Russian student at home in Brewton

Published 1:01 am Wednesday, November 30, 2011

John and Kathy Mathieu are hosting Russian exchange student, Mariya “Mosha” Madyrova in Brewton.

Imagine being over 5,000 miles away from your home and meeting and living with a family you do not know for a year.
That is just what Russian exchange student Mariya “Mosha” Madyrova, 17, is doing here in Brewton.
“Mosha is a unique name,” she said. “Usually in Russia we have official names and short names. Mosha is short name off of Mariya.”
Madyrova, who is from the town of Kyzyl in Russia in the Republic of Tuva, is staying with Brewton family John and Kathy Mathieu.
Madyrova began her stay in Brewton on Aug. 24 of this year and will be here for a year.
“When we lived in Mobile, we had two guys stay with us as foreign exchange students,” John Mathieu said. “They were with us only a brief several weeks and they were from France. We had lived in France, but it has been a long time. Melinda Luker, who is from here and her parents go to our church, teaches school up in Greenville. She has a part time job at the theater there and works with the daughter of the regional director of the (exchange student) program and she mentioned they were looking for some host families to host some Russian students.”
John said both of his sons are out of the house away at school so he and Kathy said that this would be a great opportunity because they enjoy having people from different countries.
“We contacted Tom Crenshaw in Greenville who is a farmer up there and is the regional director for the American Councils for International Education and the FLEX program,” Mathieu said. “We were approved and within a month and a half, Mosha arrived in Pensacola.”
Mosha comes as part of the FLEX program.
“The FLEX program is a program by Senator Bill Bradley founded in 1993 to improve relations between our countries,” Mosha said. “He decided to do this competition in Russia and you have this opportunity to get scholarships. Over 100,000 people live there and it is in the geographical center of Asia near Siberia near the river of Yennisei. Brewton was founded in 1885, Kyzyl was founded in 1914 and joined Russia in 1944.
The lifestyles of the people is one of the major differences between Russia and the United State. The opportunities and lifestyles are just very different.”
Mosha is studying at T.R. Miller and is a junior.
She says the schools in America are very different from Russia.
“School is really different,” she said. “We can choose our subjects. We started in fifth grade to 11th grade we take the same 14 subjects. We don’t have the opportunity to choose our subjects. We have electives when you want to do that after school. Usually after school we just go home. We can choose dance school, art school, or music. It is not like your usual school. We have to pay for this.”
While the Mathieu’s and Mosha have only been together since August, they are already learning things from each other.
“I have learned some of her language, but there are several things,” John said. “One, it takes time to get to know people and the one thing we see with Mosha is as time goes by, we are able to share more openly the differences, the strengths and weaknesses of our two cultures and our two countries. I think it is always enriching because when people come from different cultures, they have different ideas. One thing about Mosha is she certainly takes care of her academic business and we don’t have to stand over her and do her homework. She gets that done. I think also we have come to appreciate the access, as she has said, is much greater here. She met Judge Jordan officially then she saw him singing in the concert the other night. She has met Representative Baker and then she saw him out jogging on the streets.”
“You will not see that in Russia,” Mosha said.
“You will never see the higher positioned people in Russia exposed to the public in Russia,” John said. “You don’t have access to officials. It is drastically different.”
Mosha was also able to meet the Governor as well, Kathy said.
“She met Governor Bentley pretty easily and that is not a given in Russia,” Kathy said.
She also has met Senator Sessions, John said.
“She will also get to be a page for Representative Baker in Montgomery in February,” John said.
One thing John said Mosha has not learned from him is his passion for the University of Alabama football.
“She has not come to appreciate Alabama football as much as she should have yet,” John said with a laugh. “But she is getting there.”
While she has not got to John’s level for Alabama football, Kathy said Mosha sat through every Friday night home T.R. Miller football game this year.
“Every Friday, I watched,” Mosha said. “I liked it. We don’t have really strong football teams or sports teams in Russia. That is different for me and was very unusual for me with all the football players, band and cheerleaders.”
As for as being a page in February in Montgomery, that is one thing that will help here in what she wants to choose to study after high school.
“I am thinking about doing something like that after school,” Mosha said. “I am thinking about, two months ago, I wanted to be a diplomat. I am real interested in International Relations between countries. Different cultures and languages. When I was at Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss., I was very interested in the atmosphere there. The atmosphere of freedom and now I am thinking about performing arts.”
Mosha said everything she has learned from the Mathieu’s is very new to her.
“I have grown to like Italian food,” she said. “It is really different when you go to a family you have never known. First of all, it is culture shock because there are really different traditions and values. It is really interesting when we can talk about politics, history every evening and religion.”
One thing the trio does each night, is talk around the dinner table.
“I cook supper and we sit around the table at night a lot and talk about things that are relevant to life,” Kathy said. “Things that are on TV, or on the Internet we like to discuss our views on them.”
Another thing Mosha likes to do is keep track with the FLEX program (Future Leaders Exchange) with the other 1,000 FLEX students across the US, John said.
“There were over 900 from all former Soviet Union countries and from Russia 300,” Mosha said. “All over Russia, there were 40,000 people applicants to go the US and only 300 were chosen.”
“She keeps track on Facebook and other means along with their own Website,” John said. “She keeps track with the other students in Seattle, Wisconsin, Texas and California and all over. She has an interest with some of her other FLEX friends.”
Kathy said while she is here, Mosha has requirements.
“Some of the things she is required to do here is at least 30 hours of volunteer work,” Kathy said. “They want to encourage students to experience volunteerism because many Russian countries do not have that and they want them to bring it back to them. To help the society there. She also has to make two cultural presentations, one at the school and one to the community. Mosha is particularly interested in history, geography, government and that sort of thing along with other languages. That is her sort of thing and her strengths. That is what probably attracted her into doing this type of thing. She is always interested, since four, in other countries and places. It is just a natural gift she has.”
“I am required to take English, US History, or Government,” Mosha said. “I have to get grades no lower than Cs. I have volunteered at the ReStore and packaged Operation Christmas Child packages with the youth group here at the church and in another city.”
One thing John noted of Mosha was her variety of languages.
“She has taken six years of English, three years of British English and three of American, eight years of German, and one year of French and now one of Spanish here,” John said. “But that is not unusual for someone like her in Russia.”
Mosha said most take two or three years.
“I hope to gain first the language and second the new experiences here in America,” she said. “To know about the lifestyle here of the American people and the schools because it is very different. And to bring volunteerism back. Russian people are not interested in volunteering so I want to bring that back.”

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About Adam Robinson

My name is Adam Robinson and I have been the Sports Editor of the Brewton Standard since September 2007. I cover all the local sports in the Brewton area. I am a 2007 graduate of Troy University with a degree in Print Journalism with a contract in Sports Information. I married Shari Lynn in June of 2007 and we welcomed our first child, Hatlee, in April of 2010.

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