Cross-Unit Collaboration and Student Leaders Plan Russian Winter Extravaganza at UW-Madison

Participants in the UW-Madison Russian Winter Extravaganza sip hot cocoa while making crafts.

UW-Madison’s Russian Winter Extravaganza on December 4, 2019 was a celebration of Russian language and culture for Russianists and the larger Badger community. In addition to winter-inspired crafts, games, and treats such as коровки (a type of candy) and сушки (small, crunchy bread), participants enjoyed a screening of the classic Soviet fairy tale, The Twelve Months.

Successful execution of event was the result of cross-unit collaboration between CREECA, Department of German, Nordic, & Slavic, International Learning Community (Russian House), Russian Flagship Program, Russian Student Association, and Slavic Graduate Student Organization – a reflection of our strong campus network and collective willingness to educate the broader community about the Russian-speaking world. Colleagues from these units formed a co-curricular committee that – in partnership with and input from student leaders – designed highly interactive activities for the well-attended occasion. Activities included making New Year’s greeting cards in Russian and a scavenger hunt motivated by seasonal Russian vocabulary and triviaRussian Flagship Program students, Aleksander Cwalina and Grace Johnson, share their experiences participating in the event below.

“The Russian Winter Extravaganza was a blast! We had fun outlining and drawing our poster at an event beforehand while eating pel’meni (very Russian!) with other Russian Flagship students and faculty. At the extravaganza, Grace and I presented on how different animals survive the harsh Siberian winters and advertised the many delicious Russian sweets at the table next to us.  We socialized with different cohorts in the Flagship and shared our own different winter traditions. Later, I manned the prize station and explained the rules of the activities to win the coveted Висконсин (“Wisconsin”) laptop sticker. Some of my friends, despite not knowing Russian, joined in and left the room with a sticker, a handmade snowman, and a little wiser on Russian culture.”

—Aleksander Cwalina, Russian Flagship Program student ambassador

Russian Flagship Program students, Aleksander Cwalina and Grace Johnson, taught participants at the Extravaganza the names of some animals in Russian and explained how they survive harsh winters.

“Events like the Russian Winter Extravaganza are so uniquely enjoyable because they allow students to take part in an aspect of language and cultural learning that we don’t experience often in a classroom. While rigorously learning Russian in traditional settings is fulfilling in and of itself, gatherings like this let us shake off some anxiety of looming deadlines and assessments; to simply enjoy ourselves, using the language and learning more about the culture we’ve come to love so well. On these occasions, we eat, make crafts, and relax with friends and classmates; in other words, use the knowledge we’ve so far acquired to have fun and make memories. It’s a small island of respite in what are otherwise hectic lives. When we gather, the sense of community in the department is at its most palpable.”

—Grace Johnson, Russian Flagship Program student