By ERIN CONLEY
Russians and Americans aren’t so different, a group of Russians visiting BYU said last week.
“If I could tell the students here anything, it would be that we are the same,” said Mikhail Bousiguin, a third year student at the Academy of National Economy in Moscow. “We like to do the same things, we have the same hopes and dreams. Students are the same everywhere.”
The group of 14 Russians consisted of students, professors and business people who shared their impressions of the United States, Utah and BYU.
The group noted the campus here is more spread out than their Academy where everything must be in the same building because of limited space downtown. They said they liked the atmosphere of a campus where students live together in dorms. Soboleve Olga, a professor, called it a “wise system.”
They said they were surprised to see so many nationalities represented at BYU because in Moscow the students are nearly all Russians. People here are “tolerant and patient,” said Semenova Katia, a student. “Many people from different nations and cultures live and go to work together.”
Bousiguin said he is interested in attending BYU in the future and could adjust to the absence of the beer and drugs that are prevalent among Russian students.
The women in the group expressed amazement over the cleanliness of the United States, but also observed that the women in the U.S. tend to be overweight.
The men in the group said their favorite thing to do in the U.S. is to shop. They cited lower prices, greater variety and higher quality as incentives to buy in large quantities. They agreed their favorite product was Levi’s 501 jeans, which Bousiguin said would cost him $60 to $80 in Moscow.
Krylov said that Russians are immersed in U.S. culture, noting the popularity of Elvis in particular.
“We love you more than you do,” he said.”Everything here is very impressive–the people’s attitudes and open-heartedness,” Olga said. “People are eager to help us on the street.”
Group members said they had a positive experience at Temple Square. “I always see Mormons in Moscow and no one ever wants to talk to them,” Krylov said.
“Now that I have been to Temple Square and everyone there talked to me, I will go back to Moscow and talk to the missionaries. Maybe some day I will even be a part of this Mormon Church.”
Bousiguin said Russia is good soil for the Church because the young students are very open-minded and are looking for direction.
The group’s visit to the United States has several purposes, said trip organizer Gary Benson, a professor at the University of Wisconsin and a BYU alumnus. One of these is to expose them to smart U.S. business practices they can implement at home.
Krylov said exchange programs, such as this one, can help Russians compensate for the years of market economy experience they lost while under Soviet rule.
Benson said he has participated in these privately funded exchange trips many times, but this is the first time he has brought a group to the West Coast. They visited Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City and will see Zion’s National Park, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon and San Francisco before they return to Russia.
He said the group has loved their trip and he plans to bring groups back to the West Coast again in the future.