Education is a way of life for Mayzlina


Leonardo Cisija – Contributor

For most students at Southern, school ends on graduation day. But, for Russian-born Fanya Mayzlina, education is a way of life. 

Mayzlina has lived in the United States for 29 years, in which time she has earned three degrees at Southern, including a master’s in English and a bachelor’s in art history. She declined to give her age directly, preferring the word “senior” be used instead. 

Southern was not the start of her college career, however. Before moving from her home country of Russia in 1991, she completed three more degrees at Moscow State University, including a doctorate in history. 

The whole of my life, I was interested to increase my knowledge,” Mayzlina said. “What drives me is my permanent wish to increase my knowledge and not to sit like another senior citizen… do nothing.” 

Earning degrees is not the only thing Mayzlina does. In Russia, she spent years passing on her knowledge as a teacher. However, she said she found it difficult to continue that career after moving to the U.S. at age 55. 

“I didn’t succeed in career here because I came too late,” Mayzlina explained. “You can be president in my age, but you cannot have a job.” 

Instead of teaching full-time, Mayzlina has worked as a substitute teacher at various New Haven schools, including Wilbur Cross High School, and taught English as a second language. She said her students often call her “the best teacher in the world.” 

According to Mayzlina, she succeeds because she fosters a healthy sense of competition in her students.  

“I encourage students to study, and that’s why they love me so much,” Mayzlina said. “I treat them like they are my own kids. I will encourage them, and they will be on top.” 

sense of competition also drove Mayzlina to keep learning herself, she said, so she returned to Southern after finishing her English degree.  

“There’s no competition like here in capitalist system, which demands a lot—for knowledge and talent,” she said. 

Mayzlina grew up in Russia during Stalinism and the rise of the Soviet Union, when practically all information and media within the country was controlled by the state. Even then, she hunted for knowledge. 

She recalled listening closely to the radio with her father, trying to catch Voice of America broadcasting through the static of Soviet interference.  

“It was very difficult to listen to because noise, noise, noise; but, we tried to catch it,” she said. 

Now, Mayzlina is free to learn what she pleases.  

“I love America. I don’t, like, love Russia,” she said. “I was born there, and the whole of my life we were suffering.” 

Mayzlina’s advice to other students at Southern is to appreciate their country. Beyond that, she said people should “plant the seeds of kindness” in their lives and take advantage of their capabilities to try and achieve their goals. 

As for her own goals, Mayzlina said she plans to keep studying at Southern and is currently working on a music degree.  

“I cannot imagine my life without university, and Southern is my alma mater,” she said. “I love it here.” 

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