Why I'm studying here. Valentina Mellino, a student from Italy

13 January 2016

I arrived in Tomsk two months ago for an international exchange programme. At the University of Naples, I study Russian language and literature. My teacher said that TSU is a good university with a rich history and one of the best places to study the Russian language.

The night before the leaving, I hardly slept. Europe has a lot of stereotypes about Siberia. When we have unusually cold temperatures, we always say: "It is how it is in Siberia!" In Tomsk, I felt subzero temperatures for the first time. I like to go outside the dormitory and see snow. All around is white, and it's very romantic. But I have to dress warmly: tight pants, gloves, scarves, hats. Sometimes I think that the Russian people are looking at me very strangely when I'm too wrapped up. But I’m always freezing cold. Today my hometown, Praiano, has sunny weather and it’s about 15 degrees there.

My acquaintances constantly wondered: "To Tomsk? So far! Why do not go to St. Petersburg or Moscow?" I looked like a mad person in their eyes. But I think Siberia is more "Russian" than other parts of Russia. If a friend asks me where to learn the Russian language and culture, I will answer: "Tomsk". This town is not very big and not too small. It is ideal for students. Here, I feel protected. I noticed that many young people tend to leave from here to the bigger city. I don’t understand them. I think Tomsk is a great place to live.

Clothes here cost like they do in Italy, but products are cheaper. Usually we do shopping at the nearest supermarket and cook in the dormitory. Most often we cook pasta, like real Italians. From Russian food I have tried buckwheat, pancakes, kefir, and sour cream. I really like pirogi with potatoes. My ration generally consists of two dishes, either pasta or pirogi. But, I am obliged to eat both with sour cream.

I was afraid that in Tomsk I would be lonely. In Italy, I've heard that Siberian people are cold and closed, but it is absolutely not true. I have met people with golden hearts here. I do not feel like a foreigner, a girl from Italy, because the attitude of the people around seems to me to say "Welcome!" Two months here is a good time in my life that has changed me a bit and made it clear that we are not so different as we used to think. People around the world in general are very similar to each other.

The text of the interview was provided by obzor.westsib.ru