Of snow and teaching in Russia

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2015/12/06/of-snow-and-teaching-in-russia/

A senior law lecturer shares his experience as a visiting professor at a university in Vladivostok.

THE invitation to be a visiting professor at the School of Law at the Far Eastern Federal University in Russia came about from my participation at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Xiamen University Law of the Sea Summer School in June 2013 and July 2014 respectively.

I managed to secure scholarships from these two Chinese institutions to take part in the programmes there. I met Assoc Prof Dr Roman Dremliuga who was the Far Eastern Federal University School of Law head of international relations at the time. He is now the deputy dean. He was looking for the right person to be invited to become a visiting professor at the School of Law. I was lucky to be selected and my appointment as visiting professor was later approved by the university’s School of Law dean Prof Vladimir Kurilov.

This was my first time in Vladivostok. I was there for six days from Dec 10 to 14, 2014.

Subsequently I received a formal invitation from the School of Law, Far Eastern Federal University in October this year to visit Vladivostok as a visiting professor at the institution. I was there from Nov 16 to 23 with the cost of the trip totally borne by the Russian government. This was my second invitation there.

The Far Eastern Federal University is the biggest in the Russian far east and one of the most beautifully landscaped campuses. Out of hundreds of law schools in Russia, its School of Law is ranked the fifth best in the country.

My visit to Russia received strong support from Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Musa Ahmad and Faculty of Syariah and Law dean Dr Syahirah Syukor.

Similar to the year before, the Far Eastern Federal University requested me to deliver lectures in Law of the Sea and International Relations particularly issues involving important maritime sea routes in Southeast Asia and Russia’s Northeast Arctic Passage.

I also gave lectures on Asean integration and the refugee problems involving the Rohingyas and the Syrian refugees in Europe. The lectures were attended by students and academics from the School of Law.

As I cannot speak Russian, all the lectures were conducted in English. It was quite surprising that the new batch of students at the School of Law could speak good English, much better than the batch from the previous year. This is due to the fact that the School of Law is engaged in academic cooperation with law institutions in China, South Korea, the United States and Malaysia too (through my involvement). More than half of Russian students at the School of Law are proficient in English. My lecture was also attended by one Master’s student from Jakarta, Indonesia. There are no Malaysian students attached with the School of Law at the moment.

I was also invited by Dr Dremliuga to get to know some third year students in an informal discussion. Although English is not Russia’s main language, most students who attended the discussion could converse proficiently. The students are highly motivated and asked me a lot of questions on a number of issues including legal education in Malaysia to the legal systems in both countries and also on backpacking (travelling) in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

I was subsequently invited to attend the School of Law’s board of directors’ meeting. I used this opportunity to promote Malaysia and USIM.

Prof Kurilov was interested in the development of legal education in Malaysia and expressed an intention to work with Malaysian law schools. The university is also inviting Malaysian legal academics to undergo their post-doctoral studies here in Vladivostok.

The School’s head of international relations Dr Iuliia Popova told me that I am the first legal academic from Malaysia (and Southeast Asia) to be invited as a visiting professor. Other visiting professors have been from American and European institutions.

During my visits here in both years, the temperature was extremely cold at -18 Celcius. It was snowy most of the time but I did not face much difficulties.

I got used to the food quite fast. The Russian soup called Borscht is a totally delicious meal. Like Asians, they eat rice, meat and vegetables too.

The hotel was inside the campus and about five minutes walk from the School of Law. For the duration of my stay, the university arranged my transportation.

I visited Vladivostok city in 2014 but chose to remain on campus this year as the weather was extremely cold. Vladivostok is a beautiful town with views of a huge natural harbour with beautiful mixed European and Asian architecture. There are not many skycrapers here.

Overall, the trip was a success. This appointment is a tremendous recognition not only for USIM, but also for Malaysia as a whole.

The writer is a Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia Faculty of Syariah and Law senior lecturer. His areas of specialisation are in the international law of the sea (focusing on the Straits of Malacca, Singapore and the South China Sea) and public international law.

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