Wayne State puts Belarus on the map

WSU and VSU students pose with flags

This fall, Wayne State made history. WSU's Russian Program hosted the first major group of Belarusian students to ever visit a U.S. university.

Eleven Belarusian students and faculty from Vitebsk State University spent more than two weeks exploring Detroit - the sister city of Belarus' capital, Minsk. They collaborated with WSU Russian students on projects, toured the School of Medicine, Historic Fort Wayne, the Henry Ford Museum, the DIA, and the Heidelberg Project. In addition, they experienced the Underground Railroad Living Museum, attended various talks and visited the WSU Law School.

The group also raised awareness about their country through a series of presentations on Belarusian life and culture in a number of Russian, global studies, and history classes, as well as at the University of Michigan's Center for Russian and East European Studies and Cesar Chavez High School in Southwest Detroit.

The visit was transformational for WSU and the Belarusians students alike. Not only did both sides learn about each other's respective cultures, they also developed their Russian and English language skills and forged important personal and professional relationships.

"It was an amazing trip," recalls Vitebsk State student Ksenia Ivanter. "I had a chance to immerse myself in American culture and I made new friends. I compared Belarusian and American ways of living, food, systems and education and a lot of other things. This trip was more than just a trip for me. It was a kind of traveling into the dream of my childhood."

In 2017, WSU's Russian Program introduced a cutting-edge curriculum centered on virtual exchanges with students in Belarus to develop language and culture skills. This culminated in the visit of ten WSU students and faculty to Vitebsk State University in March 2019, making Wayne State the second U.S. university to send a student group to an institution of higher education in Belarus.

The Wayne State Russian Program plans to continue developing this productive and rewarding educational relationship with Vitebsk State University and ultimately hopes to offer semester and year-long study abroad programs in Vitebsk.

Belarusians visit Detroit through WSU Russian Program

The visit was made possible by the generous funding and support of over one hundred individuals and institutions, including the U.S. Embassy in Minsk, Wayne State's Office of International Programs, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, and Vitebsk State University.

Learn more about Wayne State's Russian Program at go.wayne.edu/russian.

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