Why did you decide to study abroad with AIFS in Russia?
Charlie: I decided to study in Russia because Russia has always been a mystery to me; it's such a large country yet I didn't know much about it. I chose AIFS St. Petersburg because it seemed like the best option for me. I wanted to live in St. Petersburg more than Moscow because the size and architecture. I researched a few different study abroad programs and AIFS was the best fit for me. I liked the location of the University, the class listings and all the out of school activities that AIFS provided.
What made your study abroad experience unique and special?
Charlie: My study abroad experience was unique for several different reasons. First, it was in Russia. Most people I know that studied abroad did so in countries like Spain, Italy or France. I'm sure all those places would be amazing but I wanted to experience something farther away, out of western culture.
Everything about Russia was unique and new; the language, the food, the weather and the overall mentality was different than anything I had experienced before. I was able to meet Russians my age and talk to them about politics, religion and exchange stories of America's stereotypes of Russians and vice versa. I was happy to have the chance to get out of my normal routine for 4 months and do something totally new. I also met some great people I am still in contact with today from all over the USA and Europe.
The architecture was also something that just blew me away. In America, especially Atlanta, we don't have the historical architecture that Europe and St. Petersburg have. St. Petersburg itself is quite different from "Russian" architecture, for it was influenced by canal cities like Venice, Italy. And to be able to walk around streets filled with historic architecture, elaborate palaces and never ending ornate museums was unreal. Not to mention experiencing all this in a city covered in a thick blanket of snow. Who thought walking through the city, with no real plan, bundled up in layers and a fur hood while snow fell endlessly could be so fun?
How has this experience impacted your future?
Charlie: I've only been home for less than a year but I can already see how beneficial it was for me. It was a chance to see the world, learn and experience a new culture and meet people I'll never forget. St. Petersburg helped me mature in a way nothing else could have. I do hope to go back one day, hopefully sooner than later because I absolutely loved my time abroad. I hope more people do study abroad because it's a chance to really realize that everyones not so different once you really get to know them. It's hard to just drop your life for 4 months and go to another country, not to mention finances, but believe, it's 100% worth it.