Steve Bell and Sallie Harkness of Storyline Scotland 19th – 28th October 2012
In October 2012 Steve Bell and I had the privilege to attend the 23rd Annual International Conference ‘Language and Culture’ in honour of the 80th anniversary of the Department of Foreign Languages of Tomsk State University, Siberia. The conference also celebrated fifty years of service by Dean of the Faculty, Professor Svetlana Gural.
Tomsk State University was founded on 28th May in 1878 by decree of Emperor Alexander II and a number of the imposing university buildings date back to this period when TSU was the only institution of higher education in the vast territory from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Now the extensive and beautiful university campus also includes other more modern and well appointed buildings housing the 24 faculties and 162 departments.
The conference, which began on Monday 22nd October, was attended by students and former students of the Department of Foreign Languages along with visiting professors from other universities and members of faculty staff. The first part of the programme was devoted to tributes to Professor Gural followed by a series of presentations given by the visitors. In the afternoon Steve gave a presentation on ‘Storyline as an Effective Approach to Teaching and Learning’ which was well received and paved the way for the Storyline workshops that followed later in the week.
As the rest of the conference was conducted in the Russian language Steve and I were able to spend some time seeing the city of Tomsk and prepare for our workshops, but we were generously invited to the social events around the conference which included a theatre visit followed by a buffet supper and a magnificent banquet held in the university itself. Professor Gural was a most gracious and generous hostess and we were delighted to discover that she had happy memories of attending a conference held in the University of Glasgow some years previously.
Our Storyline contact in Tomsk is Peter Mitchell, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Dean for International Affairs at TSU. Peter is using Storyline approaches in his work with students and is keen to establish ‘Storyline Russia. Peter and his wife Liudmilla, known as Lucy to her English speaking friends, attended the recent Storyline Conference in Reykjavik in August 2012 where they issued an invitation to the other Storyliners there to come to Tomsk in October. It was the greatest of good fortune that enabled us to accept this invitation, to make the long journey to Siberia, and to have the pleasure of meeting Professor Gural and many of her staff. We are most grateful to Peter and Lucy for their care and attention during our stay in Tomsk. They were thoughtful hosts and ensured that we had all the materials need for the Storyline workshops, also that we could see something of Tomsk itself while we were there.
The conference programme concluded on Wednesday 24th October and on Thursday 25th and Friday 26th we gave a two day Storyline workshop for lecturers in the Faculty of Foreign Languages. The well- tried Storyline ‘Capital Tours’ was adapted to enable participants create Russian families who would visit the UK in order to assess its potential as a tourist attraction and then give a report on their experience.
On Saturday 27th a one day workshop for language students followed. The Storyline used was an ‘old favourite’ – ‘New Neighbours’.
We were greatly impressed by the staff and students’ excellent command of the English language and were delighted to discover that our Storyline workshops were received with the pleasure and enthusiasm we have experienced elsewhere. We hope to hear of more Storyline experiences being promoted in and around Tomsk.
We felt it was a wonderful experience to spend a week in Tomsk and we were fascinated by the contrasts of old and new that we saw in the city. We hope that our visit has helped to introduce and establish ‘Storyline Russia’ and look forward to continued contact with the new friends we made during our short visit.
Sallie Harkness, November 2012
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