USG president Michael Yaroshefsky ’12 will be visiting Russia next month by invitation of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs of the Russian Federation. The agency also invited 14 fellow student government presidents at other American universities.
“It seems like one of those once-in-a-lifetime offers when the Russian government invites you to come to their country with the objective of showing you a good time and learning about their country,” Yaroshefsky said.
The agency’s invitation letter to Yaroshefsky said the trip’s purpose is “to give [him] a better understanding of Russia’s development path and an insight into the Russian leaders’ decision-making logic.”
The trip is scheduled for March 8–15 and the itinerary includes “meetings with senior Russian officials of all branches of power, visits to Russia’s leading universities and think-tanks, corporations [and] discussions with young Russian leaders,” according to the agency.
Yaroshefsky explained that the Russian government is paying for all of his travel and meal expenses, including board at a “five-star hotel in Moscow.”
This isn’t the first time the Russian government has invited student-body presidents from American universities to the country. In November 2010, 15 student body presidents went on the trip, including students from Harvard, Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Former Harvard student-body president Johnny Bowman wrote about his experience for the Harvard Gazette, saying that “the trip ... was extraordinary,” and explained he had the chance to meet with senior Russian officials, including close advisers to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Bowman added in the article, “[If] I took away one thing from the trip it was this: Russia’s government leaders are extremely eager to welcome American students to their country.”
Yaroshefsky said he’s excited about the opportunity to meet with powerful and controversial members of the government. He added that after reading about members of the Russian government, he felt “it’s going to be even more exciting to shake the hand of somebody who is changing the course of US-Russian relations.”
Yaroshefsky also said that the University administrators with whom he has spoken have been “very supportive” of his participation in the trip.
He explained that Chang Suh, a senior advisor in the Open World Leadership Center at the Library of Congress, had also encouraged him to attend. “Given your particular background in technology and engineering, this might be interesting for you since the Russian government has been placing heavy emphasis on innovation and diversification of their economy away from oil and gas,” Suh wrote in her letter to Yaroshefsky.
“Given my interest in technology and innovation ... the opportunity to go there and learn how Russia is modernizing will be absolutely fascinating and will fit in well with what my interests are,” said Yaroshefsky, who is an operations research and financial engineering major.
Yaroshefsky said he is very excited about the trip, even though, he added, “the process of acquiring a visa has made me very nervous. It’s extremely difficult.” He added that he even had to retake the visa photo because “you’re not allowed to smile in the picture.”