The world will be watching Russia this month during the Sochi Olympics. Recently, two 2010 Clarion-Goldfield graduates experienced life in the country when they spent a year studying abroad in St. Petersburg. While St. Petersburg and Sochi are at the far ends of the country’s western border, respectively north and south on the Baltic and Black Seas, Kaylyn Mechem and Joseph Gangestad say they had an excellent year.
Both Kaylyn and Joseph study at Iowa State University (ISU). Kaylyn is majoring in sociology. She is the daughter of Frank and Mary Mechem of Clarion. Joseph, son of Tom and Jana Gangestad of Clarion, is majoring in aerospace engineering. Both took Russian language classes during their first two years of college, and chose to study abroad in Russia out of personal interest in the language and culture.
“Joseph and I went to a party and there were real Russians from the Des Moines area, and we were joking we should learn Russian so we could understand what they were saying,” Kaylyn said of how they decided to spend a year abroad. “The more we talked about it, the more it wasn’t a joke anymore. We actually wanted to do it.”
“I’m kind of sad that everybody in the news is ragging on Russia,” she said of early news coverage of the Olympics that saw journalists tweeting disappointments with Sochi’s amenities and preparedness. “All that I’ve seen is negative, how they’re not happy with the hotels and how things are different. It’s like they’re not really giving Russia a chance. You have multiple toilets there in a bathrooms, and it’s not a big deal. If you throw away the politics, the people at the core are no different from people back home. They’re loving people.”
For the complete story, see the Feb 13 edition of the Wright County Monitor