Six Russian delegates participating in the Open World-Higher Education/Russia program spent Oct. 14-15 at Tidewater Community College, learning the college from A-Z.

The delegates – a group of young professionals including faculty from Baltic Federal University in Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad State Technical University and Moscow State University (Kaliningrad Campus) – met with TCC staff and administrators for an overview of academic programs, advising, student services and structure within the Virginia Community College System as part of the professional immersion/exchange program.

Norfolk Sister City Association (NSCA) was the host organization, as Kaliningrad is among the sister cities to Norfolk.

“TCC is a truly unique educational institution,” Anna Nagorniuk, chairperson of NSCA’s OWP Host Committee and Kaliningrad Sister City Committee, told the group through an interpreter.“I do not know of any other college that is as multifaceted in meeting a population’s needs. Whatever a person needs, TCC has it.”
Guided by Provost Michelle Woodhouse, the delegates toured the Norfolk Campus before visiting the Visual Arts Center and the Regional Workforce Solutions Center.

The delegates took turns snapping pictures with their camera phones of each other beside the amenities in the Norfolk Student Center, including the state-of-the-art fitness equipment and the oversized flat screen TV monitors on the fourth floor.

“This is our ‘happening’ floor,” Woodhouse said. “We try to have a little bit of fun along with providing a great education.”

The delegates marveled at many of the college’s facilities, awestruck by the beauty of the Roper Performing Arts Center, surprised by the size of the Joint-Use Library and impressed by the planetarium in the Science Building on the Virginia Beach Campus.

“Wow!” said Aleksandr Belykh, a professor at Kaliningrad State Technical University, surprised to see a planetarium on a college campus.
Lunch prepared by TCC’s culinary students, under the direction of Chef Don Averso, allowed the delegates to sample an international menu that featured a range of cultures, including risotto balls, antipasto, fish and chips, tapas and a dessert range that included paklova, baklava and rum cake.

On the second day of their visit, Provost Mike Summers showed off the Virginia Beach Campus, including the Joint-Use Library, the Science Building, the Advanced Technology Center and the Regional Health Professions Center.

Delegate Anna Prudnikovich didn’t anticipate the sophistication offered in TCC’s simulation rooms at the Regional Health Professions Center.

“You don’t expect to see that kind of preparation at the college level,” she said. “In our colleges, unfortunately we do not have highly developed medical facilities. These are facilities you would expect to find in a top medical university.”
The second day, which featured a presentation on the scope of services TCC offers international students, also included an informal lunch, allowing the delegates to converse with three Eastern European students — Elena Miller, Aleksandra Piankova and Katarina Anderson — attending TCC. Professor Irinia Dolgaleva, who teaches Russian, joined them.

The delegates chatted amicably with the students about their experiences in America and quizzed each about the transition to a new culture and a different educational system.

“I wouldn’t change anything,” said Anderson, a native of Slovenia with plans to be a physician’s assistant. “I was really scared at first, and I get homesick sometimes, but everyone goes through that. But I wouldn’t change a thing about TCC.”

Miller, from Siberia, attends TCC part time to obtain business credits helpful for her job. “I knew TCC was the perfect choice for me, and never regretted it,” she told the group.

Like her colleagues, delegate Irina Sotova left with a favorable impression of TCC.

“Here your students have more freedom,” she said. “TCC takes a more individualistic approach to the student. We don’t have as many individual choices at my college.”

After their TCC experience, the delegation left for Virginia Wesleyan College before taking part in a NSCA reception at City Hall in Norfolk. Visits to Old Dominion University, Jamestown and Williamsburg were planned for later in the week prior to the group returning to Washington and departing for home on Oct. 19.