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Russian students find much to like here


If Vasily Felinsky had his way, he would take back only one souvenir from his stay in the United States.

"The Washington Memorial would be nice," the 16-year-old from St. Petersburg, Russia, said. "I'd put it in my backyard."

Vasily and 29 other Russian students will have to settle for memories of their three-week stay with families in Arnold.

The students, who were in the United States for a month as part of an educational program, are to be guests today at a farewell party at Sandy Point State Park before they leave for home tomorrow. Several of them said yesterday they learned more living with their hosts than attending classes and forums.

"It's interesting to live with Americans, their culture," 15-year-old Yana Komissanova said. "What they do in their free time. What they think of America and Russia."

Americans "are very patriotic," said Yulya Baranova, 15. "It seems like every American citizen is a patriot."

The Russian youths in Arnold were part of a 76-member contingent that stayed with families in Baltimore, St. Mary's County and Bowie. The visit was sponsored through a program set up by the 1993 Bradley Bill, named after New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley who drafted it. The program is designed to allow Russian students to learn about American government.

For the first 10 days of their stay, the students took part in the Presidential Classroom program, a conference of American students with an interest in politics. It was a chance to study the American economy and politics, which is sharply different from those of their homeland.

"We learned how they managed to create their own economy," said 15-year-old Anna Chestnokova. "It is different from any other economy in the world. Every citizen knows what he wants, and every person is politically educated."

The students, who are the equivalents of American high school juniors and seniors, also visited Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court, and the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., said Irene Lejneva, an associate professor at the St. Petersburg University of Business and Finance and the students' chaperon.

After the conference in Washington, the students who stayed with families in Arnold learned about American history and government from Broadneck Senior High School teachers.

But it wasn't all work for the students. They visited New York City, Baltimore, Ocean City, and Adventure World.

And while a few had simple souvenir requests -- Viktor Arzhanov, 16, said he wanted a T-shirt from Washington -- others had more grandiose ideas. "A BMW," said Dasha Khasieve, 17, "because it's the most popular in Russia."

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