A cold country with bears and vodka: what stereotypes do foreign students reject?

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A cold country with bears and vodka: what stereotypes do foreign students reject?

The image of Russia in the perception of foreign students living in our country is undergoing significant changes after integration into Russian society. According to a study conducted by the ANO “Center for the Development of Political Capital”, the current image is qualitatively superior to the expected and forms in students a completely new, positive attitude towards the country, as well as towards the opportunities that Russia offers.

A comparative analysis of the expected and actual image of Russia was carried out using the sociographic method. Students from Brazil, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Syria and other countries aged 18 to 25 years (living in Moscow) were asked to draw two drawings in the allotted time that would answer the question: “What associations did you have before coming to Russia and how they changed after living in the country.”

Before meeting our country, absolutely all students were hostages of stereotypes that took root in their minds after watching American films. Snow, the Kremlin, bears, vodka and harsh, angry Russians – these things respondents drew when answering the first question. Out of 90 students, 28 people drew snow and a severe cold winter, 25 – bears, 13 – spruce and birch trees. The last most popular symbol was vodka. Students drew it in the form of a transparent bottle with a corresponding signature. There were six such drawings. As you can see, the ideas are very limited and this is the factor that stops foreigners from deciding to study in Russia. Who would want to go to such a place?

A close acquaintance with the country and the people living in it radically changes the way foreigners think about Russia. During the second part of the study, when it came to drawing the actual association, the vast majority of respondents used warmer colors for their drawings. This indicates a positive attitude, as well as warm feelings towards the new place of residence. The students placed the main emphasis in depicting real Russia on the people who surround them, their friends, homely atmosphere and Russian open spaces.

The drawings on the theme of home turned out to be the most detailed, that shows how much importance respondents attach to the opportunity to feel at home in Russia. Traditional family values and the general way of life in the country delight foreigners, give them a sense of security and help them intuitively integrate into everyday life, which, in fact, is not much different, and sometimes even superior in comfort, to their home. Many students during the study noted that their idea of Russia changed precisely because of the people around them, who were kind and taking care of them, even despite the fact that they were complete strangers.

Images of Russian maps and other regions of the country indicate that foreigners are ready to discover our country. For many of them, it was a revelation that despite cultural and national diversity, all Russians treat each other with respect and consider themselves a unated Russian people. “Everything is different here, but we felt that this is also Russia,” respondents shared their experience of traveling around the country.

An analysis of 180 drawings showed that the expectations of foreigners are 100% different from reality. Considering the results, it must be admitted that there is an urgent need to promote the real image of Russia abroad, in particular by attracting foreign students.

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