Junior Iskander Karimov, who traveled 6000 miles from his home in Russia, felt homesick and could not find any students who shared his background.
“When I first came to UM, I realized I couldn’t find any students from my country and the transition was pretty hard,” he said. “Overall, I was pretty homesick, and I couldn’t find anyone around from Russia or Eastern Europe who could speak the same language.”
His homesickness led him to start UM’s first organization for Russian and Eastern European students. The Russian and Eastern European Club meets to organize social events such as going to Russian restaurants and outdoor activities.
“We usually go out on the weekends to Russian restaurants and do random social events such as pool parties, house parties, sailing, rafting, biking and attending sports events such as hockey games or football games as a group,” senior Nikolay Grishakov said.
A fellow club member, Grishakov also believes that part of the club’s purpose is to assist newly arrived international students adjust to the university and life in Miami.
“It’s a beneficial group for the Eastern Europeans who are new in the university, and our club is a great place to meet new people,” Grishakov said. “We wanted to show our members all helpful resources on campus, and for the new students we can give advice on which places to go in Miami, and which areas to stay away from.”
The club not only brings Russian and Eastern European students together but also promotes the interesting, Russian culture on campus.
“We also try to introduce our culture to everybody in UM,” Karimov said. “Russian food is really good and really diverse. There are so many different kinds of minorities in Russia and all of them are completely different.”
Karimov did not expect there to be so many interested students. During his sophomore year, Karimov met other Russian students, and the idea became a reality.
“During my second year, I met a few guys who were actually from Russia,” he said. “I had this idea in my head the whole time just to have a club that would bring together Russian-speaking people and people from Eastern Europe because we kind of have the same culture.”
International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) helped Karimov find more Russian and Eastern European students. The ISSS provides resources for international students and scholars and conducts programs throughout the year.
Karimov then generated a Facebook page that received positive responses.
“We made a Facebook page,” he said. “In a few days, we already had 40 students sign up for our club, so that was a success.”
Karimov also hopes that the club breaks Russian stereotypes that he heard during his first year on campus.
“One of the goals to create the club was to erase stereotypes about Russia,” he said. “My first year, I remember hearing all kinds of jokes about Russia. It’s not the Soviet Union anymore. When you watch American movies, they show Russia as the Soviet Union.”
Nevertheless, Karimov is proud of how close the members of the club have become and hearing how some reunite in hometowns.
“I meet new people from my hometown so it’s fun to meet up with them during winter break and summer breaks,” Grishakov said. “I met new friends from around the Eastern European countries, so I get to visit them some around Europe.”