From last Friday until this morning I participated with my wife in the International Summer School on Typology and Lexicon in Moscow. I can summarize it as one of the most unforgettable academic events I've ever attended so far. I don't specialize in linguistic typology, but I've decided to participate in this summer school as a student, thinking and hoping to learn from lexical typologists what might also be relevant to lexicography. I was not only right but the event was much more than I had expected.
What has made it special is not only the high standard of many courses by a number of leading linguists in the field but the fact we participants, both teachers and students, spent a whole week under the same roof. After the end of the official program each day we could discuss on linguistic and other issues and socialize with each other through various social events or just by sitting together in the evening. Having volunteered to organize a traditional Ashkenazi dance master-shmaster class spontaneously as one of such social events in the evening, I may be remembered as a dancer rather than as a linguist. ;-)
What has impressed me more than everything else was the fact that those who participated as students in this summer school, the majority of who were also students in the School of Linguistics at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow and presented posters, were in such high academic standard, and several of them also organized this event. Unfortunately, their Israeli counterparts I have known are mostly far more passive in initiating and organizing academic events.
I also felt so sorry for average Israeli students as they have no chance, unlike, for example, in Russia and Japan, to socialize with other students and their teachers outside the classroom. This experience of attending this summer school has convinced me again the importance of such socialization for academic inspiration.
During this summer school I also remembered that when I taught Japanese as a foreign language back in Japan to students specializing in Japanese from various countries, I felt closer to those from Russia than those from any other country, even including Israel. This time I could only teach some of them traditional Ashkenazi dance in a non-academic setting, but I really enjoyed this experience. They have reminded me that teaching could be so enjoyable. This is the kind of feeling I've unfortunately come to forget in Israel slowly but surely. I'm very curious to teach something academic here in Russia to see how I'll feel then.