I studied for three months in Kharkiv, Ukraine with the EESA study abroad programme, completing 72 'academic hours' (=48 hours, if I'm not mistaken) over that time period. I chose to study fewer hours a week because I was also enrolled on an online Russian language programme that took up the majority of my time. In a year of Covid, I was grateful for an opportunity to actual travel and live somewhere new, getting plenty of Russian practice. I grew up in Central Asia and spoke Russian a little as a child, but have struggled to find the right level of teaching - that pushes me, while being aware of my mistakes. EESA was excellent when it came to language provision - my teacher, Tatiana, was hard-working, well-prepared, experienced, engaging and fun to be with! We focused on areas that I was interested in (which was mostly reading Economics texts in Russian) and had a good blend of speaking and writing, which taught me a lot. Sometimes the sessions were quite long and I could see that both my teacher and I were tired, but we still had a good time and used the lesson well.
Kharkiv is a great city for students. I cannot recommend it enough! Especially if you are hoping to practice Russian, this city is for you. In Kyiv or other cities in the west, I think you'd struggle to hear more Russian than in Kharkiv. I didn't speak any Ukrainian and I managed to get by just fine, although if I had stayed longer, I would have wanted to try to learn it too!
I lived with two girls, who were my hosts for the time. Their support was invaluable, because if you have never been to Ukraine before, you need someone to explain the transport system or various other factors, to you. I also felt safer living with other girls. Sometimes it was difficult, because it was a cross-cultural experience and we didn't always see eye to eye, but we parted as friends. I do recommend living with someone if you come to Kharkiv, it makes socialising a lot easier too!
At the time that I came, there was only one other student. Because of this, the support I was given was not the best (and maybe also because I was only studying part-time). I felt like I could have done with an induction (although they do do that for other students usually), more events (made difficult because of Covid) and more opportunities to meet people. They do try to support you in some areas, but it was not really enough for me. They have a peer support network, but I was linked to this too late. I think when there are more students and life is more 'normal', they are better at supporting you while you are living in the country.
What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Living in a new place is full of nerve-wracking moments! I was fined when I was in Kyiv because I didn't understand how the trolleybus system worked, I was accused of stealing a water bottle once from a supermarket, I set off an alarm in the supermarket another time because of not knowing that one item I bought had a security tag, I was barked at by guard dogs, I irritated people by being too slow to figure out new machines and systems.... but all this is part of living somewhere new! I learnt to be less embarrassed by my mistakes and to be forgiving to others, even when they were not forgiving to me!