The FIFA World Cup logo installation on the Iset River bank in Yekaterinburg

World Cup Brings Unique Cultural Experience to Local Volunteers in Yekaterinburg

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) Tommy Yang - Wearing a red jacket with the FIFA 2018 World Cup logo and the word "volunteer" in Russian, Alexandra Sudakova welcomed visitors to the recently established Volunteer Center in Yekaterinburg with a shy smile.

Her manners looked like of someone from an Asian culture, which values humbleness as a virtue. Unsurprisingly, the 21-year-old student studies Japanese language at the Ural Federal University in Yekaterinburg.

She is also one of the 2000 volunteers who will offer assistance to foreign fans who will visit the city this summer during the 2018 World Cup. A total of eight teams including Japan, France and Uruguay will play four games in Yekaterinburg in June.

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Being able to communicate with Japanese visitors to the city is like a dream come true for Sudakova, who fell in love with the unique oriental culture in Japan.

"I think it'll be a great chance to practice my Japanese language skills during the World Cup to be held in Yekaterinburg. I also want to learn new experiences from working with foreigners," Sudakova told Sputnik.

The game between Japan and Senegal kicks off on June 24 in Yekaterinburg.

Unique Attraction

Growing up in the Russian city of Omsk in Siberia, Sudakova didn't have many chances to meet Japanese visitors in her hometown. But when she was 13 years old, Sudakova started reading a book about Japan and became deeply attracted to its unique culture.

"My mom is a history teacher. When I first read a book about Japan, I asked my mom why is this country so different?" she recalled.

Sudakova began to read more books in Russian about Japanese culture and her curiosity about the mysterious oriental culture continued to grow.

"I love Japanese language because the pronunciation sounds very beautiful. Japanese culture is also very unique, because it's a culture with a long history and very different from the Russian culture. I find it really fascinating," she said.

Unfortunately, the schools in her hometown didn't offer any Japanese language classes. To learn more about the Japanese culture, she decided to move about 600 miles away from her hometown to attend the Ural Federal University, which teaches Japanese language.

"When I studied in the schools in my hometown, they didn't offer any Japanese classes. I chose to study in Ural Federal University, because they have a great Japanese language program," Sudakova said.

Rewarding Experience

The young student's efforts in learning Japanese language soon paid off and she started to join different volunteer programs where she had a chance to work with native speakers from Japan.

"I have been volunteering for three years. I worked with the Japanese Judo team that visited Yekaterinburg during the Grand Slam [held in March 2018]. It was a wonderful experience for me, because I was able to communicate with the players and staff in Japanese," Sudakova said.

Her experience working with Japanese visitors also help her polish her language skills further.

"When I worked with the Japanese team during the tournament, it was a great experience practicing my language skills. That's because sometimes they [Japanese players] spoke some dialects, which I could learn from them," she said.

As her Japanese language skills improved, Sudakova even had a chance to travel to Japan.

"I went to Japan once working as a volunteer for an art exhibition there. I helped Japanese artists with their projects in the city of Suzu in Japan," she said.

After the World Cup, Sudakova plans to go study in Japan for one year to have more first-hand experiences with the culture.

"I plan to go to Japan to study for one year in the city of Kobe, at my own expenses. After that, I'll return to my university to finish my degree," she said.

Money Is Not Everything

For volunteers like Sudakova, volunteering during the upcoming World Cup also means spending more than two weeks in the summer working for free. But the Japanese language student values the experience more than making money.

"I think money is not the most important thing in our world. I want to help people, especially foreigners who will visit the city. I also want to have more chances to practice my Japanese language skills, more often than what I can in my university," she said.

Fellow volunteer Alexander Shchapov believes volunteering during the World Cup could also help expand his future career options, as he just completed a degree at the Ural Federal University majoring in mathematical programming last year.

"It will be a unique experience for me. When I work as a volunteer, I can look at things from different sides. During the World Cup, there will be functional IT systems, which can also utilize my knowledge from university," Shchapov told Sputnik.

 

The 23-year-old college graduate also helps train other prospective volunteers for the World Cup games in Yekaterinburg and hopes to keep volunteer training as a second career option for the future.

As for Sudakova, who studies Japanese language, she plans to share her passion about the oriental culture by working as a tour guide in the future.

"I want to become a tour guide in the future and take some Russian tourists to visit Japan. I would love to share interesting aspects of Japanese culture, such as the language, the people and their mentality, with the tourists from Russia. I would really enjoy that experience," she said.

Russia will host its first FIFA World Cup from June 14 to July 15. Apart from Yekaterinburg, the matches will take place in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Volgograd, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Saransk and Sochi.

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FIFA World Cup 2018, Russia, Yekaterinburg
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