The Department of Russian and Slavic Studies at the University of Arizona offered a co-convened college course on food and foodways (RSSS 315: Russian and American Foodways), with a built-in study abroad component to sites in Russia and the US in 2018. This program, funded through a Department of State Peer-to-Peer Grant, brought together students from UA and the GRINT Center for Education and Culture, a language center housed within the Moscow University for the Humanities to build "friendship gardens" on their campuses. The central goal of the program is to use the common language of food to foster dialogue, cultural literacy, and mutual understanding between American and Russian partners. Through this dialogue, program participants discovered cultural similarities and differences through gardening, the welcoming of guests, the pleasure of eating, and the positive memories of a shared experience between students in the US and Russia. The UA “Friendship Garden” initiative has created opportunities for long-lasting and recurring US-Russia partnerships between institutions and individuals as the program grows from its initial grant-funded pilot sequence to a sustainable cross-dialogue program that fosters cultural sharing between the two countries long into the future. By exploring the innovative practices unique to each region – both virtually and in-person – the “Friendship Garden” program will continue to empower students to serve as cultural ambassadors between the two regions.
Center for Digital Humanities Pilot Award