Last week (June 13th-21st), Dr. Tatiana Nekrasova-Beker served as the Project Director for a cultural exchange project, titled Territory Identity of Russia and America through the Eyes of Young Generations, carried out as a part of the 2015- 2016 Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The project was conducted in collaboration with the National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University in Russia. Dr. Anthony Becker also assisted in organizing this event and helped to co-host the Russian team during their stay in Fort Collins.

Dr. Tatiana Nekrasova-Beker

From June 13th through the 21st, students from both universities met for a weeklong seminar in Fort Collins, CO and began compiling information for an online encyclopedic dictionary (in English) of culturally specific places in Northern Colorado. They worked in international teams with 1-2 representatives from both universities.

To see their work so far, visit:

The second seminar will be held in Tomsk, Russia (August 4-15, 2016), and the students will do something similar, focusing on regions that reflect the uniqueness and significance of Tomsk and compiling information for an online encyclopedic dictionary of culturally specific places. Activities will include lectures, focus group discussions, visiting unique locations and places in the region, and working in international teams to develop and present their projects.

Ice Cream in Fort Collins with Students from Tomsk, Russia
Participants from CSU and Tomsk Polytechnic University enjoying Ice Cream in Old Town

Check out the following interviews with CSU participants, Jenny Stetson-Strange and Adele Lonas: 


Jenny Stetson-Strange (MA in TESL/TEFL MAY 2017)

What inspired you to apply for this program?

The desire to be in a classroom again and teach English to non-native speakers. I thoroughly enjoy building relationships with other people from various walks of life and this inspired me to go back to school and obtain a master’s degree.

What culturally-specific place did you choose to research in Colorado? Why did you choose this place?

The Mishawaka Amphitheatre. It’s unique to Colorado and this year it’s celebrating 100 years. Walter Thompson discovered Mishawaka in 1916 and deemed it a dance / music hall. It has kept its heritage for 100 years. Various musical bands frequent this hot spot throughout the year. As well, the restaurant and venue sit along the Cache La Poudre River in the canyon.

The Mishawaka Stage (photo from

What culturally-specific place are you going to research in Russia? 

My partner from Russia selected her place in Russia – a Monastery.

What was it like to collaborate internationally with students from Tomsk Polytechnic University?

I believe the word collaboration is key when it comes to this project. Two countries coming together to work on a single project is special. Collaboration is vital for success in this world and for us to work on a project together is of important significance as it brings unity.

What was the most rewarding part of this experience so far?

Collaborating with my friends from Russia!

What are you looking forward to most when you travel to Tomsk, Russia?

Seeing my friends again, traveling with my colleagues and professors, building relationships with friends, and working on a unique place in Tomsk, Russia.


Adele Lonas (Joint Masters TEFL/TESL and Spanish Language and Literature, Spring/ Summer 2017)

What inspired you to apply for this program? 

There are various things, all kind of intertwined/ connected that inspired me to apply to the exchange program. My mother had traveled to Russia (at that point, the USSR) in 1965, and had studied Russian Language and Literature in college, so my first introduction to a second language as a child was to her books in Russian. Similarly, she would tell stories to me of what she saw. The impact of this was heightened by the fact that this was in the 80’s when Russia was still the USSR.

This led to my own fascination with Dr. Zhivago as a teenager (the movie and the book, although the movie was filmed in Spain), which led to a very romanticized version of Russia as being a land of intellectual revolutionaries and endless snowy expanses.

So the idea of being able to go to Siberia, of seeing this dot named Tomsk on a map in the middle of Siberia, just north of Mongolia and Kazakhstan, a place where I would never be likely to have the money to visit, was exciting, to say the least. Also, the fact that the exchange program involved a concrete outcome (the website) really interested me. It seemed like a great opportunity to learn a skill (designing a web page) that could be used in multiple professional situations.

What culturally-specific place did you choose to research in Colorado? Why did you choose this place? 

I chose Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. I had learned about within the first month of being here, and visited, but then didn’t have the chance to go back until applying for the program. It interested me because of it’s rich historical, ecological and recreational role. The archaeological site there rewrote the understanding the human history at the time it was discovered in the 1930’s. And it is an open space–a massive expanse of protected prairie.

The arroyo surrounding the Lindenmeier archaeological site (Folsom culture) on Soapstone Prairie Natural Area near Fort Collins, Colorado. By Sethant – Own work, Public Domain,

What culturally-specific place will you be researching in Russia?

My partner chose a house/ building famous for it’s architecture (I don’t remember the name of it because various of the proposals are on similar places). It is very beautiful though, because of the latticed and intricate woodwork around the eaves, windows and doors. Tomsk is surrounded by forest, and so is very famous for its woodwork according to my partner in the project (and what comes up on the internet if I google it)

What was it like to collaborate internationally with students from Tomsk Polytechnic University? 

It was really interesting and a positive experience to see how animated and expressive and engaged/ engaging the students from Tomsk were. They were excited about everything, and also very interested in everything, in listening to what we had to explain or tell about the places we visited, in experiencing new food, in the geology and history of everything we visited. In working more specifically with my partner, we each did a separate web page, but supported each other in terms of our varying strengths and weaknesses and just overall advice or suggestions. The fact that we had been skyping with our partner a few times before they arrived, really helped to set the tone for when they came, since there was then very little awkwardness in meeting them and getting to know them. It made meeting them in person even that much more interesting I think.

What was the most rewarding part of this experience so far? 

So far, the most rewarding part of the experience–that’s hard to say, because it’s every aspect of it altogether. Both getting to know the students from Russia and seeing them experiencing Colorado, getting to know the people in my own program, visiting the places (many of which I’d never been to) and learning to build a website about the different places (and seeing the webpages each team designed)

What are you looking forward to most when you travel to Tomsk, Russia?

Going! Seeing the reality of a place that otherwise would only exist as an illusive idea? Encountering and experiencing the reality behind the illusions and ideas we concoct of places in other countries and cultures is always a fascinating experience. The first time I traveled to Mexico and tasted mole, this sauce that is made from multiple spices, chile, chocolate, and other ingredients, I couldn’t even figure out if I liked it or not because it was so different from anything I’d ever tasted. I kept wanting to eat it again, to see if I could figure out whether I liked it or not, because the mix of ingredients was confusing (to taste). I think traveling to a new country and experiencing the culture there is like that, you have to keep immersing yourself to see what it is you’re experiencing and understanding about yourself within that totally new dynamic, based on how all the surrounding details and people become immersed within you.