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Russian couple teach at ECU

(Aug. 1, 1993)   —   Helen Moshkovich and Alexander Mechitov finished their summer teaching assignments at East Carolina University this week on a personal note.
The couple gave the ECU students some insights on what life is like in their home city— Moscow.
“The students were surprised that Russian people live interesting lives and do all the things they do here, except on different levels,” said Moshkovich, following the final class session.
“They (the Russian people) are not starving all the time and all are not going into politics. They just live and get their education and have families and friends,” she said. But Moshkovich and her husband admit there are some major differences in such things as incomes, in the standard of living, and in the way students are educated.
The couple spent two months in Greenville doing research on U.S. decision-making. Part of the purpose of the study is to make comparisons and look for ways to conduct mutual research between the two countries.
Moshkovich said Americans base their decisions on precise calculations and statistical studies. She said Russians make decisions using a more qualitative approach.
“That’s why we think it is interesting to combine these two approaches and compare them,” she said.
“We hope to decide if the differences are the results of cultural differences or just different approaches.”
In their project, they are working with professors in the ECU School of Business Department of Decision Sciences. The project is also linked to their positions as research scientists for the Institute for Systems Analysis at the Russian Academy of Science Department of Decision Sciences in Moscow.
To help support their stay in the U.S., they taught an introduction to computers class in the ECU School of Business.
The computers are generally the same in both countries, according to Mechitov. “We don’t have the name brands, but we do have the clones. But maybe not as many,” he added, speaking in precise English. He spoke with a British accent acquired from his foreign English teacher.
In commenting on the cultural differences between the U.S. and Russia, the couple said U.S. college students are more polite and attentive in classrooms. They described college classrooms in Russia as a tougher environment where students interrupt lectures with questions and comments.
Professors in Russian also tend to distance themselves from their students. There is little interaction with professors outside the classroom.
In Russia there is not much specialization in higher education programs. The students are prepared in a general way for careers and must spend more time in study once they are on the job.
“Your students are much more nicely prepared for the work they intend to do,” said Moshkovich.
On other matters pertaining to the two cultures, they said people in the U.S. are quicker to welcome foreigners. In addition, they noted that extensive rules regulate everything in the U.S. This is not the case in their country where service providers are generally unregulated. And they said they were impressed with the banking and credit system in the U.S. as compared to Russia where it’s mostly cash only.
The biggest difference is that America is very logical and rational,” said Moshkovich. “Our country can be very illogical.”
For example, she said a person with a good job in the U.S. can live a