I’ve been fascinated with Russian literature since I first read Crime and Punishment in high school – when I got the chance to do a study abroad during college, I knew that I wanted to go to Russia (particularly St. Petersburg), to study the language and see the places where the books were set. CIEE had a lot of great activities (Crime and Punishment walking tour, Pushkin’s apartment, Catherine Palace, a beer tasting) and helped students meet Russians – I had a volunteer position teaching English, which was a lot of fun. My host mom was really nice as well – she didn’t speak English, but was extremely patient and helped me a lot with practicing language. She also was helpful with directions around the city, and ideas of places to go and when to go there (can't say I understood 100% of the time, but what I did understand was helpful!).
My Russian class was great – it was small (5 people), which made participation more necessary than in a larger class and also much easier. I liked my other classes as well – I took Russian History, Russian Civilization, and Arts of St. Petersburg, which was one of my favorites – we went on field trips to museums and galleries around the city.
I did Alternative Break in Kirov (a CIEE-organized volunteer trip) during spring travel week. I was hesitant at first to give up the week of travel, but after the first day, I knew it was the right choice – I met amazing people, had a second great host family, and got to see places off the beaten path – the two of us on that trip volunteered in kindergartens and a children’s home, led a discussion group with Russians, and went to two high schools to talk to students, in addition to seeing the city. And there were weekends afterwards to travel (Tallinn, Estonia, is beautiful) as well as CIEE organized trips to Moscow and Pskov. St. Petersburg is a beautiful city - there was more to do there than I could fit into the semester, and I'm glad I went!