What do you suppose is the biggest difference between Brigham Young University and Moscow State University? One student who has attended both schools says it's that in the Soviet Union you can wear your hair as long as you like.
Actually, Glen Worthey, a recent BYU graduate, said his experience at the Soviet university is different from attending BYU mostly because he's doing research at MSU and is not an undergraduate student, and no one talks about hair length over there.Worthey is part of a group of 10 American students spending an academic year in the Soviet Union as part of the Institute of International Education's exchange program. While the U.S. students are working at MSU, several Soviet students are attending U.S. schools.
Worthey, 25, is doing research on Soviet literature. He spends much of his time interviewing experts and reading, and he intends eventually to return to America and teach Russian literature at a university.
It's a good time to be in the Soviet Union studying the country's great literature, because people are talking more freely about important works due to the new openness in the USSR, Worthey said.
"It seems to me that at the present time some important things have been happening and because of that, great treasures of Russian literature are being read by the Russian people again," he said. "People read an incredible amount here; much more than we read in our country. They're a lot more interested in that sort of thing. What Soviet culture has to offer is something we can learn from."
Americans don't know much about Soviet culture, and Worthey believes studying their literature is a good way to understand the people. His goal is to determine which contemporary Soviet authors are held in highest regard by the people and then research their work.
One of Worthey's former professors at BYU, Gary Browning, said competition in the program was fierce.
"It's an extremely high honor for him to have been included in that program. To have someone from BYU is a very prestigious thing," he said. "He simply caught the eye of those people just as he has the attention of people at BYU."
The program itself is among the best there is, because it gives students contact with an elite circle of Soviet intellectuals, and allows them to do in-depth research, Browning said.
Worthey has been so caught up in that research since he arrived in Moscow in September that he said he hasn't had time to think about what he misses in America. The people there are friendly, he said, and the greatest inconvenience is not being able to get enough fresh fruit and vegetables.
But he's willing to ignore small problems so he can gain the education he thinks will help him teach other Americans things they need to know about the Soviet Union.
Worthey will return to the United States in May, when he will attend graduate school.
The exchange program was started in 1987 under the general provisions of the joint Soviet-American statement on cultural exchanges issued in 1985 following the Geneva summit. Both countries support the students financially.