Alexander Fokin

Alexander Fokin

"Of course, without the German language, which we were taught by highly qualified teachers for 6 years at the university, there could be no question of studying in Germany"

_________

Alexander Fokin, a graduate of the Master's program at the Faculty of Theology, PSTGU, is currently a doctoral student at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Kiel.

Where are you now?

At the moment I am in St. Petersburg. I came here for a few weeks to work in the archives. This work was already planned more than a year ago, but the pandemic has made its own adjustments.

At what stage of training?

I am now at the stage of active writing of my candidate's work (or doctoral work, as it is called in Germany). I would very much like to say that I am at the final stage, because there is only a year left before the end. However, there is still so much to be done that sometimes it seems like there is no end in sight. But that feeling, I think, comes to a lot of people who are faced with writing big texts.

How did you manage to enter a foreign university for graduate school? What difficulties did you face?

After the usual six-month internship in Berlin during my master's degree, I had the idea of continuing my studies in Germany. My topic is closely related to the history of German theology, and I just wanted to understand the German language in more detail - after six months in Berlin there was a feeling of incompleteness. Upon my return to Moscow from Berlin, in hot pursuit, I passed the TestDaF for my knowledge of the German language, wrote to some of the professors by e-mail, providing them with my research project. One of the professors responded very friendly and expressed his willingness to support my project when applying for a scholarship. The most stressful was not so much the collection of bureaucratic papers for the scholarship and for entering the university, as the six months waiting for a response from the scholarship fund about whether they would support my candidacy or not.

Best meeting during the internship

During this time, many meetings took place, but the memory of one is especially dear to me. My supervisor has a scientific seminar in Kiel. All his subjects gather once or twice a month and discuss each other's texts in great detail and corrosively. This seminar is attended by one old man from among the eternal German students - Mr. Ulrich Kuder. He is already over 80 years old, he is a professor of art history, but this seemed to him insufficient, and he decided to write his doctoral dissertation on the history of the Church in the meantime. During the seminars, he is the only one who does not skimp on biting criticism. He was brought up at a time when there was no such relativism in the academic environment and it was accepted to disagree and defend his point of view. I admired him already, but one day he opened up from a completely different angle. After intense discussions of the seminar, the supervisor invited all the students to his home for dinner, which smoothly turned into midnight conversations about Professor Kuder's student years. He told us about how he attended lectures and seminars of such theologians as Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, Jurgen Moltmann, how he worked as an assistant to Professor Wolfhart Pannenberg. This evening I love to remember that all German theologians who, one might say, represent the pantheon in courses on the history of German-language theology, suddenly became alive and voluminous in the stories of this person with a very fascinating destiny.

Are there any interesting international projects or scientific symposia in which you take part?

I can name projects that are related to my native PSTGU and various German institutions. First, it is a joint student conference with the theological faculty of the Humboldt University of Berlin. These conferences leave behind a network of contacts that we still maintain today. I also participate in the preparation of the Russian-German exhibition on the new martyrs, a project that was started by the late Father Georgy Orekhanov and which, I really hope, will be implemented.

What did PSTGU give you for your professional future? Was the level of the foreign language sufficient?

First of all, PSTGU gave me an understanding of what a university is and how it works. In addition to the knowledge base and skills, which do not even need to be mentioned, the theological faculty of PSTGU presented a huge experience of academic and friendly communication. Of course, without the German language, which we were taught by highly qualified teachers for 6 years at the university, there could be no question of studying in Germany.

What opportunities does foreign postgraduate study open up for you? What do you plan to do in the future?

This is a difficult question, my planning horizon so far extends only to the coming year, when there is still a lot to be done in my work. Of course, I would like to remain in the academic environment upon my return and find a use for it.


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