Oksana Sokolenko and Irina Buglak are from Gubkinsky, near the Arctic Circle, four hours west of Moscow. They have never visited Scotland before, but have recently spent two weeks with their students, studying at Global School of English in Edinburgh. They kindly agreed to spend half an hour being interviewed about their experience of the school and the city.
“This visit has surpassed my expectations,” said Oksana. “The pace of life is not very different from our part of Russia, but the people here are so friendly and the beauty of the city – the architecture and the parks – has made a big impression on me.”
“I’ve been to London before, but it’s totally different from Scotland. It’s more expensive and seems like a different country.”
Irina has also been to England before and she agreed with Oksana, telling me, “I really enjoy the heritage and history of Edinburgh and, as Oksana says, the people really are extremely welcoming. It’s also a safe place to bring teenage students, which is very important for us as teachers.”
As regards the School itself, both ladies agreed that, “the teachers are friendly and very competent. All the Russian students tell us they find the teaching to be good and well-structured for the different levels of study. In Russia, English is compulsory from age 8 and more people nowadays are interested in travelling around Europe and the rest of the world, so English is especially useful for them to be understood across the globe.”
I then asked what had surprised them about Edinburgh.
Irina said that she knew before she came about the famous Edinburgh sites – the Castle, the Royal Mile, Arthur’s Seat, etc. but what she didn’t know about was the people and the lifestyle.
Oskana added that when she had been in some other countries, like most visitors, she felt “foreign,” but here, after a couple of days “I didn’t feel like a foreigner because everyone was so friendly. It’s particular striking that people say thank you and even the bus drivers say good morning to everyone who gets on their bus.”
As regards Scottish food, Irina admitted that although she had tried haggis, “it’s not my cup of tea!” while Oksana said that the students generally liked Scottish cuisine. One thing both Russia and Scotland have in common is that we both like soup! In contrast, on a trip the USA, Oksana said it was very difficult to get a nice bowl of soup.
Finally, both agreed that, as they had stressed throughout our chat, the one really big thing for them and their students was the friendliness of Scotland and the Scots. They also agreed that “we’ll be back soon, with more students!”
Interview, Alastair Blair