Picking Russia for my study abroad, especially before I left, seemed like a big risk. As an Amerian, you hear many things about Russia... the people, the infrastructure, Soviet time... It creates a lot of preconceived ideas of what my study abroad experience will be like. The visa process also seemed daunting, with all the requirements and precision needed on the application. That's where CIEE came in-- and the staff at CIEE were instrumental to how successful my semester abroad was. CIEE as a study abroad provider has been around for a long time, and it really shows! I was helped every step of the way, especially while in Russia.
I was able to experience a lot of great things through CIEE excursions, Fabrege Egg painting, pub trivia nights, cooking classes, Russian ballets, and lots of great museum trips. The cooking class was especially fun, and a great way to practice my Russian. I was also provided with great real-life tips from the office, and I was getting around and acting like a local in no time. Classes were also very informative, and I especially enjoy the professors here, who have a lot to teach students about Russia and about the world. I was able to learn a lot of new things about Russia's political system and culture, as well as get an in-depth view into Russia's ethnic make-up. I felt like my classes really enriched my understanding of Russia, and that I got good value.
St. Petersburg is a really beautiful city too, and I didn't want to leave! I visited so many amazing churches and museums, even an amazing Soviet Arcade Museum, which was one of my favorite places to visit! Another one of my favorite memories for sure was going out to a Russian Disco with all of my friends and just having a great night out. I also received an amazing Sobesenik (conversation partner) through CIEE, and I highly recommend all prospective students coming to Russia to find one. My sobesenik offered a great look into everyday life as a Russian student, and how Russians my age live, work, and study. It was definitely another of my favorite experiences in Russia.
I think my experience here in Russia has impacted my life for the better, for sure. I learned so much about a culture different from mine, and I got to learn about a place often alienated by the West first hand. I think I also learned a lot about culture shock and cultural integration, and I came home wiser and more in touch with the world. Picking a country 'off the beaten path' of study abroad is a great challenge, I think, and I highly encourage students to consider Russia. You'll get to meet great people, and you'll learn a lot about yourself and the world!