Founded by students Igor Kicha and Bagir Agaev, the mission of the club is to provide a welcoming and supportive environment for newcomers by connecting them with peers from their home regions and beyond.
“Our club stands for fraternity and community. We focus on building a closely-knit community that appreciates diversity. Therefore, the name Zemlyachestva (pl. of Russian Zemlyachestva – a community of compatriots living abroad – Ed.) was obviously a perfect choice,” says Igor, the head of the club.
Zemlyachestva not only eases the transition process for international students, but also celebrates the rich tapestry of their diverse cultures and has a long-term vision for reviving endangered languages and traditions.
Supporting new international students
To minimize the communication gap and make sure they feel at home, the club pairs new students with seniors who come from the same (or similar) culture. This peer-to-peer support system goes a long way towards ensuring that newcomers can quickly adapt to their new surroundings.
Elvis Harka, a member of the club, had this to say: "I am from Albania and my responsibility is to look after foreign students who come from the Balkans. I help them settle down in St. Petersburg and make new friends. Moreover, I help them overcome a lot of challenges that they face in the early days, both inside and outside the university."
Cultural celebrations and inclusivity
National Days are one of the club’s prominent activities. During these events, students from different cultural backgrounds come together to exhibit the richness and diversity of their traditions. It's an opportunity to learn about each other's heritage, taste authentic cuisine, enjoy traditional music and dances, and experience the rich world that exists within the university. These celebrations not only bridge the gap between students from different backgrounds, but also serve as an enriching cultural exchange.
Reviving lost languages and cultures
Zemlyachestva aspires to revive endangered languages and cultures. The club recognizes that in the era of globalization, many languages and traditions face the risk of extinction. To counteract this, Zemlyachestva aims to organize events that promote the learning and preservation of less commonly spoken languages, particularly those at risk of vanishing.
Igor elaborates on this, saying, "We want to organize speaking events in some endangered languages. For example, many Arabs and a lot of Muslims from the CIS countries want to learn the languages of their ethnic groups. So, we want to connect them and offer them a good knowledge exchange session."
These language events provide a unique opportunity for students to not only learn about other cultures, but also contribute to the preservation of languages that are teetering on the brink of being forgotten.
Activities and inclusivity
Earlier this year, the club celebrated Victory Day, where students came together to commemorate Russian history and learn about the nation's rich cultural heritage. It provided a unique opportunity for international students to gain insights into the history of their host country, fostering a deeper connection with Russia.
The club also recognizes the importance of religious celebrations. During the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, Zemlyachestva united Muslim students within the university and beyond. This celebration not only brought together students from various cultural backgrounds, but also created a sense of belonging and shared traditions, making international students feel at home away from home.
Khalil Sultanov, a Bachelor’s student from Dagestan, says: “The Zemlyachestva club has become a source of inspiration and support for me. They helped me adapt to this city and get to know new people from different cultures. I sincerely believe in the importance and significance of their mission of uniting people across the globe and reviving lost traditions.”