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.

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 significant 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 cultural 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.


Check out the following interviews with participants, Kiley Miller and Sarah van Nostrand:

Kiley Miller

Joint Master’s Student in Teaching English as a Foreign/Second Language and French, Spring 2018

What inspired you to apply for this program? 

After taking a class with Tatiana in the fall, I was really interested in getting to work with her on such an interesting project that appealed to so many of my interests: writing, travel, and making connections with different cultures. I love writing, and I kept a blog when I studied abroad as an undergraduate. I really enjoyed travel writing, and I haven’t written in a long time. I believe part of the project description mentioned writing a “place dictionary,” which seemed a lot like travel writing, so I was hooked from the start. As I learned more about the project, I really liked the idea of showing others around Colorado. I’ve been living here for almost a year and I’ve had several friends visit. I love showing them around, and getting to host a group of international students and show off my new hometown seemed like fun. Of course, the chance to go to Russia was also really appealing. Seeing a small town in Siberia through natives’ eyes and getting a chance to build friendships with people in a completely different part of the world was one of the biggest draws to the program for me.

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

I proposed Estes Park, which sort of spilled over into Rocky Mountain National Park. When my family moved me out here last summer, we spent a few days in Estes and I fell in love with it. The drive from Fort Collins goes from sprawling plains to a crazy ascent following the Big Thompson, and the view of Estes nestled in the mountains when you finally crest the last hill always takes my breath away. I wanted to share this feeling with our Russian team, to show them the town of Estes, and for them to experience being in the mountains of Colorado. The Stanley Hotel was a big draw too. I love the spooky atmosphere and how the great white building contrasts the rest of the little mountain town down below.

Participants at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, outside of Estes.

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

My partner, Andrei, chose the Museum of Slavic Mythology. I love mythology, but I realize I know nothing about Russian mythology! I was really excited to see what Andrei had chosen, and I’m looking forward to spending time in the number of museums the Russian team chose. Here, almost all of us chose outdoor locations and activities, which seems very “Colorado” to me. The Russian team chose a number of museums and famous houses, so I think the contrast here will be really interesting to see.

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

My partner and I started Skyping about a month before the team arrived here in the US. It was difficult at first, getting to know someone just online, but it was really interesting to have a common goal and to help prepare my partner to come to the US. On Skype, we talked about our locations, what we envisioned the article to look like, and just chatted. When the team actually arrived, it was bizarre to have a real life person to talk to! They were all so energetic and eager, and everyone asked great questions about the locations we visited and about American culture in general. The team was so friendly and they were really easy to get along with. When Andrei and I sat down to write about the Stanley Hotel, it was most interesting to see our two perspectives come together. I think we complemented each other really well, too. Andrei is more technologically inclined, which was really handy for the website building, and I was able to help more on the language and writing side of things.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. Photo Credit: Miguel Vieira from Walnut Creek, CA, USA – Stanley Hotel in Estes ParkUploaded by xnatedawgx, CC BY 2.0,

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

I feel like I’ve made a lot of new friends in a really short time. We’re working together on a big project, but in just the week the Russian team was here, I think we started to make some really strong bonds of friendship. I think that working toward a common goal made it easy to get acquainted and their enthusiasm for everything that we did was infectious. I think I was as inspired to be in Colorado as they were! It was great getting to spend more time with the American team too. A lot of us have classes together, but there are some students from other programs and having this unifying experience with the American team definitely helped us to bond too.

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

I’m eager to meet back up with the Russian team and get to know them even better, and I think seeing their hometown through their eyes will be a great way to do that. They talked a little about Tomsk in comparison to what we saw and did here in Colorado, but talking about a place can never really do it justice, so I’m looking forward to experiencing the city firsthand. I’m really interested in seeing what sets Tomsk apart, in their eyes, and making those same comparisons that they made. I want to try the food, see the museums they have lined up, and even fumble around with a new currency. I love traveling to any and all new places, so just the prospect of traveling again is really exciting. Traveling with a purpose, coming together cross-culturally and solidifying these new friendships, makes the prospects that much more exciting.


Sarah van Nostrand

MA in Teaching English as a Foreign/Second Language, May 2017

Participant, Sarah van Nostrand on top of Arthur's Rock
Participant, Sarah van Nostrand on top of Arthur’s Rock

What inspired you to apply for this program? 

I was inspired to apply for this program because of the prospect of traveling to Siberia, a place that I could never have imagined I’d get to in this lifetime, and a place that I admittedly knew very little about. To be given the opportunity to travel across the world to meet and work with Russian university students, learn about Russian culture, and promote cross-cultural dialogue between our two countries is all incredibly inspiring, and made applying for this program an easy decision.

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

For my project, I chose to research Arthur’s Rock in Lory State Park. Arthur’s Rock was one of the first hikes I went on when I moved to Fort Collins in the summer of 2014, and the foothills served as a welcome escape from a city that, at the time, I felt intimidated by. Two years later, hiking in the foothills has become a strong part of my Fort Collins identity and a big part of what I think makes this community so great. Colorado is no doubt a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, and Fort Collins in particular is known and celebrated for its numerous open spaces and quick and easy access to the outdoors. I could think of no other place that I’d rather share with our Russian teammates that better embodies what Fort Collins culture is all about than a Saturday morning stroll up Arthur’s Rock.

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Participants climbing up Arthur’s Rock

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

Collaborating with students from Tomsk Polytechnic University has been a wonderful experience so far, and I feel fortunate that I was able to spend a week working with them here in Fort Collins. Coming from a technical university, all of the Russian students are currently pursuing various advanced degrees in the hard sciences, including Physics and Chemistry. On the other hand, everyone on the American team is pursuing degrees through the English Department here at CSU, either in TEFL/TESL or Creative Writing. I thought the pairing between the tech-minded engineering students that approach their work very systematically and the more artistically-inclined and creatively-minded students was a nice blend of talent that resulted in a great final project.

sarah at bear lake
Sarah and her teammate Nastya (on the left) at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

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

The most rewarding part of this experience so far has been taking our Russian cohorts to the different project sites in and around Fort Collins. Seeing the look of wonder on their faces when we arrived at a new location, whether it was the high alpine lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park, plates of sizzling Cajun chicken tacos from Dam Good Tacos, or the view of the Horsetooth Reservoir from the top of Arthur’s Rock, I’m so thrilled that we could be the ones to introduce them to some of the best of what Fort Collins and Northern Colorado has to offer.

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

Of course I am looking forward to reuniting with my Russian cohort and exploring all that Tomsk has to offer, but I am most looking forward to the food! I’ve been googling piroshky recipes ever since I learned I was heading to Russia. Seriously, though, food is culture, and trying foods that are unique to an area is a great and tasty way to experience a new place, which is why it has become the one thing I look forward to most when I travel.