The life of a Russian student at an American university

Former coordinator of the headquarters of Alexei Navalny, the youngest star of the Russian opposition, who escaped criminal prosecution in Russia, 20-year-old Kaliningrad citizen Yegor Chernyuk, entered a prestigious American university. What’s next?

Svetlana Prudovskaya: With Yegor Chernyuk, gold medalist, winner of entrepreneurship Olympiads, coordinator of Alexei Navalny’s headquarters in Kaliningrad, we met at Swarthmore, one of the best universities in the United States. Now he is a student of this prestigious university. Was it a secret to others?
EGOR CHERNYUK, STUDENT, SWARTHMORE UNIVERSITY

The life of a Russian student at an American university

I said from the very beginning that I was entering an American university when I was still a coordinator. And in the first interview I gave to the local media, I said that I aspire to study in America. And I explained my motivation why I want to do it. That is, I did not hide it. And, to my surprise, no one … If there were any people who tried to turn it around as an argument that I was not an agent, but not a patriot, there were very few and insignificant things like that..
S.P .: Life itself helped him grow up as an independent person. Since childhood, his family consisted of two people: he and his father. Yegor became interested in politics back in 2011, when a protest movement began in large Russian cities. As a result, he joined Navalny’s presidential campaign, becoming the headquarters coordinator in his Kaliningrad. At the same time completing his studies at school, he applied to American universities. He learned about his admission to the university in the cell. On the eve of the presidential election, Yegor was arrested for organizing a protest strike.
E.C .: The most interesting thing is that when I was imprisoned, a policeman in a special detention center suggested to me that they could bring me a ballot box on March 18, and I would vote. If I don’t want to vote, then I have to write a piece of paper that I don’t vote. And the most curious thing that I found in this is that everyone who was in the detention center, no matter what political views they hold, starting with the village guys who ended up in the detention center because they stole a tractor drunk, hijacked it, and ending with drunk women , nobody voted. That is, whatever their views were, everyone in the detention center was very apolitical and did not believe in the process itself. Moreover, those people who are most affected by this, they said that “we do not believe, and we will not vote.”.

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A USUAL RUSSIAN UNIVERSITY STUDENT DAY

S.P .: Swarthmore University has 1,600 students, five Nobel Prize winners and dozens of world-renowned scientists among its alumni. It is very difficult to enter this university, you need strong knowledge and good English. A busy schedule, mathematics, economics, modeling and programming – Egor does not bother at all.

E.C .: I can’t say that I don’t have time for something, because I don’t understand the material, there’s just a lot of things, and you need to be constantly organized, and being organized and doing your homework on time is easier than going to rallies and sitting in a detention center..
S.P .: The university has existed since 1864. For more than 150 years, mostly Americans have lived and studied on this campus. Yegor is one of the few who arrived here from another continent. Considering the documents of an applicant from Russia, the Swarthmore administration decided to pay in full to Yegor Chernyak for education and accommodation. And when asked if he felt like a stranger here, he categorically answered:

E.C .: No, absolutely. I perceive the American mentality. And I think the fact that I don’t pay for my studies says a lot. It speaks about my – I do not want to say about my superiority – but it says that the university is interested in me. And many people around who have the financial ability to pay in full 70 thousand a year, and they know that I do not pay, but they know about some of my achievements … They generally know my personality, and they, on the contrary, are glad that I am next to them, I share my experience with them, so I don’t feel any social obstacle, there’s no such thing.

S.P .: After Yegor’s departure, a lot of things happened in Russia, including Navalny was again arrested. It’s hard to learn about everything from afar, across the ocean?

E.C .: Now I try not to accept a lot of information, because I cannot influence it in any way. When I was in Russia and when something happened, I could go to a rally, I could organize a rally, create something that could affect society. Now I try to look at the planet as a whole, at global problems that I can influence and, solving these problems, I can positively influence Russia.
S.P .: Well, in Russia Yegor Chernyuk is on the federal wanted list. A criminal case was opened against him under the article on evading conscription.

  • Svetlana Prudovskaya

    TV journalist. On the Voice of America since 2003. Works on television projects «Faces of America», «Made in USA», «Hollywood premieres».

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  • Sergey Moskalev

    Author-videographer, photo reporter. Graduated from VGIK. He worked in popular science and documentary films, winner of awards at several festivals, including Cannes (for commercials). On «Voice of America» since 2003 of the year.

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