Updates and Holiday Wishes

Hello again everyone,

So we have now complete our first two days of Apply!Kazan and are working on material for day three now.

The group we presented the introductory presentation to was small, only four in attendance, which is not at all disappointing, but I guess the hope is always that you will get a full class. I can tell you now I was very nervous, and there were a lot of personal questions looming about my ability to effectively help Russian students learn about the international experience (having never really travelled myself). These limiting beliefs along with the quiet intimacy I was now experiencing with four strangers made every minute feel like hours, and uncertainty filled my head. Will I be helpful? Will I be boring? Will they understand? Will they care? Will they come back tomorrow? Ha, the last one was probably the scariest, having only four participants and losing their attention the first day could be disasterous.

It became clear, and quickly, that these concerns were unwarranted. While presenting Recrear and introducing the project and the two weeks we will have together, the energy in the room grew. I also realized along with Sasha that there were benefits to having a small group, and that the potential for positive results from the project increased with our ability to work more acutely with those in attendance. As we went home to prepare for day two’s session, we were in high spirits, but still with a handful of worries. I have to thank Ksusha and Katia for their emails and blog posts in the late hours of the morning, as they were so thoughtful and motivating, as well as instrumental in dispelling any remaining concerns in my mind.

Wonderful! Session two, the group has expanded to twice the size, though we now sit in a lecture hall with a balcony that was designed to capture the attention of more than 150 students. Ha, needless to say Sasha and I do not draw a crowd large enough to fill the front row, however there are once again advantages to this level of participation. Discussing interests and expectations with the new members a suspicion I had on day one is confirmed; this group knows much of the information we intended to present as well as we do. This changes the expected dynamic of what we intended to present, especially since we now have to be more focused in the information we should be delivering. The problem created is that it is difficult or nearly impossible to get too focused in our material and still engage everyone in the group, especially if there are one or two in attendance that do still require the general information. There is an exciting revelation though, and that is of course that what benefit we can offer to those participating in Apply!Kazan is far beyond the extent of brief and general discussions for application processes and interviews.

The combination of small group sizes and extended knowledge bases has increased our capacity to deliver our complete attention to the specific needs of a participant. We have started to catalogue and share not only general links for schools, programs, and scholarship searches, but also more narrowly focused links for specific degrees and fellowships. I am so excited to learn more about the aspirations of each individaul member, and see how their dreams will shape the presentations to come that can now incorporate processes and tips that will be more exact with the information they need. Outside the workshops, it will be great to work one-on-one during the office hours and cooperate to improve applications and resumes, but also to get to know everyone better.

Today, we are still here preparing for our session this evening on everything intercultural. We were supposed to be wandering around central Kazan this afternoon with our wonderful local coordinator Dinara, however as much as I cannot wait to see what Kazan has to offer and finally get some pictures for you all, the drive to better prepare for the workshop and be as helpful as possible is very powerful. We will still be getting some Uzbek food absolutely, and maybe I can snap some photos from the car this evening, but if we have more time to prepare I am looking to take advantage of it if the results will increase the benefits for the group. I think Sasha is feeling like she has been couping me up in her appartment for three days, but it’s great, she feeds me well and there is lots of tea and I get to do what I came here to do.

I hope everyone is in good health and holiday cheer. I want to thank all the participants who have come out so far, and extend my future thanks to those who will be joining us this evening and during the rest of the project. Thanks to our wonderful local coordinator Dinara, and our talented photographers and bloggers Ksusha and Katya. Thanks so much to everyone.

If I do not get to chat with those of you back home before Sunday, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Talk to you soon,

-Nolan

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