Alumna Profile: Angela Kraft
While at Bethany, Angela was involved in two different Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) during summer breaks. She also presented research at several conferences including Pi Mu Epsilon, Young Mathematician's Conference, and the Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM). After graduating in December of 2012, Angela attended the prestigious international Math in Moscow program for international undergraduate and graduate students to study math in the Russian style. Her answers below describe this unique experience. In fall 2013, Angela will be attending the University of Arizona as a mathematics graduate student.
Describe the Math in Moscow program.
The program was a joint program with the Independent University of Moscow and the Higher School of Economics, although most courses were taken at the IUM. The program is 15 weeks long with no breaks for any country's holidays. The program is intended for upperclassmen math or computer science majors. They have both pure and applied courses and the courses were the most difficult courses I have taken. That's not to discourage people, it turned out that they graded very generously but the material is very fast paced. Many of the courses, especially those at the HSE are actually graduate courses and were taken with Russian (or international) math masters students.
What effect did this experience have on your life?
Academically, I got used to a completely different style of teaching and grading. Overall, I felt it was great preparation for grad school. On a personal/professional level, I learned how to keep my cool in difficult situations and be flexible. Very few people spoke English and many Russians were not very willing to help you understand, particularly those in the service industry. I also definitely became a much smarter shopper and was willing to try a lot of new things, many of which I found I liked.
In what ways did you connect with a new culture and how did that affect the way you view the world?
Since I was living in an international dorm, I was able to connect with people from all over the world. I learned a lot talking to an Iranian girl from down the hall. It's hard to pinpoint an exactly way that my world view changed, but I do know that the experience definitely changed me for the better. I realized just how much more the world has to offer.
Describe your best memory from this experience.
It's hard to choose a favorite experience, but one of my best experiences was on our trip to Vladimir and Suzdal. We were at a restaurant having a 5 course meal, when a traditional Russian folk group came to entertain us. They didn't know much English (and neither did our guide) and we didn't know much Russian, so they explained the rules of the games we played the best they could and with a lot of gestures. The first game they a guy and a girl sat in a chair an when the music ended they had to turn. If they turned the same way, they kissed on the cheek, if not, they hugged. First they grabbed the guys from our group. Then they went to grab some girls, and made dramatic gestures searching for more ladies (I was the only girl in the program, which although there is usually a male majority, it is kind of unusual). I went up and apparently instead of sitting facing the other way, the guy was turned watching me the entire time. Then I had to kiss all the performers on the cheek three times.
After that, they taught us some traditional Russian dances. They didn't know the English translations for the names so they just said arbitrary English words. It was funny. Another game we played involved, as far as we can guess, a song about a guy complaining about a body part aching. Then we need to walk around in a circle grabbing the next person where the guy said he hurt (i.e. head, shoulder, ankle). And sing the song again until he had a new complaint. I think what made the experience the most enjoyable and funny was trying to figure out the rules of the games and watching people being instructed and having no idea what's going on. The performers were very nice about the language barrier and seemed to also have a lot of fun with us.