Sofia Vaz Pinto Simões Coelho
Student from Lisboa, Portugal
Russian Language course & Volunteer 2011
The course was really good! I learnt an incredible amount of things with a good book of exercises, and of course, the most wonderful teacher ever! Yuliya is really kind, intelligent, and extremely knowledgeable – she can explain more or less everything concerning Russian language. And the fact that the groups are really small is very good for fast learning since it allows us to speak a lot and to get a lot of attention from the teacher.
I keep wonderful memories of Orion. It is a very special place that works as a big, strong and united family. You can feel the closeness of all its members, it is like all the children are brothers and sisters. I remember some very long, pleasant and delicious tea sessions (conversations last for hours!); fun English lessons with all the kids (we had to think of so many themes for the lessons!); goats running around everywhere; meetings where I gradually understood what people were saying; beautiful moments with children (reading with Maxim, playing tag with the boys; roller-skating with Ruslan; lying on the warm asphalt at night talking to Ira and Lera and watching the stars; cooking with Vanya; teaching Dima how to juggle ...); playing “mafia” with the Russian volunteers and talking with them for hours (laughing a lot about misunderstandings!); making pirojki in the kitchen with all the girls... The list would never end! Of course there were some less fun parts (like cleaning toilets or working in the ogorod ...!), but I really felt almost at home in Orion, and for that I thank all the wonderful children and adults that welcomed me so warm-heartedly. I hope I will see them all again very soon!Read Sofia's Ten Commandments !
Kamila Kingstone, Brighton Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College, Russian Language Course 2011
My time in Orion was an incredible experience. At the end of the month, I could have a conversation almost entirely in Russian, which I certainly couldn’t do when I arrived. The atmosphere in Orion is so relaxed and friendly, that all the volunteers immediately felt at home. All the volunteers got on so well that we felt like a family after only a few days. I was in Orion during the summer camp, which really helped my Russian because it gave me the opportunity to talk to many different children.
Yulya is an amazing teacher. She is so patient and always explains incomprehensible grammar rules in a way that you will immediately understand. It’s guaranteed that your Russian will improve while you’re in Russia, and I found that talking to the children was a really good way of doing this. When I arrived I quickly realised that my vocabulary was roughly the standard of a 6 year old Russian child’s!
Josh Meyer, Seton Hall University, USA, Russian Language Course 2009
I went to Orion without knowing any Russian. I couldn’t even say “Hi, how are you” or “My name is Josh.” After the end of my three months and Yulya’s 4-week class, I could have a basic conversation in Russian. I remember arranging a meeting with a friend on the phone without using any English at all. That felt amazing. Speaking on the phone in a foreign language is one of the hardest things to do when learning.
After coming back to my university in the States, I decided to take a Russian language course. I tested into Intermediate Russian, skipping a year of Beginner. Even now, 2 years later, I’ve only taken Yulya’s 4-week course and one semester of Intermediate Russian and my friends in Advanced Russian ask me for help.
I didn’t know what to expect from the class before I arrived, but I know I learned more in Orion in those 4 weeks than I could have anywhere else. That sounds like a bold statement, but I think it’s true. As an undergraduate student who loves learning languages, who plans on going on for a MA and eventually a PhD in Linguistics, I’ve learned many languages from many teachers using many styles. Yulya’s is the best I’ve had so far. I have friends who spent an entire semester in Moscow or St. Petersburg, and my Russian is better than theirs.
This class is worth it. Not only the quality is astounding, I couldn’t find anything else at a comparable price. If you take this course, you will not be disappointed.
Molly Rose Avila, City University of New York, USA, Russian Language Course 2009
Yulya was a wonderful Russian teacher! I had studied Russian for only six months prior to Orion, and I arrived with only a vague sense of grammar and a limited vocabulary. With Yulya, I achieved a solid foundation of Russian grammar (case system, perfective and imperfective verbs, tense, etc.) and expanded my vocabulary enormously. Of course, her classes were complemented by our living in a mostly Russian speaking community, so I was able to practice all day, every day. Yulya had a real understanding for how language works, and she was very good at explaining the differences between Russian and English in very clear ways.
I miss Kitezh and Orion very very very much. Although
it's been almost two years since I was there, the memories
are still vibrant and fresh and my gratitude for that summer only grows with time.
Lucy Wright, Dublin University, Ireland. Mother of four children and volunteer at Orion in 2010.
At first it was really hard! My Russian seemed wholly inadequate and not at all colloquial which is quite different from reading Tolstoy. However by the time I left I had definitely improved…. when I went to a language school in St Petersburg 6 weeks later I found the speaking much easier.
In Orion I experienced the uniquely Russian characteristic of ‘sobornost’ which is to do with communal spirit and fellow feeling. This is very different to the predominant western view which has always promoted the individual above the collective.
I also feel that I have a better grasp of what it is to be Russian, how they view other countries and what they
think of their own leaders and history and people.