After getting my BTS in Product Design (a 2 year advanced vocational diploma) in 2014, I wanted to spend a year abroad to broaden my creative horizons. Last September, I landed 2000km east of Moscow in the town of Ekaterinbourg. Here’s some feedback on the first semester of my Russian experience.
It all started with an inexplicable attraction for Russia. For years, I had wanted to discover this immense country: its artistic culture, its traditions and the unique Russian temperament. At the time I knew practically nothing about Ekaterinbourg, an immense city in the middle of the Ural Mountains. Day after day, this unknown environment never failed to surprise me. When the snow started falling, I was impressed by the equipment used to brave the winter weather. For example, Russian mums use “sledge-buggies” – much easier to handle on the snow-covered sidewalks.
The parks fill up with makeshift birdhouses made of pieces of wood, plastic bottles, tins of tea, etc. At the end of December, I was amazed to see the ice sculptures which were created in front of the town hall to celebrate the New Year.
I’m studying at the Ural State Academy of Architecture and Arts (english.usaaa.ru). It’s a great institution with 3000 students and it offers a wide range of creative training programs: Architecture, industrial design, fashion design, graphic design, jewelry design, fine arts, to mention just a few. I joined the third year students in industrial design. My low level of Russian means that it’s not possible for me to follow the academic courses such as economy or Ural History, but that motivates me to get even more involved in the design projects.
The Russian students work with different design methods to those used at L’École de design Nantes Atlantique. They carry out fewer projects over the year but have to develop them further.
Our first project was particularly interesting. In small groups, we had to design furniture as part of the development of a park in Ekaterinbourg. My group chose a theme based on “The Malachite Casket”, a collection of tales and legends about the Urals. In this book, the author, Bazhov, evokes the magical culture of the region and its mineral resources. We divided up the tasks, and I worked on a story based on an anthill filled with gold.
Living abroad for a year, far from your family and friends, means preparing yourself for all sorts of encounters which make you grow up fast. The people I live with have totally different experiences to my own. I now understand that the Russian temperament which attracted me has been shaped by the country’s history and by its deep-rooted culture. Sometimes, students ask me questions about France which helps me understand my own identity. That’s what going abroad is all about: opening up your heart to new horizons and learning to know yourself.
What’s next? Next year, I want to come back to Nantes, and join the Master’s program in Design Management and Innovation as an apprentice. I don’t yet have a clear idea of my future career, but I would like this Russian experience to feature heavily in it. Russia - you’ll want to go back…
You can follow my Russian experience on www.ecatherinebourg.com