world’s greatest thinkers, creators and disruptive innovators.

I decided to choose a course that required me to undergo a preparatory language year because it is like a dream come true for me, since Russian is the first international language I want to learn. It is one of the most widely spoken languages of the world, it will increase my prospects both inside and outside Russia, and it will widen my worldview. Russia has an amazing and fascinating culture, and I want to be part of it all in full measure. One way to be truly part of a people and identify with a community is to be at oneness with the language of the society. This will aid interaction and effective communication, and it will allow me to influence people and to be positively influenced by them. Russia being a world power, I believe it will be a very great advantage to know the Russian language. And the ability to effectively communicate will give me a cutting edge for living with and being truly part of the people, for broadening my social circle and making new friends, and for an absolutely amazing experience of the real Russia.

  1. How did you find out about St Petersburg University’s Preparatory Course?

I have always known about preparatory courses at Russian universities, but I was specifically referred to St Petersburg University by the Russian Ministry of Education on checking my enrolment portal on the Ministry’s website. Having originally chosen to the Russian university for my programme, I needed to undergo a preparatory year. I carried out some personal research about St Petersburg University, and I am thankful I got referred to such a great institution of learning.

  1. Could you please tell us about your impressions of the Preparatory Course? What do you find difficult and what do you like the most?

Of course, for someone from my part of the world, the first impression was that learning the language would be a highly difficult endeavour. I am grateful to my tutors for taking the time to really be patient with me. I love the invaluable experience of interacting and studying with the University’s leading professors, the well-designed curriculum, and the qualified teaching staff. The only thing I find difficult is that the language is quite complex, with so many exceptions to just take note of, and so much learning by heart to do. I also find the online studying quite difficult. When I started, it seemed to take its toll on me, especially the Internet expenses and the electricity charges, and now, if I miss a few days of classes for unavoidable reasons, it can be quite challenging to catch up, due to the many technicalities of the language.

  1. What do you think about the curriculum? How is the educational process organised?

I think the curriculum is an exceptional one, where all students are able to learn and are capable of developing proficiency over a period of time. It is built on expectations that are a bit high, and so it is rigorous to undertake, but this is understandable because the curriculum prepares learners for life in the society. I consider it to be quite dynamic in the way that it gradually builds my learning experience. It allows for continuity of experiences as I interact more with the modules, hence creating progress and growth.

I think it considers the individual’s learning pace, and it gives room for the patience needed to carry every student along, irrespective of their learning capability. It is obvious that the curriculum has a clear objective or end goal, which is to effectively equip students with the Russian language. Hence, it is not rigid – it allows room for flexibility, monitoring and evaluation by the administration. It provides sufficient scope for the cultivation of unique skills, interest, attitudes and appreciation. It is psychologically sound. It takes into account the theories of learning relevant to the different fields of study for the personal development of the learners. The educational process is one that gives room for steady growth with milestones of learning set for students and constant tests and little quizzes to ascertain the level of assimilation.

  1. How hard is it to learn Russian?

Russian is a very tricky language, I must say, but it is not beyond learning. What makes it so tricky is the many exceptions in the structures, lexicon, verbs, prepositions, infinitives, nominative and accusative cases, etc. There are quite a lot of them, but it becomes quite easy with constant usage and interaction. I believe socially immersive learning will make it easier for anybody to learn the Russian language.

  1. Have you ever been to Russia? What would you like to visit?

I have never been outside my home country; hence, Russia will be the first country I travel to abroad. I hope to be there before the end of December.  I look forward to so many great experiences in Russia, as I am interested in exploring the country to its fullest measure. I’d like to visit the Hermitage Museum. I’d also like to go to ballet performances, arts auctions and exhibitions. And I’d like to be part of a touring group if possible, as I’d like to showcase Russia’s beauty, rich arts and amazing culture to the world. Beyond St Petersburg, I’d like to visit other cities and regions – including faraway destinations in Siberia and the Far East – and take advantage of opportunities to explore the stunning beauty of the tundra, the Northern Lights, and volcanoes, and to do more skiing than I could ever dream of. From striking gilded palaces to vast natural spaces, I’d like to take in Lake Baikal, Red Square in Moscow, horses in the Altai Mountains, Sochi’s Rosa Khutor ski resort, Peterhof Palace, Olkhon Island, the Anapa Archaeological Museum, both the Sukko Valley and the Wildlife Preserve of Bolshoy Utrish, the Vulcanarium Museum, the Moika Palace, St Isaac’s Cathedral and much more.

  1. We know that you are a great artist. Your works are amazing! Tell us, please, how did you start drawing? And do you have any favorite Russian artists or writers?

I started my dive into the arts world as a little boy, due to my introverted nature back then, which made me find solace in the arts. I would decorate my books and my room with drawings and different kinds of patterns. My full swing into the arts started during my undergraduate days at the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta. I discovered that I was more passionate about the arts, despite being in a science department. I decided to pursue a career in the arts toward the end of my university days, as I believed my message to the world, as regards impact and purpose, is through the arts and creativity

Challenged by the occurrences all around humanity, I use different techniques and produce an entirely new and unique piece. Portscape, as I call it, fuses landscape and portrait with deep meaning, which centers on our rights and privileges. Inspired greatly by the deep secrets and mysteries of the vast world around me, the treasures it holds, and the wonders it unfolds, I relate it to what the mind can achieve, and the right to do so, constantly seeking mediums to express its unlimited effectiveness through my arts.

My favorite Russian artists of earlier centuries are Andrei Rublev, Karl Bryullov, Ivan Aivazovsky, Alexei Savrasov, Ivan Shishkin, and Ilya Repin. On the other hand, there are quite a number of modern Russian artists that I find fascinating, and I look forward to meeting and also having interaction and projects with. The likes of Oleg Kulik, Olga Bulgakova, Marina Fedorova, Nikolai Blokhin, and Serge Marshennikov.

  1. Do you think that knowing Russian can be an advantage when hunting for a job in your country?

To a large extent, English is the official language in my country; hence, knowing the Russian language will be of great importance in some specific job hunting. The ability to speak Russian will be considered a special skill that can be useful in working at places like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic and international organisations in my home country.

  1. What are your future plans?

I will be continuing with my master’s programme in Arts and Culture Management, where I also look forward to practicing my arts and creativity as a career. I look forward to doing art even as a student, volunteering and possibly engaging in the Russian arts community. And getting the opportunity for exhibitions and auctions as an international artist. As regards my studies, I plan to study hard and graduate with excellent results, thereby proceeding to further my studies by working toward higher degrees and in specialised courses in Russia. I look forward to being trained as a future innovative and resilient leader in the management of art, culture, and creative industries and a future entrepreneur of the international arts and creative industries; to becoming an internationally recognised professional with outstanding skills in art management and business; to understanding the global trends of the sector, and the peculiarities of doing business in the era of digitalisation and the creation of innovative start-ups.

  1. What would you advise somebody who has just set their sights on studying at St Petersburg University, and what would you wish them?

I’d advise anybody who is looking to study at St Petersburg University that they have made a once-in-a-lifetime decision that they will not regret. The school and study experience promises to be impactful and life changing, as there are several support programmes to meet students’ needs. They will also enjoy all the advantages of studying and living in the cultural capital of Russia.

I wish them a great student life at St Petersburg University, an amazing exploration of St Petersburg and beyond, and a lifetime experience in Russia.

Thank you so much for this great privilege.