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10/13/2017

CIEE ST. PETERSBURG SUMMER 2017

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Russian Language Program Newsletter

Saint Petersburg, summer 2017

Any season of the year, the stunning city of Saint Petersburg manages to enchant CIEE students who come to Russia to master their language skills, develop the new-found appreciation of Russian art and culture, and dive into exploring the authenticity of the Russian everyday life.

Our summer RLP students unanimously agree that it is both a delight and a privilege to discover the city with the oldest and well-established CIEE Summer Russian Language program. The program dates all the way back to 1967, when CIEE launched the Cooperative Russian Language Program. The idea was to bring the students studying Russian in the U.S. to the country, which is the home to both the Russian language and the Russian people. The program was designed to introduce students to the living fiber of the Russian language and culture and to teach them intercultural understanding, and it has been serving this mission continuously for the past 50 years.

! Anton Stepanov CIEE Program Officer  Jeffrey Conner  Abbey Palmer  Angelese Revaleon  and Richard Taylor outside Smolny

CIEE Program Officer Anton Stepanov, Jeffrey Conner (Washington University in Saint Louis), Abbey Palmer (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Angelese Revaleon (University of Massachusetts Amherst), and Richard Taylor (Indiana University-Bloomington) on Smolny campus

For over 30 years, CIEE study center has been hosted by the philological department of the Saint Petersburg (former Leningrad) State University; currently, CIEE students study at SPSU’s school of political science, located on the beautiful Smolny campus.

“I think that most language students can agree that the classroom is not always the most effective place to obtain fluency. As a third year Russian Major struggling with both conversation and comprehension, I feared that without a more immersive experience, my progress might begin to plateau if not simply deteriorate over time. Fortunately, however, CIEE’s Summer Russian Language program has not only vastly improved my language skills but also deepened my understanding of Russia’s unique culture, history, and way of life. Whether through experiencing Russian family life with my homestay or visiting the wealth of museums, monuments, and tourist attractions throughout Saint Petersburg and beyond, my experiences with CIEE have been nothing less than unforgettable.”

Nick Vidal (University of Vermont)

Today, CIEE summer Russian Language Program is an 8-week long endeavor providing students with the rigorous academic curriculum, the network of immersive social and cultural activities, and the option of living in an authentic Russian homestay family.

 

LIVING AND LEARNING TOGETHER ON SMOLNY CAMPUS

No matter what their language level is, CIEE students study full-time four days a week, with one day reserved for cultural activities and excursions. One class, or para, is 90 minutes long and every day students have three classes. The Russian Language program is split into eight groups according to the language proficiency, ranging from beginner-level students to advanced. Besides working on various aspects of language learning such as grammar, conversation, and phonetics, CIEE students are taking Russian culture and Discovering Russia courses, the latter being comprised of cinema, music, and mass media modules.

Jasmine English (University of California) reflects on learning Russian from the beginner level:

Upon arriving in Saint Petersburg with a Russian word count of zero, I thought it best to learn a simple ‘hello’ —big mistake (Здравствуйте, 12 letters yet somehow only 3 vowels). After this initial scare, the language has proven to follow mostly logical rules, and the efforts of some excellent teachers have made mastering basic Russian seem like a possibility. Being thrown into a new country with no prior language knowledge adds a whole new incentive (i.e. survival) to the normal motivations of trying to pass classes, and the CIEE experience really impressed upon me the importance of developing cultural awareness alongside linguistic skills. This first taste of Russian life and language has inspired me to continue Russian in my home university, and I would thoroughly recommend the program to anyone interested in kickstarting the Russian language in a learning environment that goes way beyond the classroom.”

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LEARNING TO SPEAK THE LANGUAGE!

Being immersed in the Russian language on the everyday basis definitely helps CIEE students to advance their speaking skills, but their progress would not nearly be the same without the patience and guidance of CIEE’s expert Conversation class instructors.

Dr. Mikhail Krundyshev has been working with CIEE students for over two decades and his dedication to the program and to teaching is incredible. Mikhail always knows how to engage with each and every student who walks into his classroom, and how to encourage and inspire his students to speak on any topic both in class and outside of classroom. No matter how thick the walls of the Smolny campus are, you can always hear students laughing and actively debating during Mikhail’s Conversation class!

“Three times a week, nine of us would funnel into our conversation class, the next hour and a half becoming a blend of the familiar and unfamiliar. There would be texts to read on topics in Russian culture, but, mostly, we would fill the time by just talking with Mikhail, our happy, self-described deeply optimistic professor. But our conversation class became, eventually, much more than just an exercise in language acquisition. There was something oddly centering about it: the familiarity of knowing that, for 90 minutes, we could talk about the weekend, our interests, the things we’d noticed and been confused about in our encounters with Russian culture that we hadn’t thought to ask before. Now, about to leave Russia, as I think about the past several weeks, I’ll remember not only the moments I’ve had here that caught my attention and interest, but also the moments I had to reflect on them, together with others.”   Nihal Shetty (Columbia University)

 

INTEREST GROUPS AND LECTURES

The CIEE academic curriculum is complemented by a series of interest group meetings each designed to provide students with the background on a certain issue and open the floor for discussion. This summer, we organized two interest group meetings, one focused on the role of social networks in political mobilization and protest in Russia and the other one discussed the life of the LGBT community in Russia. Both sessions helped the students to apply and expand their knowledge of contemporary Russia and to voice their questions and opinions, which in a dialogue with Russian scholars and fellow students helped to gain a solid understanding of the discussed issues.

! Jasmine English  Celeste Belknap  Azniv Nalbandian  Mathias Schreiner  Nihal Shetty  Richard taylor  and Andrea Yarkony during discussion club meeting  Summer 2017

Jasmine English (University of California), Celeste Belknap (Pennsylvania State University), Azniv Nalbandian (Pennsylvania State University), Mathias Schreiner (Vanderbilt University), Nihal Shetty (Columbia University), Richard Taylor (Indiana University-Bloomington), and Andrea Yarkony (Kenyon College) during a CIEE discussion club meeting

Azniv Nalbandian (Pennsylvania State University) shares the reflections on participating in CIEE interest group meetings:

The CIEE experience permeates aspects of Russian life well beyond the classroom. Discussion forums held throughout the course of the summer offered insight into cultural, social, and political facets of Russia. Personally, I enjoyed the discussion group which shed light on the social and political climate for LGBT people in Russia. The CIEE staff fosters an environment where student can critically explore and push past cultural boundaries.”

 

MEETING FELLOW RUSSIAN STUDENTS

Our students have started the semester with a lot of enriching cultural events and beneficial extra-curricular activities. Let’s take a look at what we have been up to! We kicked off the summer semester with an entertaining Game Night with Russian students.

! Ben Shefner  Ross Mather  Nick Vidal and Brian Cusack at CIEE's Game Night

Ben Shefner (University of Vermont), Ross Mather (Miami University-Oxford), Nick Vidal (University of Vermont), and Brian Cusack (University of Michigan) at the CIEE Game Night

Nana Tedeeva, CIEE Russian volunteer and conversation partner, explains what drives her to participate in CIEE social events:

“Friendship with CIEE students always becomes a very important part of not only my personal pleasure of unique culture exchange, but also as an opportunity to get as many different perspectives of Russia and its culture in particular as there are people who give me an incredible opportunity to see my homeland through the perspective of a foreigner. Not only does this unique culture exchange matter globally, but also it creates a strong friendship connection which lasts for ages: I am still in touch with CIEE ‘14 generation of students!”

Fun trivia: CIEE’s first Pub Quiz was held on October 19th, 2012 and this summer we held the festive 40th anniversary Pub Quiz. We invited every student in the program and all our Russian friends to a huge party that coincided with the 4th of July celebration. Our celebrations started with a friendly soccer game and a picnic in Tavricheskiy garden. The picnic was then followed by the 40th CIEE Pub Quiz where mixed teams of American and Russian students were challenged by a mix of general knowledge questions.

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After the CIEE 4th of July soccer game!

SUMMER WANDERLUST: EXPLORING RUSSIA BEYOND SAINT PETERSBURG

Traditionally, CIEE summer Russian Language students take two overnight trips during the program: to the capital of Russia, Moscow, and to Velikiy Novgorod, the birthplace of Russia. Ryan Robinson (Ohio State University) shared his vivid impressions of the trip to Moscow, in Russian!

! Moscow quote Ryan Robinson

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CIEE students at the observation deck on Sparrow Hills, with the backdrop of one of Moscow’s Seven Sisters skyscrapers—Moscow State University!

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New Convent Cemetery, also known as the place where Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky got inspired and composed the renowned ‘Swan Lake’

Despite the rainy weather, CIEE students enjoyed the slower pace of the smaller city of Velikiy Novgorod, along with the historical atmosphere that surrounded them after the fast-moving Saint Petersburg.

“I immediately fell in love with Velikiy Novgorod; despite the rainy weather, visiting the Kremlin there and learning about the beginnings of modern Russian culture was fascinating… Although life in Peter has a particular allure to it because of the tall, beautiful buildings its city-life pace, Великий Новгород has its appeal of the opposite sort: the calm, peaceful nature of the city, its destinations and its people make for a wonderful addition to my Russian experience.”  Jack Verser (Carnegie Mellon University)

While for CIEE summer students, visa regulations limit the opportunities to travel outside of Russia, some of the CIEE Russian Language program students surely took advantage of the possibility to explore the country that they are so eager to study. This summer, CIEE students traveled independently to Barnaul and Ekaterinburg in Siberia, to Karelia Republic in the Northwest of Russia, to Kazan, the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan, and to Sergiev Posad in Moscow region, and, of course, to various suburbs of Saint Petersburg!

Katarina Nesic (Dartmouth College), one of CIEE intrepid student travelers, shares her story:

This summer I traveled to Сергеев Посад. At first I did not want to go because it seemed to be just another monastery complex. However, after looking more into it, seeing the pictures, the history (it was the only working monastery during Soviet times), I realized that not going would be a grave mistake. When I got there, the nature was breathtaking, and the complex had this incredible positive energy, that I feel every time I think about the trip.

! Pascal-Louis Davey in Karelia  Summer 2017

Pascal-Louis Davey (Indiana University-Bloomington) exploring the nature of Ruskeala, Karelia Republic

! Masha Alletto returns to her 'second home'  Barnaul  Summer 2017

Masha Alletto (Pennsylvania State University) returns to her 'second home', Barnaul , where she spent a year as a high school student

 

ENGAGING IN EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES

! Nick Vidal and Eli Kelsey tuning guitars at a local second-hand musical instruments

Nick Vidal (University of Vermont) and Eli Kelsey (Pennsylvania State University) tuning guitars at a local second-hand musical instruments store

Eight weeks might seem like a very short period of time, nevertheless our students manage to get the most out of it and engage in all sorts of extracurricular activities. From joining the oldest rowing club in the city to taking Russian folk singing lessons, everything allows you to explore life in Russia outside your comfort zone. This summer, we were also fortunate to have the most musically talented cohort of students, maybe ever! We frequented an old thrift store that sells vintage musical instruments, coordinated private accordion classes, and sang Russian folk songs on all intercity bus rides.

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“I have an extensive background with tuba and would joke about wanting to learn accordion while still in America. Well, like all great things the joke ended up becoming reality and I rented one. I quickly regretted never actually learning a keyboard and was finally forced to. Although I haven’t been able to play with the basses because I don’t want my host family to kick me out, all in all I’d give the instrument a solid 5/7, will try to continue playing in America!”  Austin Kremer (Ohio State University)

 

LIVING EVERYDAY LIFE, RUSSIAN STYLE

One of the highlight components of CIEE programs is the opportunity to live with an authentic Russian homestay family and to learn about the culture, traditions, and habits that can be different from what our students are accustomed to back home.

Celeste Belknap (Pennsylvania State University)

! Celeste Belknap Summer RLP 2017 with her host mother at the dacha

Celeste riding bikes together with her host mom, Mariya Yaroslavovna

“When I decided to come to Russia for the summer, one of the things I was most excited for was staying with a host family. Before I got here and during orientation, I kept imagining what my family would be like—hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Luckily, I got the best family I could have asked for. On the Saturday of my first weekend in Saint Petersburg, my ‘mom and dad’ took me to their dacha, and on that Sunday we came back to the city to see ‘Le Corsaire’ at the Mariinsky theatre together. They loved to be involved, and made sure I got the most out of my experience in Saint Petersburg. Every day we talk about our days, our lives, our plans, and perhaps the most important subject: the weather. When we had about three weeks left of the program, my host mom looked at the calendar and said "you only have three more weeks!" Then we started getting sentimental and invited each other to our respected countries whenever we want to travel. I'm so happy I chose to stay with a host family, and had the opportunity to create relationships with wonderful Russian people.”

Angelese Revaleon (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

! Angelese Revaleon tying tree branches for the banya at her host family's dacha  Summer 2017

Angelese tying tree branches for the banya at her host family's dacha

“My experience in Russia has been amazing for a number of reasons, but especially because my host family. Marina and Anatoli have been wonderful, they always help me with my Russian when I don't know a certain word, or find ways to explain things to me. They also help me with my homework if I need to memorize something or get the pronunciation right. They've invited me to their Dacha, introduced me to their friends and showed me around Vasilevsky Island. Unless they're working, we usually always eat together as well! I never felt lonely in Russia, because I had a "Russian family" that always made me feel right at home.”

 

FIFA CONFEDERATION CUP 2017

This year, Saint Petersburg hosted one of the biggest soccer championships in the world, the FIFA Confederation Cup! CIEE students and staff could not miss out on the opportunity to attend the main sporting event of the year, and headed to the brand-new Zenit Arena stadium to cheer on and have fun!

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The CIEE summer Russian Language Program might be ending, but we are certain that our students will carry this experience in their hearts and minds for many years ahead. The end of a study abroad program is just a beginning of a lifelong journey of discovering your passions, expanding your knowledge and embracing the values of understanding, cooperating, and building friendships that last. Wishing the best of luck in all endeavors to the CIEE Summer RLP students!

S nailuchshimi pozhelaniyami (Wishing all the best),

Your editors, Ira and Katya, and the CIEE Saint Petersburg Team

Katya Kavchenko, Student Services Assistant

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions and Activities Coordinator

Dr. Natalia Chernyaeva, Academic Coordinator

Dr. Irina Makoveeva, Center Director

04/17/2017

CIEE ST. PETERSBURG SPRING 2017, ISSUE I

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It has been almost two months since the city of St. Petersburg welcomed the spring 2017 CIEE students with its snowy streets, frozen rivers, foggy mornings, dignified imperial palaces and grandiose Soviet-era edifices. The whirlwind of events and activities definitely factored into how fast the city enchanted its most curious observers, the CIEE study abroad students, with all the hidden wonders that Russia has to offer.

Jacob Levitan (Washington University in St Louis) has presented his first impressions and observations after a few short weeks into the semester:

“Before I arrived here, I thought Saint Petersburg is not truly Russian.  Now I can see that perhaps, Saint Petersburg is quintessentially Russian.  Everyone says that Saint Petersburg is Russia’s European city, and that might be true on the surface. But, if one bothers to look even a little closely, one can see through the veil, one can see a heart that is neither European nor Asiatic, but Russian.” 


The first weekend in the city took us on the excursion around the State Hermitage, walking us through the renowned Jordan staircase, Da Vinci and Michelangelo bearing halls, and gilded ballrooms of the Winter Palace, the grand residence of the Tsars. The overview excursion creates a perfect learning platform for the first-time visitors. The tour discusses the history and the art, encouraging the students to come back and explore the museum further.

Luckily, the CIEE students receive Russian student ID, which guarantees free entrance to state museums!

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Trying traditional Petersburg-style pyshki (deep fried doughnuts), riding a Russian tram, and tasting Russian kvass (fermented beverage made from rye bread): these all are not scenes from a Russian movie, they are various CIEE Scavenger Hunt tasks! The students successfully completed the trials of two-hour long challenging Scavenger Hunt, enjoying their findings (gastronomical and otherwise) and keeping up the spirit of friendly competition. The ‘initiation’ was completed with some real-life, practical missions: now every student in the program knows where the CIEE partner medical clinic is located!

The winners received a unique opportunity to admire ‘Boris Godunov’ opera at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre. Opened in 1860, it became the pre-eminent music theater of late 19th century Russia.

 

CIEE Academic Program Highlights
What distinguishes a study abroad endeavor from a touristic adventure? In addition to the opportunity for deeper learning the language, studies at CIEE allow the students to take a thorough look at different aspects of history, culture and socio-political life of the foreign country through a variety of site-specific courses and case studies, discussions and local field trips to thematic museums and expositions.

фото из музея Кирова

Courses Russian civilization: popular stereotypes and social behavior and Mentality, Social Behavior and the Representations of Russia involve visits to several St. Petersburg historic locations, including the Sergey Kirov Memorial museum. Located in Kirov’s former apartment on the Petrogradskaia side, the museum provides a glimpse into the living conditions of upper-class families soon before the Revolution of 1917 and the everyday life of Soviet Party elite in the 1920s – early 1930s, attesting to the complex character of Soviet modernization and urbanism. Objects on display present a curious combination of the burgeoning Soviet and old bourgeois lifestyles: portraits of Soviet leaders of the time exist side-by-side with posh furniture, gifts sent by industrial workers as their reports of achievements, hunting equipment and trophies coexist with expensive appliances, such as a GE refrigerator, specially delivered for Kirov from the US.

 

A Century of Russian Cinema
This semester, CIEE Study Center welcomed Dr. Lyubov (Dmitrievna) Bugaeva to the CIEE faculty team. Dr. Bugaeva is an associate professor at St. Petersburg State University, who has taught in Russia and abroad (Europe, the US and UAE). Her academic interests include Russian literature, film studies and philosophy, as she published extensively on narrative theory in film, on Russian literature and cinema of the 1920s and 1930s and philosophical anthropology.

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Dr. Bugaeva is facilitating discussion of Valery Todorkovsky's Stilyagi (2008)

The course A Century of Russian Cinema explores the relationship between cinema and society by looking at the evolving film industry and film schools. It explores film experimentations of the 1920s, propaganda in Stalin cinema of the 1930s, representations of the enemy in war films, art-house and mainstream cinema in the 1960s and 1970s, the collapse of the state-run film industry in the times of Perestroika, and Post-Soviet cinema. The course examines trends as well as specific films and filmmakers such as Dziga Vertov, Sergei Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovsky, Aleksei Balabanov, Aleksander Sokurov, and many others.

Matthew Schwimmer (University of California) shares his reflections on the Russian Cinema class experience:

Learning about Russian society through cinema is an intriguing and effective way of getting insight into this country. Just as Russia has undergone multiple changes in the past 100 years, so have the people living in it. The evolution of film and the differences of themes during this time give a valuable insight to how people lived, what they valued, and when their mores changed.

“Political Topography of Petrograd and Russian Revolution of 1917:” guest talk by Boris Kolonitsky

As CIEE continues its series of guest talks by Russia's well-known scholars in this country and abroad, the Center hosted a lecture by Dr. Boris Kolonitsky, a professor of European University at St. Petersburg and a leading expert in the history of the Russian Revolution of 1917. This year marks one century since the Revolution of 1917, and it was St. Petersburg—at that time called Petrograd—where the events of the February Revolution took place. According to Dr. Kolonitsky, Petrograd was more than a backdrop to the mass demonstrations and the clashes between the insurgent workers and the police. The city itself became the key actor in the unfolding drama of the revolution, shaping the policies and actions of other players: the government, the military and the working class. 

6. Kolonitsky lecture

On March 3, Professor Boris Kolonitsky (European University at St. Petersburg) gave a lecture for the CIEE students and guests

Gabriel Carrasquillo (Brandeis University):

It was interesting to learn of the multitude of scattered revolts and uprisings throughout the city of Петроград (Petrograd)! What struck me as most interesting was how various uprisings used the frozen river in order to successfully amass large groups to spark what would be the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Russia and the U.S.: Are We Doing Gender Differently?

CIEE Discussion Club meetings always stay on top of the current matters and events. A part of CIEE’s mission is students’ exposure to the host culture offering them a view that goes beyond the headlines, to create a genuine dialogue between the two cultures that may have vastly different approaches to the same issue. The topic for this semester’s inaugural gathering was Russia and the U.S.: Are We Doing Gender Differently?

The topic was inspired by 2017 Women’s March in the US and around the world, as well as by the International Women’s Day celebration in Russia. The U.S. students and their Russian peers shared their experience of dealing with diverse gender norms, at home and abroad.

The discussion merged into a broader question of cultural stereotypes, and there was a surprising consensus about the important issues that women face in both countries. While several Russian students mentioned that Russian does not often have the discursive resources to handle the discussions of gender construction and gender equality and therefore such discussions are very often difficult to have in Russia, the atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect in the audience was very rewarding.

Discussion club

 

Russia’s Winter Holidays

Spring semester calendar is always rich with traditional Russian holidays and festivals. The start of this semester coincided with a few important dates: the Defender of the Fatherland Day and Maslenitsa Week Festival!

Maslenitsa

Maslenitsa week has several meanings and serves a few different purposes. It signals the termination of winter and heralds the beginning of spring. Maslenitsa week is also a pre-Lenten strike, which basically explains why it becomes a preemptive measure before the coming prolonged fast. Russians consider Maslenitsa to be the time for feasting happily, and Russian crepes, or blini, are the featured treat!

Maslenitsa

CIEE students and their Russian buddies attended the public mass celebration on Sunday, the culmination of the Malsenitsa week. At the festival, blini, pyshki, and kvass were plentiful; in addition to delicious treats, there were multiple opportunities to dance, play traditional folk games, and enjoy the final spectacle: burning of the Maslenitsa effigy!

Defender of the Fatherland Day

Kelly Morris of George Washington University featured her experience celebrating one of Russia’s key national holidays in her study abroad blog:

To celebrate properly, my friends and I went to a military reenactment/festival in a giant park. As we were walking up, we could hear cannons, gunshots (all blanks, of course), and patriotic Russian music playing. When we finally arrived, it was unlike anything I have ever seen. There were men dressed in old Soviet military wear, some costumes and some I’m sure were real. There were “army camps” set up, horses, and lots and lots of guns. I truly felt as though I was thrusted back 40 years in time, and the whole celebration was an experience I will never forget.

23 февраля reenactment

Juana Granados (Claremont McKenna College) is pictured with actors and props at the War Reenactment event

 

Multiple Layers of Cultural Immersion

An introductory part of CIEE’s intercultural curriculum helps study abroad students properly define culture and make valuable conclusions rather than simply observe. At the seminar on intercultural awareness, the students study various metaphors for culture; one of them depicts culture as an onion: something multilayered and complex, tough to get through at first glance, but rewarding once you pass the initial difficulties. At times students joke that first encounter with a foreign culture may make you cry, just like onions do!

Kevin Yi (University of Rochester) provides a valuable insight into his first weeks in Russia and his meaningful interactions with the locals:

Between my discussions with my homestay mom, my conversation partner, and other Russian people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting during my time here, I’ve come to understand that Russians are just regular people. Before arriving in Russia, my perceptions of Russians were almost entirely shaped by everything from worried friends and family members to internet memes. Now I am happy to say with confidence that Russians are some of the warmest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met. Though inherently they are different in some ways than Americans, in the end we’re all just people.

КОЛЛАЖ

Learning new cultures is fun, and CIEE students experience its various layers firsthand, by being engaged in CIEE extracurricular activities. Together with Russian Buddies, we cook Russian dishes, explore Dostoyevsky’s St. Petersburg, paint traditional Russian matryoshka dolls, enjoy playing board games and this is only a small part of it!

Anticafés: Perfect Study Spaces

Unlike typical American university campuses, SPSU’s infrastructure includes mostly classrooms and large auditorium halls. There are virtually no open spaces for studying after hours, meeting with peers and study groups and simply socializing. CIEE students are usually surprised to learn that this does not create a problem at all; on the contrary, this inspires young students to become more creative and discover new opportunities available off-campus.

To spend their time productively, Russian students resort to anticafés, places that offer their guests to pay not for the food and beverages they order, but for the time they spend there. In turn, there are plenty of tea, coffee, cocoa, cookies and small snacks available to all guests free of charge. St. Petersburg anticafés have their own unmatched cozy ambience, which makes them a perfect place for studying or simply enjoying some quite time with friends.

Anticafe

The CIEE spring semester is still in full swing, and we have a lot of new adventures on the way! Stay tuned for the update on CIEE trip to Moscow, CIEE Alternative Break in Rostov-on-Don and Kirov, and CIEE annual Spring Ball!

 

S nailuchshimi pozhelaniyami (Wishing all the best),

CIEE St. Petersburg Team

Katya Kavchenko, Student Services Assistant

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Aleksei Zarnitsyn, Program Coordinator

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Dr. Natalia Chernyaeva, Academic Coordinator

Dr. Irina Makoveeva, Center Director

12/22/2016

CIEE St. Petersburg Fall 2016, Issue II

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Nothing gets you out and beyond your comfort zone like studying abroad in a foreign country. Our CIEE St. Petersburg students certainly agree that the past three and a half months have been a genuine exploration and building awareness of self, of the new enchanting country and of the different places and backgrounds we all come from. December in St. Petersburg marks the shortest daylight time and, as the holiday lights already brighten up the usually grayish city under the dim skies, we set to reflect on the experiences we have had and on the lessons we have learned on this journey together.

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2016-12-22/ea4b0763-2074-45b0-b34b-a1b212747cfb.png

What Are You Thankful For?
This season marks six years of the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center tradition of gathering on Thanksgiving Day for a highlight feast and spending this time together with all the CIEE students, alumni, staff, instructors, and Russian friends. The successful celebration is a result of shared efforts of the CIEE cooking and decorating committees, who put their best efforts in making this day so memorable and indeed special.Thanksgiving pic from instagram8Thanksgiving 'collage'

For the first time this year, CIEE donated all of delicious leftover Thanksgiving food to the local homeless shelter “Nochlezhka”, the oldest support organization for the homeless in St.Petersburg, founded in 1990. Coming together in gratitude and giving back made this season’s holiday even more special for the big CIEE St. Petersburg family.

CIEE Academic Environment
In the age of massive amounts of information ubiquitously available on the internet, authentic in-person lectures and discussions become extremely relevant, productive, and, most importantly, vital for the learning process. CIEE St. Petersburg goes extra mile in providing students with wide variety of academically focused activities beyond curricular classroom time.

Few weeks ago, the CIEE students attended the talk by Anthony Marra, renowned American writer and a CIEE St. Petersburg alumnus, the author of “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” novel and “The Tsar of Love and Techno” collection of short stories. In his writing, Anthony Marra develops the topics of family, sacrifice, the legacy of war, and the redemptive power of art in his novels and stories that take place in Siberia of the 1930s, Chechnya of the 1990s and present day Moscow. 

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It is crucial to nurture a safe and positive environment for expressing students’ thoughts and opinions; this is why CIEE, with the support of the St. Petersburg State University faculty, organize regular discussion club meetings that allow CIEE students meet with their Russian peers in an academic setting to reflect on various pressing issues and topics. This time, the discussion club session was focused on global migration trends and various issues and attitudes that are forming around migration in the post-truth world. As difficult as it was to incorporate the up-and-coming term “post-truth” (the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016) into the conversation, the students’ active engagement, controversial and at times emotional arguments clearly proved that such discussions are useful for encouraging mutual understanding between different countries and people of versatile backgrounds in general.

11Skillfully incorporated by the discussion club’s moderator Maria Edinova (SPSU School of Political Science PhD candidate), Dr. Alexander Sherstobitov’s expert remarks and presentation at the very start of the session definitely gave a lot of food for thought to all the participants and helped drive the discussion further, to finding common grounds and compromises.

Continuing the long-standing tradition of CIEE guest lectures, CIEE St. Petersburg invited Dr. Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov (Higher School of Economics) to give the final, for this semester, talk for the CIEE students. 

Guest lectureIn his talk, 'Gifts to Soviet leaders and anthropology of post-socialism,' Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov discussed his experience of curating the exhibition 'Gifts to Soviet Leaders' (Kremlin Museum, Moscow, 2006) and of studying the audience’s reactions to the exibit. The exhibition contained what one visitor referred to as 'crazy objects': for instance, a cigarette holder in the shape of Soviet nuclear missile heads (a present to Leonid Brezhnev), Brezhnev’s bust made of cane sugar, a portrait of Joseph Stalin made of aviation screws, of Vladimir Lenin made of human hair, and similar artifacts, totaling approximately 500 exhibit items. 

Exploring Russia!

After two productive and vibrant months of discovering St. Petersburg and its gorgeous suburbs and nearby towns, the CIEE students took a break from their newly established routine and traveled to see the world and, equally excitingly, explore Russia beyond its Northern capital during the CIEE Travel Week. 
Travels map
The extensive map of CIEE students' travels, fall 2016
In the beginning of November, all program students headed to Moscow for a four-day journey highlighted by the all-encompassing city tour, educational visits to the Museum of Contemporary History and Tretyakov Gallery, visit to the Moscow Kremlin, Armory Chamber, and Lenin's Mausoleum, among other activities. Guided visits to New Maiden Convent and Jewish Museum and Center of Tolerance helped students expand their understanding of multifaceted Russian history and heritage, and the guided three-hour long Moscow metro tour showcased versatille layers of Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet history represented in architectural grandeur of the Moscow's metro system, functioning since 1935. The CIEE students were definitely impressed by everything that Moscow has to offer!
After a few events-packed days in Moscow students all went separate ways to explore neighboring countries and more distant parts of Russia.

Москва

Pictured above, L. to R.: Rachel Neale (University of Florida), Sayako Quinlan (Georgetown University), Amanda Feldman (George Washington University), Catalina Andazola (Trinity University), Alexandra Bustamante (University of California–Riverside), Ingrid Glitz de Assis (Georgetown University) on the Red Square in front of St. Basil's Cathedral.

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Students on Sparrow Hills

CIEE students pictured on Sparrow Hills in Moscow. L. to R.: Kirill Tighe (Muhlenberg College), Christopher Downey (Tulane University of Louisiana), Joe Walsh (Lewis & Clark College), Anya Anderson (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities), and Susan Statler (Macalester College)
Photo credits: Aaron Schimmel (Lewis & Clark College)

CIEE Travel Journals!
We couldn't let the two furthest tags on the CIEE travel map of Russia go unnoticed: during the CIEE travel week this semester our students managed to see a lot of new exciting places. Here we would like to feature the stories of Iain Cunningham, who traveled to Far Northern Murmansk with his CIEE study abroad buddies, and of Benjamin Lillian, who traveled to the Russian Far East and saw Lake Baikal, one of the world’s largest natural freshwater sources and an incredibly picturesque Siberian landmark.

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Discovering The Unknown Russia And Helping Others With CIEE’s Alternative Break
Every semester our center offers students a unique opportunity to see the Russian interior and travel to lesser known cities of Russia. Alternative Break allows for a number of volunteer opportunities that encourage students to engage with more locals and at the same time give back and help others. We participated in a number of volunteering projects including, but not limited to teaching English, facilitating discussion clubs and interactive language classes.

15Among other community service and cultural endeavors, our students also volunteered at "Detskoe selo", a small private kindergarten with a child-centered method of education based on self-directed activity and collaborative play.

15By the end of the program in Kirov, the city really grew on us; the local community and the culture of a small provincial Russian town made such a big impression on one of our students, Patrick Bond (University of Virginia), that he decided to come back for a weekend and explore the winter adventures of a true Russian and go skiing in the forest with friends.

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Russian Winter Activities
The winter season is truly magical and offers diverse range of cold weather activities making our students’ time in St. Petersburg unforgettable.
After the first snow came to St. Petersburg, our students jumped in on an opportunity and headed to one of many ski resorts in the St. Petersburg suburbs to take advantage of snow-covered slopes and ample tourist facilities.
Russian winter activities2
Pictured left: Sayako Quinlan (Georgetown University), Jennifer Rodriguez (University of California), Yulya Karmatkova (SPSU, CIEE Russian Buddy), Sean Linehan (University of Colorado Boulder), and Alex Thien (Arizona State University) at the ice-skating rink
Pictured right: Ingrid Glitz de Assis (Georgetown University), Amanda Feldman (George Washington University), Rachel Neale (University of Florida), and Catalina Andazola (Trinity University) during the trip to a ski resort outside of St. Petersburg
Together with the CIEE Russian Buddy Yulia Karmatkova (SPSU junior) our students also explored an ice-skating rink located on a triangular man-made islet known as Novaya Gollandiya, literally New Holland. Ice-skating might seem easy when you see others do it, but in fact it requires a lot of work and balance. Yulia is a skilled ice-skater and under her patient guidance our students learned the basics of Russians’ favorite winter pastime.
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CIEE St. Petersburg Fall 2016, Issue I

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Унылая пора! очей очарованье! (A melancholy time! So charming to the eye!)—the words used by Russia’s most loved poet, Alexander Pushkin to describe fall time in Russia. Indeed, fall in Russia is a magnificent time: everywhere you go it feels like you are walking in an impressionist painting as leaves are slowly losing their colors and fall on the ground. Time does fly, and we have already reached the halfway mark of the semester. The memories we have made, however, will last forever. In this issue of our CIEE program newsletter, we are reflecting on the adventures of this semester!

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CIEE Russian Area Studies students during a weekend trip to the Peterhof imperial residence

Studying Russian and Russia on the spot!

“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things”, it was once said by American writer Henry Miller. The CIEE study abroad students challenge their views of the world and perceptions of Russia daily, be that in a classroom or while independently exploring the world around them. CIEE’s rigorous and structured academic experience helps the students to get a good grasp of language and area studies concepts that one can further implement in their daily interactions.

The best part of a study abroad experience is that a student can get full immersion into the hosting environment, and one of CIEE’s main focuses in academics is making sure that the classroom time is sufficiently complemented with in-field learning.

During this semester, the CIEE students have already visited a number of museums, galleries, exhibitions and workshops as a part of their academic curriculum.

The Russian national museum of ethnography opened its doors to the students of ethnic studies content-based course, who are actively studying the history and development of various peoples of Russia, all the way from Baltic and northwestern tribes to the southern Caucuses. As a part of the comparative cultural studies of the US and Russia, the CIEE students and their professor, Dr. Volkova visited the State Museum of Political History of Russia, which provided the students with amazing details and insights on the imperial, soviet and post-soviet Russia.

The Russian Fairytales class students definitely lucked out this semester: unlike the plentiful permanent museums and exhibits, the “Once Upon a Time” exhibit in local “Borei” art gallery was open for visitors only during short ten days in October.

3. Academics вырезают сказки
The exhibit featured drawings and sketches illustrating different Russian folk tales. Dr. Makoveeva included the gallery visit into the class schedule, which allowed the students to not only read, analyze and study the intricacies of Russian fairytales but to actually experience the unique ambience of Russian folk and compare the views on Russian fairytales of artists from different countries around the globe.

The exhibit’s curators, Isabella Mazzanti (Italy) and Natalia Howard (the UK) agreed to give a tour of the exhibition for the CIEE students. The tour was followed by a paper doll master-class, during which our students and staff could finally put their talent and knowledge in action!

4There are many ways to diversify the learning process and ignite students’ interest in learning, and CIEE is looking to apply them all! We expand our students’ horizons and expose them to different topics and discussions outside of our regular curriculum.

This October, CIEE Fall 2016 students were fortunate to attend a guest lecture by Dr. Ivan Kurilla, a specialist in the history of the US–Russia relations and a professor of the European University in Saint Petersburg. These days even more than ever, the CIEE students find it useful to turn to history when analyzing and critically evaluating the current events.

The speaker provided a broad overview of the dynamics of the US-Russia relations over the course of the past two centuries and focused on the superseding nature of the countries’ interaction.

4. Academics слушают лекцию

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St. Petersburg Style Volunteering!

Given that many community service positions in Russian large cities are not easily available to foreigners or virtually anyone looking to serve for short periods of time, we at CIEE are constantly finding ourselves getting creative when looking for opportunities for students to do volunteer work and give back!

The State Hermitage, the gem of the gems of Petersburg, Russian, and world art, has been a time-honored partner of CIEE for years. The Hermitage Volunteer Service was first established in 2003 to help with the preparations for the city’s 300 anniversary. Ever since, the organization has been steadily growing and enhancing its pool of volunteers. Every semester, CIEE students are joining the team of the Hermitage volunteers to perform all sorts of different tasks, from greeting the museum guests at the door to contributing to research at the archaeological department of the museum.

This semester, we were excited to learn that Benjamin Lillian (Georgetown University), one of CIEE’s Hermitage volunteers, got a special assignment from the historical research department of the Hermitage:

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For the students, who are looking to put their teaching skills to use, CIEE provides two opportunities to volunteer. One is at the Saint Petersburg State University’s department of philology, a home to the center of foreign languages, which is always open to invite native speaking volunteer teachers, and the second one is with the “Ekran” production group, facilitating culture and language lessons for young children. Both institutions are always happy to have CIEE students on board. For CIEE volunteers, every semester starts with uniquely designed tours: of the SPSU philology department’s patio gardens in the first case, and of famous Petersburg and Russian film directors and screenwriters in the second!

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CIEE students during the first visit to SPSU philology department

CIEE students are also often seen at SKA hockey club stadium, where they come to volunteer by helping to organize, rearrange and decorate the bleachers area, which is later being rewarded with free tickets to SKA hockey games!

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For many CIEE students volunteering has already become an essential part of their time in Russia. Stay tuned for the updates on Saint Petersburg CIEE’s own Alternative Break initiative, that takes the students on a weeklong adventure in smaller Russian cities and towns, where the students get to volunteer and contribute to the local communities! This time the intrepid CIEE students will explore Kirov, a Central Russia city, a 23-hour train ride away from St. Petersburg, which in turn has already become home to our students over the past two months.

Weekend Getaways!

          When in Russia, do as Russians do—it is a widely known fact that Russians love spending time at their dachas (summer houses). CIEE, however, takes classic Russian dacha getaways to a whole new level.

5CIEE Russian Buddy Katya Kletkina reflects on the trip to Tsarskoe Selo:

“The tour of the palace was completely in Russian, everyone was listening very carefully, grasping for familiar words. After the tour, one of the students, Isaac Sanchez (University of California, Irvine), said that that was a great language practice. Students became even more motivated in their studies; they did not just walk around the palace aimlessly. It was a truly rewarding experience.”

Different Dimensions of CIEE Cultural Immersion

When we say that CIEE Russian Buddies are a crucial part of our students’ lives here, we truly mean it. Be it a matryoshka painting master class, or a walking tour around the city, our Russian student helpers are always there to guide CIEE students and help them adjust to the new environment. This semester was traditionally packed with events with Russian students: we started with a game night where students could meet over board games and coffee, talk about classes and their everyday lives. Trivia night “Pub quizzes”, karaoke nights and sport events provide an informal setting for more relaxed conversations, where students can practice their language skills, get a better understanding of modern life in Russia and make lifelong friendships.

1They say the best way to get to know a culture is through sampling its food, but it is even better done through learning how to cook it. Our students already discovered the wonders of Russian cooking (thanks to our host mothers and their cooking talents) and were excited to try their hand at cooking borscht, probably the best-known Russian dish. Under careful supervision of a master chef, our students learned to cook a four-course Russian meal and are now ready to impress their friends and family back home with the newly gained skills.

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CIEE karaoke nights have been getting a lot of attention too: what can be a better way for practicing phonetics than by singing a good old “Калинка-малинка”? We carefully select songs that will allow students to work on their pronunciation. Songs also provide examples of authentic, memorable and rhythmic language. Add some Russian friends to sing along with and you got yourself a perfect Friday night!

Cinema clubs add another dimension to CIEE students’ perception of Russian culture. While providing students with examples of Russian language used in real situations outside the classroom, they also give an insight into Russian life as it was portrayed five, ten and fifty years ago. 

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Dr. Irina Makoveeva, our Center Director who holds a doctorate degree in Slavic and film studies from the University of Pittsburgh, deems cinema club to be of crucial importance, and personally selects films for the club’s meetings as well as prepares an introductory lecture before the screening to give students a better understanding of the film’s context and significance. Anton Stepanov, CIEE Program Officer, who is also an expert on Soviet cinema, co-hosts the cinema club with Dr. Makoveeva and facilitates the discussion of the movies after the screening.

It's Halloween Time!

When you think about Halloween and Russia, the first thing that comes to mind is that Russians don’t really celebrate Halloween over there. However, our students strive to not only expand their own horizons during the study abroad adventure, but also bring their own culture into Russia! This year, the CIEE study center organized a grand Halloween celebration, encompassing all aspects of the holiday: from pumpkin carving master classes and decorating the local music club where we held the celebration to dressing up in various creative costumes.F611ce97-9763-40ed-a212-1a5a6982521d 6

At the peak of the Halloween activities, CIEE held a big celebratory concert for the CIEE students, host families, alumni, staff and Russian students. The gorgeous music band comprised of CIEE students, CIEE staff and Russian friends rocked the evening away, while the gracefully choreographed “Thriller” dance took everybody’s breath away and certainly added charm to the evening. Dancing, playing games, socializing, voting for the best-carved pumpkin and the best-designed costume, CIEE students definitely managed to brighten up a dark and gloomy Saint Petersburg October evening with laughter, fun memories and energizing music.

5. Halloween танец

Here is a brief quote by Patrick Bond, University of Virginia student and an incredible musician, to capture the atmosphere of the evening and the CIEE Signature Project’s preparations:

“Working with the band was a great way to get to know other students in the program, Russian students, and Anton [CIEE Program Officer, and a talented musician]. Just as with most musical experiences, it brings the group close together, but also allowed for an amazing cross-cultural experience being able to play Russian and American music.”

DSC_2681Time surely flies, when you spend it enjoying every minute of your time abroad with newly found friends, host families, professors and mentors. Stay tuned for more updates on the CIEE trip to Moscow, CIEE independent travel week and Alternative Break Program, Thanksgiving celebrations, and much more!

08/17/2016

SUMMER 2016 RLP

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        Saint Petersburg summers are widely known for the remarkable natural phenomenon called 'White Nights.’ This summer, however, was also marked as arguably the coldest summer in the last decade and as the summer we welcomed our largest summer program cohort ever. Fifty-one students spent two months learning Russian language in the beautiful city of St. Petersburg. No amount of rain could dampen our students' enthusiasm for new experiences!

City Bus Tour 1st day

CIEE Russian Language students posing in front of St. Isaac’s cathedral on their first day in St. Petersburg

GETTING SAVVY WITH RUSSIAN CULTURE THROUGH CIEE’S ‘Russian Seasons’ PROGRAM

    Exposure to the language both at home and in school and intensive classes taught by experienced St. Petersburg State University faculty give our students an opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture and expand their knowledge of the language. Russian language is not just about complex grammar structures and mastering that “being-punched-in-the-stomach”  sound, Russian language is also a reflection of some of the world’s finest traditions in art: ballet, classical music, literature and cinema – these are only a few areas where Russians have established great traditions.

    CIEE, in cooperation with the Saint Petersburg State Universit, has designed a unique program to support student learning. Named after the ballet that set off the creation of Sergei Diaghilev’s greatest achievement – Ballets Russes, the Russian Seasons program is an eight week program, with each week having its own specific theme that provides both a glimpse of Russian culture and an outline for language classes. The CIEE extracurricular schedule is structured to support the material studied in class – whether it is a theater, sports or Russian cuisine. This approach gives our students the opportunity to practice the language they learn in class in a real-world environment.

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Left: RLP Students exploring the city of Dostoevsky on the ‘Crime and Punishment’ walking tour

Right: RLP students during the Siege of Leningrad tour

    Students’ emotions and attention level play an important role in language learning. Always in search of new approaches and methodologies to make the learning process more rewarding, our language professors recently introduced interactive whiteboards to the CIEE classroom.  Our professors find that the adoption of multimedia directly affects cognitive processes and improves language acquisition.

    ‘The Interactive Whiteboard makes learning process more dynamic, allows the visualization of concepts through pictures, video clips, maps, and more. Students listen to recordings with samples of intonation constructions, write their own dialogues using photos and try to find familiar intonation patterns in video clips.

    Pictures and an e-quill allows teachers to demonstrate the exact position of tongue for students, as they are speaking. Students are actively engaged in class – they use the interactive whiteboard to study transcription, making learning more productive.

    A compulsory element of every listening comprehension class is listening to a speech pattern and repeating it without looking at the text. The interactive whiteboard has a feature especially for that task – the teacher can ‘hide’ certain parts of displayed text to encourage students to practice more on their own and not simply read the same sentence over and over again.’

Anna Olegovna Fedotova, Phonetics and Listening Comprehension professor

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Anna Olegovna explaining complex aspects of Russian phonetics using the interactive whiteboard

    Van Holthenrichs (Pennsylvania State University), a student in Anna Fedotova’s class, shares his impressions of phonetics class:

    ‘In this particular class we watch an assortment of video clips on numerous different topics. After each video we do some in class exercises about it, answer questions and discuss our thoughts on the video. It’s very good listening practice because, for me, it’s very difficult to hear and understand the news, films, etc. in Russian due to the speed, poor sound quality, and a number of new, difficult words. However, in this class we’ve been taught to better listen to and understand Russian in video format, more Russian words, and a number of new language constructions. And if we ever have a problem in class, Anna Fedotova, our teacher, is always ready to lend a helpful hand.’

 

CONTINUING CIEE’S LONG TRADITION OF GUEST LECTURES

    This summer CIEE welcomed Dr. Vlad Strukov who joined our faculty for the first time, and our students were given a unique opportunity to attend a guest lecture on patriotism in Russia — ‘What do we see if we turn off the TV: Patriotism in Russia’. Dr. Strukov’s experience and vast academic and research background in the subject of patriotism in Russia was a fitting addition to our “Russian Seasons” program.

    David Pasmanik (Seton Hall University) reflects on his experience in Dr. Strukov’s lecture:

    ‘Recently, I had the pleasure to attend a lecture by Dr. Vlad Strukov — a very talented researcher —   detailing how the people of Russia manifest their patriotism. Unlike America, Russians don’t display giant flags and banners on their homes and in the street — but rather they have a tendency to take pride in the aspects of their country that are unrelated to their government. Examples of such include their rich history, complex literature, and stunning art. Conversely, the presenter also made it apparent that the places where Russians felt least patriotic were all related to the government including; the quality of their healthcare, the robustness of their education system, and the strength of their economy.  Dr. Strukov explained this — in part — due to the fact that, as a country with a stunning amount of different ethnic groups, Russia should be seen more as a conglomeration, a coalition of different peoples; this explains as to why there is a certain lack of unification, and henceforth patriotism, in the Russian government. Overall, the lecture was a fascinating look into the average Russian’s views on patriotism which is manifested very differently compared to America.’

David in Moscow

EXPERIENCING LANGUAGE IN THE CITY

    For CIEE students the adventure begins as soon as they land – the first week in St. Petersburg our students participate in a Scavenger Hunt, an opportunity for the students to explore and get a sense of the city in just two hours. In completing the Scavenger Hunt, students get out of their comfort zones and use Russian language in a variety of situations. Finding a place to purchase tickets to a soccer game seems easy until you have to do it all in Russian! After completing the tasks, students not only get the lay of the land, but also learn basic survival skills for living in the vibrant city of St. Petersburg. Winners of the Scavenger Hunt received tickets to Manon Lescaut, one of Puccini’s early operas.

    CIEE encourages students to get the most of their language learning experience by offering them opportunities to participate in events that revolve around speaking Russian in a variety of situations. Learning in class is only one part of the process-- being surrounded by Russian-speaking environment, as our students attest, greatly contributes to classroom learning.

    Anthony Janocko (University of Pennsylvania) shares a story about his adventures in St. Petersburg:

    ‘In addition to our language classes, there are innumerable opportunities to speak Russian while immersed in Saint-Petersburg. I had a family friend living in the city and it was great having her show me around. Half way through the summer, she broke her leg and could not leave her apartment for a week. In order to help, I agreed to run some errands. My friend directed me to a traditional Russian market where I successfully purchased caviar and salo (lard) while communicating only in Russian. These are the types of immersion experiences CIEE not only encourages, but rewards.’

Anthony Janocko

    Ronan Sefton (University of Vermont) reflects on how living in St. Petersburg challenges you to speak the language:

    ‘Before coming to Russia as any American student might do, I had many ideas as to what it may be like, and how the people would be that I can now say are close to me. An average day would consist of waking up, engaging in the morning ritual with my host family of struggling through tiredly remembering phrases in Russian as I eat a delicious traditional Russia breakfast. (Kasha, Blini) Its moments like that which make a study abroad unique, as you are putting yourself in a situation where you are forced to use the language, and you can always find a way. With my host brother, a common ritual would be walking through the maze of parks in a not so "Petersburg" area, as where I lived was far out from the center of the city. The area was unique in terms of anything I had ever seen, from what looked like abandoned buildings to tall, almost skyscraper like ones that were familiar to Soviet Architecture.’

Рома и Ленин

CIEE TRAVEL ENDEAVOURS

    The Summer Russian Language Program gives students the opportunity to travel outside of St. Petersburg and glimpse life beyond the culture capital. Over the past two months, CIEE students embarked on two journeys. First, student spent a weekend in Veliky Novgorod, the ‘Birthplace of Russia’ and historic center for trade, literacy, democracy and the spread of Orthodoxy. Later, they spent a long weekend discovering Moscow, the capital and historical, architectural and business center of Russia.

 

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 Left: Russian Language students on a Kremlin Tour in Moscow

Right: Brian Zdancewicz (Pennsylvania State University) and Molly O’Brien (University of Washington-Seattle Campus) in Novgorod

    Lera Osipov (Pennsylvania State University) describes differences between Novgorod and Saint Petersburg:

    ‘Last weekend, we took a break from St. Petersburg's urban scenery and traveled to one of Russia's most ancient cities, Velikiy Novgorod. Rich with several centuries of history, the quiet countryside whispered times of Old Russia. One of my favorite places we visited was Vitoslavlisty, an outdoor exhibition of intricate izbas dating back to the 16th century. The wooden village is essentially a Russian fairy-tale brought to life. Velikiy Novgorod provided us with a different cultural experience of the narodnost’, or spirit of the Russian people far from St. Peterburg's historic elegance.’

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Left: Elen Gasparyan (University of California-EAP) dressed in traditional Russian dress

Right: Lera Osipov (Pennsylvania State University), Meryl Press (University of California-EAP), Ainsley Walker (University of Virginia-Main Campus), Simran Jagtiani (Carnegie Mellon University) and Maddy Martin (University of California-EAP)

CULTURAL IMMERSION

    This summer marked the anniversary of our Pub Quiz. First introduced in the spring of 2013, this now traditional event is aimed at bringing Russian students and CIEE students together. Over the course of three years our staff has mastered the art of writingt trivia questions that are not only entertaining, but also challenging and educational. Every three weeks CIEE staff and Russian volunteers put their heads together to come up with questions that test our students’ knowledge of Russian language and culture.

    Casey Symons (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) reflects on his experience with CIEE’s events and excursions this summer:

    ‘The CIEE excursions with Russian students were some of the best. The Pub Quiz nights allowed for the most interaction while maintaining a casual atmosphere. Speaking with them helped to build conservational skills as well as confidence speaking with Russians. Our encounters provided insight into the similarities between cultures. Overall, it greatly increased our perspective on what it means to be a student abroad.’

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Left: Brenna Fisher (Pennsylvania State University), Kylie Doran (Pennsylvania State University), Alex Albrecht (Colgate University), Jake Hansen (University of Washington-Seattle Campus) and Nastya Kostina CIEE RASP Student Services Assistant playing board games at our traditional Game Night

Right: Casey Symons (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities), Liam Fitzmorris (Dickinson College), Alex Albrecht (Colgate University), Andrew Walters (University of California-EAP), David Pasmanik (Seton Hall University) and Ayza Privalova, our Russian Buddy singing Russian songs at CIEE Karaoke Night with Russian students

 

HOST FAMILIES: GETTING A GLIMPSE INTO MYSTERIOUS RUSSIAN SOUL

    CIEE students in St. Petersburg live in homestays, an experience that adds a valuable dimension to their experience in Russia. After all, what can provide a better look into everyday Russian life than living with a host family?

    Laine Mines (Ohio State University-Main Campus) shares the impact living with a host family had on her understanding of the Russian culture:

    ‘Understanding culture to the fullest potential is only possible through the immersive experience of living with and like another person from an opposite culture. I feel that the Russian soul can be glimpsed at through observing closely the mundane daily rituals of a person and culture. The most important objective for those coming to Russia is to really learn the language, not just memorize vocabulary. Living with a Russian pushes your education to limits hard to reach in a classroom back in the states. It is a unique and once in a lifetime opportunity to live like a family in Russia, regardless if there are future plans to live here because you are treated as a son, daughter, or respected guest. I can tell that my host mother really cares about what I am doing and how I am. She also had the difficult task of preparing vegetarian food for me and I have rarely eaten one meal twice. She's an amazing cook! I really love waking up to the smell of blini being made.’

 

    In the late 1890s George Rapall Noyes, a pioneering scholar of Russian language and Slavic culture, studied abroad in Saint Petersburg. He struggled with understanding the language – nothing seemed to ease his frustration towards his attempts to speak and be understood and nothing seemed to change no matter how hard he tried. But he persevered and stayed, eventually not only learning Russian, but becoming one of its great scholars.

    Mr. Noyes’ story likely resonates with most study abroad students. Living in a foreign country and learning a foreign language can be frustrating. But students on CIEE’s Summer Russian Language Program took advantage of opportunities to engage with the language and culture and persevered.  We wish our students the best of luck in all of their future endeavors and more great achievements with the Russian language! As we like to say in Russia, Terpenie i trud vse peretrut (Russian: Little strokes fell great oaks)

 

 

S nailuchshimi pozhelaniyami (Best regards),

Katya Kavchenko, Student Services Assistant

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Katya Rubtsova, Program Coordinator

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Dr. Irina Makoveeva, Center Director

 

08/16/2016

Summer 2016 RASP Session III

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    As the summer season is slowly winding down, and the Saint Petersburg nights are starting to get longer and darker, the CIEE Summer Russian Area Studies students are already reflecting on the one, two, or even three months that they have spent studying with CIEE in Saint Petersburg. CIEE’s worldwide summer framework allows students to participate in consecutive one-month sessions throughout the summer. Students can independently design their summer with CIEE by choosing to participate in only one session, to combine their sessions and spend two or three months in one location, or to complement the one-session experience in Saint Petersburg with sessions in other CIEE locations. No matter what track they chose, all of our Session Three Russian Area Studies students have definitely accomplished their incredible goals, both academically and culturally.

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Summer RAS students during the field trip to the town of Pushkin, home to the stunning Catherine’s Palace and the Amber Room. L. to R.: Andrew Kroninger (Middle Tennessee State University), Christopher Majesky (Pennsylvania State University), Amanda Sepp (University of Pittsburgh), Piper Foulon (Pacific Lutheran University), and Kirby Shramuk (University of Pittsburgh)

SUMMER ACADEMIC ENDEAVORS

    Nothing describes Saint Petersburg better than the vision of hundreds of museums featuring artistic, historical, architectural, and cultural heritage of the city and the whole country in its imperial, soviet, and contemporary eras. Being a CIEE student in this city encourages exploration and ignites interest, as summer intensive in-class learning is always augmented by class field trips and excursions to the main historical and cultural sites.

    While the first two sessions of CIEE Summer RAS Program invited students to explore Russian history, to study cultural myths and realities of St. Petersburg, and to engage in analyzing contemporary art through the prism of socio-political context, the third session offered the courses on Russian Civilization and on the arts of St. Petersburg. Both courses taught by prominent CIEE St. Petersburg professors truly unravel the essence of Russian traditionalism, spirituality, conformism, and other popular stereotypes and the evolution of Saint Petersburg art from its birth in the early 18th century up to the present day, respectively.

THE ARTS OF ST. PETERSBURG

    What can be a better way to discover the Russian art if not through an interactive course taught by the leading contemporary art curator of the State Russian Museum, the largest collection of Russian art in the world?

    CIEE is very proud to have Dr. Olesya Turkina among CIEE Summer RAS faculty members. The lead curator for the State Russian Museum, the Stedelijk Museum (the Netherlands), and the Pori Art Museum (Finland), an art critic and journalist for “Flash Art International”, and an acting member of The Russian Space Federation: these accomplishments perfectly capture the versatile and vibrant professional career of Dr. Turkina.

Dr. Turkina Dr. Olesya Turkina

    The Arts of St. Petersburg course, specially designed for the CIEE students, aims to reveal the evolution of Saint Petersburg art (by exploring of works of famous writers, literature, music, and artwork) from its birth in the early 18th century through the beginning of the 21st century. By the means of rigorous in-class learning, individual research projects, and engaging study of the works of art Dr.Turkina takes the students on an adventure of the Russian art and its symbolism.

    Piper Foulon (Pacific Lutheran University), a student in the Arts of St. Petersburg course, shares the impressions that the course left on her:

            The Arts of St. Petersburg was one of the most profound learning experiences I have ever had. Our physical proximity to so many important works made the class deeply engaging and completely singular.  Our professor was simultaneously an expert, a mentor, an encouraging teacher, and a friend.  I felt so incredibly lucky for the entire duration of the class.

    Creativity and well-roundedness indeed are some of characteristics of CIEE content-based courses, and Dr. Turkina’s Arts of St. Petersburg is an outstanding example of this! Throughout the whole month, the students enjoyed regular class field trips, which perfectly complement the in-class learning with presentations and analytical readings. The course includes visits to the Academy of Arts, the State Russian Museum and its Benois Wing, the Non-Conformism Museum, and the Saint Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music.

    During one of such afternoons spent at art galleries and museums, the CIEE students under the Professor’s guidance participated in an authentic ballet dancing lesson, while learning about the Russian ballet icons and history.

Theater museum field trip

L. to R.: Amanda Sepp (University of Pittsburgh), Ryan Torres (Muhlenberg College), Andrew Kroninger (Middle Tennessee State University), Kirby Shramuk (University of Pittsburgh), Geoff Putman (University of California-EAP), Piper Foulon (Pacific Lutheran University)

CIEE WANDERLUST  

    It might seem that one month is time hardly enough to explore Saint Petersburg and all that it has to offer, but the CIEE Summer RAS students are proving that you can accomplish so much more beyond this, even if you have only four weeks in Russia. During this program, our students have traveled to Moscow with the CIEE Intercultural Comparative Experience, to the medieval town of Vyborg that lies to the West of Saint Petersburg, and to the Sukhodolskoe Lake resort for a full day of exploring nature and enjoying outdoor sports and activities.

ALL ROADS LEAD TO MOSCOW

    CIEE’s global Intercultural Comparative Experience weekends are designed to help students see the destination city from an in-depth perspective and broaden their horizons by expanding intercultural awareness and gaining the unique insight into country’s history.

    While Saint Petersburg perfectly captures Russian imperial heritage, Moscow indeed provides an incredible overview of the soviet period of the Russian history, and our CIEE students have learned this for themselves having spent three days in the heart and the capital of Russia, Moscow. During the eventful three days, the students got to walk on the Grounds of the Moscow Kremlin, see the Armory Chamber collections and the Assumption Cathedral interiors, and witness the largest cannon in the world, Tsar Cannon, and the Tsar Bell—evidently, the heaviest bell known to exist in the world today.

    Besides Moscow’s musts, such as the State Tretyakov Gallery or the Red Square framed by the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral, the incredible GUM department store (and its famous ice-cream!), and the State Historical Museum, the students additionally enjoyed their time at Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy, formerly known as All-Russia Exhibition Centre, the Space Museum, the Jewish Museum and the Center of Tolerance, and much more!

Moscow, near the Tsar Cannon and the Lunch picture

    Zachary Hudson, University of Oklahoma Norman Campus, shared his key impressions of the CIEE trip to Moscow:

            Being able to see this great city not only as a tourist, but as a student of history and international relations through CIEE, has given me an invaluable set of experiences that I could not possibly gain anywhere else.

Group photo in fronnt of Moscow State University

CIEE Summer RAS students in front of the Moscow State University on Sparrow Hills 

    The Summer Russian Area Studies students agree that one cannot explore everything that Moscow has to offer during the three days, and they all are looking forward to coming back one day, but what is definitely true is that CIEE’s Intercultural Comparative Experience is a perfect format for experiencing such an incredible city, especially during the first-time trip.

THE WONDERS OF MEDIEVAL VYBORG

    One of the program weekends was highlighted by a journey to Vyborg, a medieval old town which dates back to 1293 and is known to have the most versatile and sophisticated architecture in the Leningrad Region. During the one-day field trip, the CIEE students had an opportunity to see the history unravel in front of their eyes during the guided tour at the Vyborg Castle and participated in the open-air clay modeling master class among stunning nature and authentic 17th century stone towers.

Vyborg

    We can’t leave out the fact that language learning and advancement followed the students throughout all of the program adventures. As Professor Aksyonova, the Communicative Russian Language instructor shared with us at the end of the summer, the consistent homework assignment for the students was using Russian on all of their trips and excursions: from ordering food and asking for directions to reading and grasping everything that they come across on their way. No doubt tour guides, homestay families, and Russian peers were constantly impressed with our students’ impeccable motivation and effort!

SAINT PETERSBURG TRIPS AND EXCURSIONS

    The month with CIEE Russian Area Studies was filled with activities and events that truly deepened students’ understanding of Russia, Russians, Russian history, and Russian culture. From simple joys like attending a real Russian banya [traditional wooden bathhouse] and swimming in the Sukhodolskoe Lake during a program one-day getaway to exploring the gems of the State Hermitage and the Catherine’s Palace, our students have come a long way in expanding their knowledge and perception of Russia.

City excursions and trips

Left: CIEE Summer RAS students during the guided tour to the Menshikov Palace, a branch of the State Hermitage Museum

Right: Kirby Shramuk (University of Pittsburgh), Christopher Majesky (Pennsylvania State University), and Piper Foulon (Pacific Lutheran University) at the Catherine’s Palace Park

    What a productive and memorable summer we have been having at the CIEE Study Center in Saint Petersburg! Dissolving barriers, both language and cultural, is never easy, but is always very rewarding. We would like to wish our summer 2016 Russian Area Studies students all the best in their future endeavors, and we are looking forward to the day when our paths cross again!

 

Vsego khoroshego (All the best),

The CIEE 2016 Summer RASP Team

Nastya Kostina, Student Services Assistant

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Dr. Irina Makoveeva, Center Director

07/18/2016

Summer 2016 RASP Session II

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    As the summer season in Petersburg unravels, and the warm sunny weather is conquering, although slowly and unsteadily, the majestic city of St. Petersburg, we are starting to reflect on the past four weeks that our Summer Russian Area Studies students have spent in the cultural cradle of Russia. The students stepped off the plane during the grand peak of the White Nights season, and right in time to attend the annual Scarlet Sails festival that charms the city and its guests, as the massive yet elegant ship with bright red sails is maneuvering along the Neva River. This annual tradition is a part of the unique show celebrating high school graduates, and it inherits its name from the famous story by Alexander Grin published in 1922 and cherished by many generations after. The story instills hope for the bright future and perseverance in one’s pursuit for a dream.

Scarlet sailsAllison Olmer (University of Nebraska–Lincoln), Kirby Shramuk (University of Pittsburgh), Natasha Anisimova (Oregon State University), Maureen Marsh (Dickinson College), and Sierra Holling (University of Oklakhoma–Norman) on the evening of the Scarlet Sails festival

    Alexander Grin’s story strongly resonates with our inspiring study abroad students, who chose the challenges of getting acquainted with life in a new country while advancing academically over a mellow summer back in their hometowns or around college campuses. One of the most rewarding challenges this summer has definitely been the rigorous academic program that students enroll in as a part of their four-week summer session with CIEE.

INTENSIVE SUMMER COURSES

    As a part of the worldwide CIEE initiative to encourage student mobility and intercultural awareness, CIEE St. Petersburg Summer Russian Area Studies Program has adopted the three consecutive four-week sessions of studies format. During each session, a student participant may choose an intensive core course and additionally complement this experience with the one-credit hands-on Communicative Russian Language discipline.

THE POLITICS OF THE IMAGE AND THE IMAGE OF THE POLITICS

    During one rainy morning in Smolny, a newly arrived summer RAS student dropped by the CIEE Student Services office, and humbly asked what the staff thought about the nature of speed in this world. Among millions of daily questions relating to the city metro system, Russian food, Russian rubles, and simply getting around town, this question definitely stood out as something extraordinary and curious. The staff spent a few minutes contemplating this sole essence of speed, before they finally found courage to ask what ignited such interest in the meaning of things. “It’s for Dr. Strukov’s class”, explained the student, as they were hastily getting ready to leave the office and catch up with some of their fellow classmates on the way out.

Pr. Strukov's classPosters from Dr. Strukov's class presentations

    This summer, Dr. Vlad Strukov joined the CIEE faculty for the first time, and his rich academic and research background proves that we could not dream of a better fit for the CIEE summer short-term academic endeavors. Dr. Strukov is an Associate Professor in Film and Digital Cultures at the University of Leeds in the UK. In the past, Dr. Strukov spent four years working as a visiting researcher and as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Professor Strukov has also held teaching and research positions at universities of Helsinki, London, Edinburgh, Leuven, Voronezh, and Moscow.

Dr. Strukov Profile

    Not only is Dr. Strukov an experienced and knowledgeable professor, but he is also very passionate about his subject, and he is constantly working on engaging projects that focus on visual aspects of contemporary culture.

    Dr. Strukov’s interest in film, animation, social media, art, and celebrity culture focusing on Russia in the 21st century became the key component of an intensive Russian Area Studies course on concepts of visual Russian art of 20th and 21st centuries.

     Sierra Holling (The University of Oklahoma), a student in the Politics of The Image class, reflects on her experience this session:

    “Dr. Strukov's class was very analytical and focuses on critical thinking. He challenged us to draw connections between complex ideas, a very useful and transferrable skill. This class definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone.

    Just like all CIEE Summer RASP courses, this particular course complemented the rigorous in-class learning with assigned readings, individual and group project presentations, and interactive field trips to various museums and galleries of Saint Petersburg, including Erarta, the biggest contemporary art museum in Russia, the State Russian Museum, Sergey Kuryokhin contemporary art center, and many others. While studying abroad in Saint Petersburg with CIEE this summer, the students certainly learned different concepts and constructs of the contemporary art theory, and in addition further developed their critical thinking and analytical skills, and indeed got to see the Venice of the North in a whole new light.

Pr. Strukov field tripDr. Strukov, Andrew Kroninger (Middle Tennessee State University), Erin Tupman (The College of Wooster), Sierra Holling (University of Oklakhoma), Christopher Majesky (Pennsylvania State University), and Geoffrey Putman (University of California) during the final class field trip 

 

CIEE Intercultural Comparative Experience: Valaam, the Land of Light

Valaam boat picture

    “The land of light”, or “the land of vow” are a few probable translations of the name of Valaam archipelago, which derives from the Finnish language. During one of the RAS program weekends, CIEE Summer Russian Area Studies students headed to Valaam, a remote archipelago in Lake Ladoga, the largest lake in Europe. Valaam is located to the North of Saint Petersburg, and it has been historically known for the site of the 14th century Valaam Monastery of Transfiguration of the Savior and for its incredibly beautiful nature. 

    The two days of this journey inspired the exploration of spiritual heritage that Orthodoxy holds in the Russian culture. The prolific lecture by CIEE’s professor Dr. Loshenkov on the nature of dual faith and spiritualism in the Russian culture prepared the students to the comprehensive CIEE Intercultural Comparative Experience filed trip. The program route went through the remarkable places such as the Valaam Monastery and the authentic secluded monk skids, all with the stunning background of breathtaking nature.

Valaam hike on the islandCIEE RASP students during the Valaam hike, exploring the nature and learning about the monk skids

    Erin Tupman, Russian language student from the College of Wooster, shared her insights on the trip and the impact it had on her understanding of the Russian culture:

    “The trip to Valaam greatly enhanced my understanding of Russian cultural history. The monastery is not like anything I had seen before, and walking through it and the outlying skids showed me that I hadn't—and couldn't have—understood Orthodoxy without experiencing it in person. I'm definitely a better person because of it, and am glad it challenged what I thought I knew.

    During the Valaam trip, CIEE students tasted local farm food and attended the church choir performance. It goes without saying that the group was pleasantly surprised to meet many cats on the way, and these little island inhabitants indeed became the main target of students’ cameras!

Valaam food tasting + playing with cats

CULTURAL IMMERSION: GAME NIGHTS WITH RUSSIAN PEERS, NIGHT AT THE BALLET, AND GEORGIAN COOKING CLASS

    Between challenging academic courses, thought provoking field trips, and learning to live in a big Russian city, our students succeeded in participating in various extracurricular aspects of the CIEE Summer Russian Area Studies program as well.

    What can be a greater asset in understanding how Russians live, if not a chance to meet Russian peers and spend a gorgeous afternoon in one of Saint Petersburg parks playing board games and charades? Playing on a team with Russian friends and learning to explain concepts with the help of both languages indeed inspired students learning and striving to discover different layers of the hosting culture.

Game Night 3

    Going beyond the scope of tasting traditional Russian cuisine at the homestay families’ kitchens, the CIEE students have also mastered their skills in cooking Georgian dishes, such as kharcho soup and khachapuri cheese-filled bread. Georgian cuisine has always been very popular among Russians, and learning about Georgian traditions while learning how to cook alongside with the Russian friends is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon!  

    A night at one of Saint Petersburg majestic theaters is a must for every study abroad student, and CIEE Summer Russian Area Studies students are no exception! The students spent one magnificent evening at Saint Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Theater, first opened in 1833, enjoying the classical “Sleeping Beauty” ballet.

Ballet

L. to R.: Sierra Holling (The University of Oklahoma), Kirby Shramuk (University of Pittsburgh), Erin Tupman (Wooster College), CIEE Student Services Assistant Nastya Kostina, Kareli Moreno (University of California), and Maureen Marsh (Dickinson College) at the Mikhailovsky Theater

    The summer is still in its full swing, and CIEE Study Center in Saint Petersburg is looking forward to welcoming the final, third, session of Summer Russian Area Studies program here already next week!

    We would like to wish all the best of luck to our Session Two Summer RASP students, hoping to see all of them returning to Russia in the future, for business, academic, or traveling purposes.

 

S nailuchshimi pozhelaniyami (Best regards),

 

Nastya Kostina, Student Services Assistant

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Dr. Irina Makoveeva, Center Director

06/22/2016

Summer 2016 RASP Session I

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    The school year seems to have come to its close, but striving, achieving, and learning definitely continued beyond it for our intrepid Summer Russian Area Studies students! The group arrived in Russia at the end of May, when even northern Saint Petersburg started to see some pleasantly warm days. A whole month abroad proved to be just the right amount of time to explore all the gems and wonders of Saint Petersburg, to get the feel of the enigmatic Russian soul, and to delve into studying Russian history and conjugating these tricky Russian verbs.

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The Summer RAS students touring the State Hermitage Museum under the guidance of CIEE Excursions Coordinator Julia Semibratova

UBIQUITOUS LEARNING

This summer as always, the beautiful CIEE Smolny campus opened its doors to the incoming CIEE students. From getting used to being in class for long 90-minute sessions to studying motion verbs, the students have definitely found the CIEE academic experience to be rigorous and quite challenging. 

CIEE Russian Area Studies summer session format provides students with a unique framework for learning: in short four weeks, students take an intensive content-based course of their choice on a variety of subjects in history, art, political science, cinema, or sociology. In addition, CIEE meets students’ needs by offering an additional one-credit Communicative Russian Language course. This uniquely designed course boosts students’ development of communicative skills and advances their ability to confidently express their thoughts in Russian in both descriptive and narrative mode. In the course of four weeks, CIEE language instructors strive to accommodate the needs of students with different level of comprehension. At the end of the program, all Session I RASP students made their individual presentations on a range of topics: from detailed story about their family, to an in-depth description of the CIEE trip to Moscow!

Erin Price, CIEE Summer RASP student, shares her thoughts on the Summer RAS Communicative Russian Language course:

“Dr. Makoveeva made Russian language something I no longer have to be afraid of! Her patience and understanding made me want to work harder and really learn Russian. Her ability to make Russian relevant to our interests (including, but not limited to, her use of Cheburashka [character in children's literature, created by Soviet writer E. Uspensky] in her lessons) made the class enjoyable and full of laughter.”

Discovering Russian history and at the same time putting a lot of effort in perfecting Russian language skills through the Communicative Russian Language course, students learned to balance in-class learning with class field trips and additional program excursions and events.

 

Erin Price in class

Erin during her final presentation in Communicative Russian Language class
 

EXPLORING THE CITY

    It is virtually impossible not to fall in love with the majestic Saint Petersburg, especially when you explore the city during the white nights season, when the sun merely goes down. City’s vibrant culture, stunning palaces and residences, glorious rivers and canals enchanted our CIEE students and ignited the desire to keep on exploring with the help of CIEE’s rich extracurricular program.

Church of Spilled BloodL. to R.: CIEE Student Services Coordinator Ira Vasilyeva, Kirby Shramuk (University of Pittsburgh), Jefferson Brewer (University of Utah), Taylor Murphy (Fairfield University), and Erin Price pictured in front of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

    They say that to see the entire Hermitage, one needs 11 years, considering they spend at least a few seconds in front of every masterpiece. Although we did not have the eleven years, the students acquired a very comprehensive impression of the whole city. The first day all-encompassing city walking tour was skillfully complemented by the State Hermitage Museum excursion, by the Peter and Paul Fortress visit, and by a daylong trip to Peterhof palace and garden complex, and many more. With the help of CIEE Russian Buddies, the Summer RAS students received an opportunity to visit the Summer Garden on the City’s 313th birthday, which fell on the very first week of the program.

             Kirby Shramuk (University of Pittsburgh)
reflects on her experience with CIEE’s tours and excursions this session:

                “One of the best parts about studying abroad in St. Petersburg is seeing all of the rich history the city has to offer. The museums are my absolute favorite part of this beautiful city, because every time I go, there is something new to discover! Even on the street, there is no shortage of historical value; the architecture tells the story of the city. Overall, all of our excursions to various sites around the city have made my experience in Peter amazing and peachy keen!” 

    It is definitely impossible to see and explore everything that the city has to offer; and this provides our students with a wonderful reason to come to Russia many more times in the future!

Students in Summer Garden

CIEE RAS students, pictured in front of a Summer Garden fountain

 

CIEE Intercultural Comparative Experience, or All Roads Lead to Moscow!

    By the time the unpredictable Saint Petersburg weather started to resemble March much more than June, the CIEE students packed their bags and embarked on a weekend getaway journey to the capital and the heart of Russia, Moscow!

Admiring (aka snapchating) the Red Square!

RAS students taken aback by the beautiful Red Square in Moscow 

    The three days in Moscow helped the students to see the other side of Russia, to focus on the vast Soviet background, to trace the history of the city back to its founding date of 1147, and to spend a fun afternoon exploring the city with the local Russian students, CIEE Russian Buddies of the CIEE Moscow Study Center.

    Taylor Murphy (Fairfield University) helps us learn more about the unforgettable CIEE trip to Moscow:

    “After three weeks in St Petersburg, our weekend in Moscow presented us with a different experience from the city we had become so accustomed to. At every point, we were able to see the differences between the two cities that we had learned about in our history class. I was able to not only bond with our group but also learn firsthand by interacting with the Moscow students. It was such a beautiful place filled with so much history and it was a privilege to share this experience with people who have become like a second family to me. One of my favorite experiences was the Moscow Metro tour by our Center Director. It was so exciting learning from someone who lived there about the history behind the beautiful stations. This was such an amazing addition to an already amazing time abroad and it is absolutely something I will never forget.”

Moscow City Quest and Moscow Metro Tour

Left: CIEE Russian Buddy (Moscow) Olga Monosilova (MGIMO), Jefferson Brewer (University of Utah), and Taylor Murphy (Fairfield University) sampling delicious GUM (department store) ice cream during the Moscow City Quest

Right: Jefferson Brewer (University of Utah), Kirby Shramuk (University of Pittsburgh), Taylor Murphy (Fairfield University), and CIEE Center Director Dr. Irina Makoveeva pictured at Komsomolskaya metro station, opened in 1952

    From seeing Lenin’s body at the famous Mausoleum to the Moscow metro tour and a local Jewish community visit, Moscow proved to be the city of contrasts and showed the students how diverse, historical, yet contemporary the Russia’s capital can be. A home to over 12 million people, the city is constantly growing and changing, at the same time retaining its charming charisma.

At Sparrow Hills, in front of 53-storied building of Moscow State University

RAS students pictured in front of the Moscow State University building (one of the seven famous Stalin sister towers) at Sparrow Hills

CULTURAL IMMERSION

    Nothing says Russia better than the time spent together with newly found Russian friends learning about traditions, customs and daily life.  Our CIEE students are incredibly lucky to be actively introduced to the local community of inspired Russian students, who are always looking forward to help their American peers understand Russia and its, at times unpredictable, ways.

    As we are looking back now, it is hard to believe how much the students have accomplished in the seemingly short four weeks.

    From restlessly touring almost every museum of Saint Petersburg to traveling to Moscow for a weekend of CIEE Intercultural Comparative Experience, the students appreciated every chance to make the most out of their time in Russia. To top the educational, cultural and historical engagement, the CIEE Russian Area Studies students even visited the real Russian bathhouse (banya) and mastered the skill of cooking famous borsch soup and Russian crepes (blini)!

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During the Russian cuisine cooking master class

    Jefferson Brewer (University of Utah) shares how much he valued CIEE’s efforts in facilitating and promoting cultural immersion:

    “The many different cultural experiences we have been able to enjoy have certainly made our time here in St. Petersburg a much richer experience.  We aren't just tourists who have come to see the city (although the city is INCREDIBLE), but we have had the pleasure of learning how to make real, home-made borsch soup in a Russian's home; local students have taken time out of their busy finals week schedules to take us to the Russian sauna to show us the real way how to relax.  It has been wonderful to see many of the more "touristy" attractions, but the best parts have been when we have done what the locals do, seen how they live and like to spend their time.”

ДО НОВЫХ ВСТРЕЧ!

    The CIEE Summer Russian Area Studies program might be ending, but we are certain that our students will carry this experience in their hearts and minds for many years ahead. As the end of a study abroad program is just a beginning of a lifelong journey of discovering your passions, expanding your knowledge and promoting the values of understanding, cooperating and building friendships that last.

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    With this in mind, we are not saying «Прощай!» [Russian: “Farewell!”], we are saying «До свидания, и до новых встреч!» [Russian: “Goodbye, until we meet again!”]

 

S nailuchshimi pozhelaniyami (Best regards),

 

Nastya Kostina, Student Services Assistant

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Dr. Irina Makoveeva, Center Director

05/30/2016

SPRING 2016, ISSUE II

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            As the CIEE Spring 2016 semester draws to a close, we’re taking a stroll down the memory lane. During this bittersweet last week, the halls of Smolny are filled with excitement as students are preparing for their final exams and taking their Oral Proficiency Interviews. Each student has put their heart and soul into shaping this experience, and now it is time to say goodbye to the city they have grown to call home for the past four months.

IMG_7940A photo of CIEE Study Center Smolny hallway decorated with the students’ memorable photos

 

WALKING THE STREETS OF MOSCOW

            Last month our students packed their bags for the CIEE's traditional trip to Moscow! The capital and historical, architectural and business center of Russia, Moscow displays the country's contrasts at their most extreme.

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            They say Moscow is the head, and Saint Petersburg is the heart of Russia. After spending two months in the “heart of Russia”, our students took a trip to Moscow, the capital of Russia.  Saint Petersburg has always been called the “window on Europe”. This has developed in a sense of European-ness that both connects Russia to Western Europe and serves as a distinction from the rest of Russia. Moscow, on the other hand, has a very pronounced sense of that Russian-ness.

            Jeremy Hunt (Rutgers University) reflects on his experience of traveling to Moscow with the CIEE group:

            “Our class trip to Moscow was filled with a sense of excitement and adventure. Sharing this experience of such an amazing city with the other students was a once in a lifetime experience and is something I will never forget.

            Saint Petersburg and Moscow illustrate two unique perspectives of Russia; they give you a snapshot of what Russia is about and paint a very unique, relevant, yet distinct portrait of Russian culture. While in Moscow, students went exploring the Kremlin, visited the Armory, which has a stunning collection of all things imperial, and one of Moscow's most famous art museums, the Tretyakov Gallery, or the Museum of Contemporary History.

            After the end of an events-packed weekend, our students embarked on independent journeys exploring Russian cities and countries outside of Russia!

 

ALTERNATIVE BREAK: AN INSIDER’S LOOK INTO RUSSIA

            Every semester, the CIEE Study Center in Petersburg offers its students the opportunity to travel to a small, provincial Russian town, and experience, through a week of volunteer activities, an unfiltered look into Russia. Alternative Break, our relatively new program, is aimed at showing students more of authentic Russian life. It allows students to see Russia from another perspective and learn more about the culture, the people, traditions and beliefs. Our students are also offered numerous volunteering options like helping at an animal shelter, working with the elderly, park clean-up and language and culture lessons. This semester, students were offered to travel to the far north and spend a week volunteering in Tula, located 193 kilometers south of Moscow.

            Rinyuda “Pa” Promphenrangsi (Lewis & Clark College) shares her opinion of the Alternative Break in Tula:

                “My experience in Tula was unforgettable. I got to make friends with so many Russian students, who also did the volunteering works with us. I also learned about another side of Russia, like lives in a small city. Tula might not have a lot going on as a city, but people there are so nice and kind. That's what made my Tula's experience one of my best study abroad experiences.”

Alternative Break in Tula

Left: Kendall Gildersleeve (University of Rochester), Taylor Wilson (Vanderbilt University) and Pa Promphenrangsi (Lewis & Clark College) with their Russian friends from Tula (organization “Volunteer 71”)

Right: Jessie Kim (University of Washington-Seattle Campus), Taylor Wilson (Vanderbilt University), Kendall Gildersleeve (University of Rochester) and Pa Promphenrangsi (Lewis & Clark College) in front of the Tula Armory Museum

 

CIEE WANDERLUST

            Every semester our students also have a week-long break where they can travel within or outside of Russia. This spring, we’ve traveled from Norway to Vladivostok, Russia’s San Francisco. While some of us daydream about globetrotting and seeing, our students use every opportunity to see the world.

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The map of places in Russia and Europe where the CIEE Spring 2016 students traveled to during their Independent Travel Week

CONQUERING SIBERIA

            This semester’s award for the most adventurous journey goes to a group of students who travelled across Russia to see the Lake Baikal and Vladivostok the biggest Russian port city at the east and the final stop of the Trans-Siberian. Lake Baikal is the crown jewel of Russia's natural inheritance and has incredible scenery on display.


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Katherine Baum (University of Rochester)
takes us through her journey:

            “For our glorious, one-week long spring break, my newly found study abroad friends and I decided to spend four of those precious days on the Trans-Siberian Railroad in Platzcart class (last). In the first five minutes of getting on the train at one in the morning, we managed to not only wake up half of our train-car, but I had managed to climb into someone else’s bunk. After the man who had decided to take a step off the train returned, seeing his bed had been newly occupied, I was politely asked (in Russian) where I had moved all of his things to and, hysterically/embarrassedly laughing, I found the way to my actual bunk. To say the least, the train ride was an adventure and all adventures have their ups and downs.

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            The people on the train were probably the most interesting thing about the trip. We met people from all over Russia who were travelling for work, to see family members, and to sing in a singing contest as a large group. I was surprised with how warm and willing to share everyone on the train had been.  We also got to see so much from out window. The train went through fields, forests, and small towns; it gave us the opportunity to really see more of Russia. The group also had managed to get along well: even after four days, no one killed anyone! We would play Gin Rummy every day, so that by the end of the trip, we all had some idea of strategy. Those were some of the best parts about being on a train for four days.

 

 

            Of course, with good things there are small things that may be surprising. Admittedly, I was surprised by how bad one smells (and how the train-car smelled) after not taking a shower for four days. Looking back, it was not as bad as I had expected. We had many more exciting moments trying to explain the game “The Settlers of Catan” to the man who shared the six-person open-compartment with us, as well as jumping at every stop at a station for a chance to walk around and stretch our legs. 

  12670662_10153703038217881_686605286274669426_nL. to R.: Dakota Potts (Miami University-Oxford), Olivia Leggieri (University of Virginia), Rebecca Powell (Rice University), Harris Melcher (Wake Forest University) and Jenna Friedberg (George Washington University) on the frozen Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world located in Siberia

            The experience was so unique and we got to see so much of the Russian country-side. The people we interacted with gave us access to conversations we wouldn’t have had with Russians otherwise.  Now we know that the train stops allow us to get some kind of fresh food, unrefrigerated meat is not something to test our stomach with, and that we have friends that we can say we’ve spent over 90 hours with and hadn’t gotten sick of them. If I did it again I would definitely do some things differently, but I would do it again.”

 

ACADEMIC HIGHLIGHTS

            Among many challenging and all-encompassing content-based courses that Saint Petersburg CIEE Study Center offers to its semester- and year-long students is Analytical Readings. The curriculum of this course focuses on the most fundamental works of literature of 19th and 20th century in the Russian literature. The course instructor, Dr. Irina (Gennadievna) Guliakova, has been teaching at CIEE for almost three decades by now. Her inspiration, passion and expertise have become the essential component of the CIEE program curriculum. Many of the CIEE students go above and beyond and explore curious aspects of their admired writers’ lives by participating in different extracurricular events, such as “Crime and Punishment” walking tour or The Classical Theater performance based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s short story “Dream of a Ridiculous Man”.

            Fyodor Dostoevsky, one of the world's greatest authors, is our students’ most favorite writer. He is known for his penetrating psychological insights, which he developed into such complex issues as poverty, exploitation, morality, free will, the essence of good and evil, and the existence of God.

            Fyodor Dostoevsky is one of Russia's most important writers and “Crime and Punishment” novel, in which a tormented young intellectual murders an elderly, loathsome pawnbroker, is one of his most gripping works. This book captures a distinct atmosphere of Saint Petersburg, but not one that features imperial palaces, classical architectural ensembles and promenades along aristocratic Nevsky Prospekt. Instead, Dostoevsky focuses on the poor of the city, on the crowded streets, dirty alleys, and tiny rooms that these outcasts inhabited.

 

            Iain Cunningham (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), known to be CIEE’s biggest admirer of Dostoevsky’s work, shares his impressions:

                “As anyone who has read Dostoevsky knows, he spend most of his life here in Saint Petersburg, and his most famous novel, crime and punishment, as well as others, took place here in the city. And the city, although different in appearance and in time, is still the same city in which Dostoevsky lived. Through the opportunities given to us by CIEE, we were able to recognize this and furthermore imagine ourselves in Dostoevsky's time. The first thing we had the opportunity to do is attend a play / reciting of one of Dostoevsky's short stories, Сон Смешного Человека (Dream of a Ridiculous Man). I had read this story a few months before coming here to Saint Petersburg, and so although it was in Russian, I was able to understand what was happening. Moreover, it was by far the best stage performance I have ever seen, and I am not exaggerating. The story was written in first person, and therefore, the recitation was at the same time a play. There were only maybe 15 people in the room decorated with the period style and lit with candles. I cannot over-exaggerate the skull with the actor performed, or the feelings I felt there. It was absolutely amazing.

               The CIEE students also had the opportunity to go on a walking tour of all the places in «Преступление и Наказание» (Crime and Punishment). This I thought would be interesting and nothing more, but I was wrong. Not only was it interesting, but it brought the story to life. We were able to see the apartment in which Dostoevsky described Rodion Raskolnikov as living, as well as the places where other various characters may have lived. Frequently in my translation of the book was mentioned, the 'hay market', and I only found out on the tour that this place was a place I had been multiple times before. Furthermore, we walked the distance on the same streets that Raskolnikov took to the apartment of the pawnbroker, and saw the apartment in which Dostoevsky wrote his novel. We had to be reminded that these people were not real, and that they were only characters in a book, because it was so easy to imagine them as real.”

 

IMMERSION WITH RUSSIAN PEERS

            CIEE Russian Buddies go extra mile in immersing our students into Russian culture. While being surrounded by their Russian counterparts, our students learn aspects of language that cannot be replicated in a classroom. They also get to see a different side of Russia, one that is not shown by our tour guides, because our Russian Buddies seem to have unlimited pool of ideas. For instance, this semester Katya Kletkina and Sasha Keydiya, both first-year students at Saint Petersburg State University, singlehandedly organized a trip to Gatchina, the favorite residence of Emperors Paul I and Alexander III.

            Sasha Keydiya (Saint Petersburg State University) shares her experience of being a CIEE Russian Buddy:

                “How has CIEE become an integral part of my student life? For this I want to say big thank you to my first sobesednitsa (English/Russian language partner) Chloe Follis [Bates College, CIEE Fall 2015] for this new experience of intercultural communication, for strolling around the city, and rehearsing before our phenomenal performance at the "CIEE’s Got Talent” (Shout out to Anton Stepanov [CIEE Program Officer] for solos!).

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            With CIEE you start to feel a lot of responsibility for your own input in the events organized by your colleagues. Every day we gain a lot of experience and learn to be a better Russian buddy.

            My second semester with CIEE started with the traditional CIEE activity— Sobesedniki mixer. It was amazing to see our year-long students again and get to know the new students, whom we just briefly met at the airport. I want to say big thank you to the CIEE for being given the opportunity to attend the most interesting Pub Quizzes, discussion clubs, and to visit places of Saint Petersburg and its suburbs.

            You can probably tell that CIEE is very important to me and it feels great to belong to something so significant.”

         Katya Kletkina (Saint Petersburg State University) reflects on the trip to Gatchina:

            “On Sunday we visited the beautiful city of Gatchina. Sasha and I were surprised that a lot of American students were not aware of the existence of the Priory palace and Gatchina palace. We just had to fix it. Our journey started with us taking the 10AM train from the Baltic Railway Station. Interestingly, many of the students have never used a Russian commuter train before. Women selling food and clothes right in the train car left a very strong impression :) Like Zach [Zachary Hession-Smith, University of Rochester], one of our students, said, the architecture of Gatchina Palace is very similar to that of Vienna, Austria. It was not a part of the tour, but we took the opportunity to go down to the dungeon ... and luckily we got out alive! When visiting the Priory Palace, our students were surprised to learn that Emperor Paul I was a Mason and built the palace to be used by the Russian Maltese Order for meetings.”

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L. to R.: Kristofor Zhdanov (SPSU), Sasha Keydiya (SPSU), Jeremy Hunt (Rutgers University), Emily Dollemore (Mercyhurst University), Benjamin Pearce (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities), Henry Diggins (Tulane University of Louisiana), Zachary Hession-Smith (University of Rochester)

 

IT’S SPRING BALL TIME!

            Every spring semester CIEE hosts a spring ball for our students where they get to dress up in traditional ball gowns and waltz the night away! In preparations for the CIEE Spring Ball, students learned about the culture of the traditional Russian Ball at the all-encompassing lecture by CIEE’s own Excursions Coordinator and an incredible historian Julia Semibratova, and practiced ballroom and traditional Russian folk dancing under the impeccable guidance of the CIEE Housing Coordinator Svetlana Valentinovna Mantsvetova.

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Henry Diggins (Tulane University of Louisiana), Zachary Hession-Smith (University of Rochester) during the sword duel

            The Spring Ball is a great opportunity for our students to learn about a very enjoyable Russian past time; something that, at one time, was a large part of Russian culture. It's also a grand and fun way to end our semester that truly incorporates all aspect of the Russian culture!

            Rachel “Katya” Essel (University of Southern California: CLAS), who was our hostess at the CIEE Spring Ball 2016:

            “I was one of the hosts of our Spring Ball and it was honestly so much fun! We got to dance a lot of ballroom dances that we had practiced and the only one that nobody forgot was the polka! I got to announce a lot of the dances and the performances that people gave and I really felt like a princess in my ballroom gown. I can definitely say that the ball was one of the most fun things I did here!”

Spring Ball 2016

Left: Travis Beohm (Temple University) in the role of the famous magician at the Spring Ball 2016

Right: Lisa Miller (Indiana University-Bloomington) and Harris Melcher (Wake Forest University), chosen Queen and King of the CIEE Spring Ball 2016

 

MAY 9, GLORIOUS VICTORY DAY

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Kendall Gildersleeve (University of Rochester) at the Victory Day Parade on the Palace Square in Saint Petersburg

            During the second weekend of May, Russia celebrated one of the biggest national holidays, Victory Day. May 9th marks Germany’s surrender to the Soviet Union in 1945, ending one of the bloodiest wars in Russia’s history. On this day, many people attend a local military parade and watch the fireworks at night on Victory Day. Victory Day is a sacred holiday for Russians who often say that there is not a single family in the country who did not lose someone in that war. Our students also took part in that celebration:

          Emily Dollemore (Mercyhurst University) reflects on the Victory Day in Russia:

            “When I went outside that day, the whole atmosphere was celebratory. It reminded me of some American national holidays, such as the fourth of July, but on a much larger scale. Maybe that was because I witnessed it in a major city! The parade of the Immortal Regiment gave me a strong impression of how veterans are regarded here: it seems totally different from my experiences at home. Everywhere along the street I heard cheers and people chanting "Спасибо!" (Thank you!)”

 

CIEE ALUMNI WEEKEND 2016

            Spring is a wonderful time of the year to be in Saint Petersburg, especially when nice weather and commencement of the famous white nights season coincide with the CIEE Alumni Reunion. During the first weekend of May, Saint Petersburg CIEE Study Center alumni of different years gathered together in Saint Petersburg for a series of networking and cultural events. Not only did the alumni get to network and meet the current CIEE students and Russian Buddies in the frame of the Student & Alumni Roundtable, but they also had a change to reminiscent and create new long-lasting friendships. Many incredible stories were shared throughout the weekend, and multiple new memories have been made together. From the Spring Ball 2016 to a day-trip to Peterhof, the alumni truly enjoyed being back in Saint Petersburg and reconnecting with each other. 

            Now, as the weekend slowly winds down, we are thrilled to announce that the next CIEE Alumni Reunion (and the 50th CIEE Study Center’s anniversary celebration!) will be held in May 2017. Stay tuned!

CIEE Alumni Weekend St. Pete Welcome ReceptionL. to R.: Mordechai Rabinowitz (Spring 1976), Zachary Palomo (All-Year Program 2011-2012), Sabine Gueltzow (Summer 2013), CIEE Center Director Dr. Irina Makoveeva, Linda Kleinfeld (Fall 2014), CIEE Student Services Coordinator Ira Vasilyeva, Allison Alsaker (All-Year Program 2010-2011), Julia Custer (Spring and Fall 2011) and her boyfriend Mikhail, CIEE Program Officer Anton Stepanov; Bottom row: Nadya Bucklin (Fall 2014), CIEE Administrative Assistant Nika Afanasieva

 

S nailuchshimi pozhelaniyami (Best regards),

The CIEE Spring 2016 Newsletter editors, Katya & Ira

 

Katya Kavchenko, CIEE Study Center Intern

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Dr. Irina Makoveeva, Center Director

03/24/2016

SPRING 2016, ISSUE I

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        Time flies like an arrow, but in St. Petersburg it moves with supersonic speed! As we are already two months in the program, it is time to look back and reflect on our adventures.

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CIEE Fall 2016 Russian Language Program and Russian Language Studies students in front of Neva River and Saint Isaac's Cathedral

 

            The city looks captivating and very different in the snow, and all the museums, theaters and concert halls are in full swing so winter is an excellent relaxed time to see everything and stay busy. Traditionally, the semester began with our students’ favorite activity, ballet. St Petersburg has proudly been at the forefront of the classical ballet scene for rather a long time. This semester students have had the opportunity to choose between Giselle and Don Quixote. Additionally, winners of the CIEE beginning of semester scavenger hunt together with our professors viewed the “Love Potion” opera, sung in Italian and subtitled in Russian.

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From Right to Left: Lisa Miller (Indiana University-Bloomington), Russian Buddy Yulya Karmatkova (SPSU), Dakota Potts (Miami University-Oxford), Ian Gilchrist (Oberlin College), Shu Ting (Jonathan) Chen (University of California-EAP), Justin Choi (University of California-EAP), Russian Buddy Nastya Kostina (SPSU) and Rachel Essel (University of Southern California: CLAS) at Mikhailovsky’s Don Quixote.

 

WINTER IN ST. PETERSBURG

            Winters in St. Petersburg can be summed up in three words: cold, dark, and icy. Despite these insignificant nuisances, winter can really be a wonderland filled with so many things to do and places to see. Russians’ love for the ice is a well-known fact, in recent years ice-skating has become so popular that there is no shortage of modern state-of-the-art rinks in St. Petersburg and our students are using this opportunity to do what Russians do best — ice-skating.

 

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CIEE students enjoying their time at the ice-skating rink with our CIEE Russian Buddies Nastya Kostina (SPSU School of Political Science) and Yulya Karmatkova (SPSU School of Political Science) and other fellow Russian students and CIEE Sobesedniki (Conversation partners)

             Ice-skating, however, is not the only winter pastime; since the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 snowboarding is slowly, but surely gaining more recognition among Russians. Our students took advantage of one of St, Petersburg’s ski-resorts and spent a day skiing, snowboarding and exploring Russian suburbia.

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Rebecca Powell (Rice University), Katharine Baum (University of Rochester), Jenna Friedberg (George Washington University), Jeremy Hunt (Rutgers University) and Ben Pearce (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) enjoying a sunny day out at Tuutari Park.

 

LIVING WITH A HOST FAMILY

            Living with a host family encourages language proficiency improvement across many spectrums, and provides students with a new look into everyday Russian life. No doubt, the opportunity to live with a homestay family is a life-changing experience for both the students and their homestay families. Students admit to their language skills to improve drastically due to full immersion with their families.

            CIEE boasts an impressive database of over 100 active homestay families, many of whom have been welcoming American students into their homes for decades now. We are also very proud of our newly-found gems, the families with only a few semesters of experience but very positive reviews and, indeed, warm hearts. All of our host families are truly unique in their professional and life experience; many possess outstanding talents and are always happy to introduce their CIEE students to the culture of Russian music, art and theater. All CIEE homestay families have been screened and evaluated by CIEE's own Housing Coordinator, Svetlana Valentinovna Mantcvetova, who used to host CIEE American students for many years, too.

            Two weeks ago, CIEE hosted a grand event where our students and their host families enjoyed a dinner at Nikolaevsky palace (Grand Duke Nikolay Palace, a son of the Emperor Nikolay I) - a historic building in the heart of Saint Petersburg. Not accidentally, this celebration took place on March 5th, right before the country’s celebration of one of the most revered holidays, Women’s day. This holiday is widely celebrated in Russia; it can be roughly compared to Mother’s Day in the rest of the world, except that in Russia it celebrates all women, not just mothers – sisters, teachers, grandmothers and wives.

            Our students and their host families also experienced a full exposure to Russian dance and music. A part of the event was devoted to the traditional Russian folk dancing—a very dynamic and colorful show, where you don’t get to sit still and enjoy the show quietly, but you will get to learn how to dance. Traditional costumes, national songs and dances, gifted musicians truly were an unforgettable experience

            With this dinner we intended to celebrate the unique bond between our students and their host families; it is truly inspiring and touching to see how close they grow together in such a short period of time as just one semester.

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Our students with their families at a dinner party; right: Rachel Essel (University of Southern California: CLAS) with her host mom Marina Vasilievna Bondarovich.

 

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CIEE students participating in the traditional Russian folk dance show “Feel Yourself Russian”

             Aside from the usual CIEE sightseeing staples like Mikhailovsky ballet or the Hermitage tours, our students have enjoyed various under-the-radar alternatives. Our Sobesedniki (Russian conversation partners) are helping students get the most of their experience in Saint Petersburg. What can be better than a girls' night out enjoying live jazz sessions in a retro bar? Or, alternatively, if you feel like you have watched enough crime TV shows to participate in a mock FBI investigation, there is just an escape quest for you.

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Rinyuda (Pa) Promphenrangsi (Lewis & Clark College), Josephina Sances (Tulane University of Louisiana) and Rebecca Spinner (University of Vermont) enjoying live jazz-sessions.

 

        Lisa Miller (Indiana University-Bloomington): “I didn't know what to expect at first, but the escape quest was really fun. Also, putting myself into a situation where I had to think critically and out of the box was exciting. I was up for the challenge, although, I was disappointed that we didn't get to finish the quest because we ran out of time. If only Sky Plaza worked the first time then maybe we could have finished! I would definitely go back!”

            Our students’ took exploring of the city to the next level: more and more of them can be found in anti-cafes, dearly loved by the locals. The concept behind anti-cafes is that customers pay for their time rather than their tea. In exchange everything else, from unlimited coffee and biscuits to Wi-fi, is included in the price.

        Kendall Gildersleeve (University of Rochester): “Anticafes are places where instead of paying for the food you eat, you pay for the time you spend there. So every minute, you pay the equivalent of a few cents, and there’s coffee and tea and cookies and you can have as much as you like. There are also usually books you can read or board games you can borrow, and you don’t have to pay anything extra for those either. Most of the anticafes I’ve been to have been tucked away on side streets, or on the very top floor of buildings, and the staff is friendly and the chairs are warm and comfortable, so it can be really easy to forget how much time you’re spending there, especially if you’re chatting with a friend or two, time can pass pretty quickly… But at least the tea is free.”

 

ACADEMIC HIGHLIGHTS

                One of the biggest assets of the CIEE Study Center is its selection of Russian language classes and elective courses taught by highly experienced professors of St. Petersburg State University, who all possess many years of experience teaching Russian and American students both in Russia and abroad. Specially-designed advanced courses enable students to study various topics such as Russian literature of the 19th century, Russian Civilization, Business Russian, or Russian mentality and social behavior.

                Dr. Anna Volkova, a Senior Lecturer at School of Political Science, Saint Petersburg State University, is a new member of the CIEE faculty. She received her first Ph.D. degree in Political Governance from Saint Petersburg State University in 2000, which was followed by a second Ph.D. degree in Political Science, too, received from Saint Petersburg State University in 2014. Her research interests lie in the fields of political culture and administrative reforms in Russia and the system of public administration in Russia. She was recruited to Department of the Socio-Political reforms in Russia, Saint Petersburg State University as an Assistant Lecturer in 1997 and subsequently she was offered a position of Senior Lecturer. Her course on Comparative Cultural Studies: the United States and Russia is a part of our students’ curriculum.

            Dr. Natalia Khan, who joined our faculty this semester, has been teaching Russian as a foreign language since 2009. She received her Ph.D. degree from Saint Petersburg State University in 2013. Her outstanding achievements have been recognized not only by her home university, but also by numerous organizations in Russia and abroad. Her research interests are in the field of Russian Linguistics, particularly in spontaneous speech, communicative and discursive constructions, and the correlation between speaker’s speech and his/her personality traits. She has taught Russian as a foreign language since 2009: Colorado College students in St. Petersburg and on Colorado College campus, and 2015 Middlebury College Summer School. Her students come from the USA, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Finland, and Turkey. She skillfully combines all aspects of Russian language in her classes: students are exposed to real-life conversations and unprepared speech, the class is focused on making students comfortable in Russian-language environment and breaking the language barrier.

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Dr. Natalia Khan during the Elementary Russian Grammar class for the CIEE Russian Area Studies students

            Shu Ting (Jonathan) Chen (University of California-EAP) who is also one of Natalia’s students reflects on his experience in St. Petersburg:CIEE provides us with lots of opportunities to immerse into the culture. For example, in my first week at St. Petersburg, I stopped by more than 10 local stores, talked to vendors, took picture on bridges and ran over 5 miles with the city. The city exploration begins as soon as I landed. I had the opportunity to try out Russian donuts and Russian versions of red bull and energy bar.

                The languages class here is rather vibrant than I expected. Not only did I learn Russian fast through hilarious role play and local interviews, I learn a lot about Russian culture by watching and discussing Russian songs and movies. Class size is very small, which enables the professor to provide extra attention for individuals.

                In parallel with vibrant languages learning and diverse culture delving, I was even surprised by how fast my Russian is improving.”

            

            Emily Dollermore (Mercyhurst University) reflects on how she’s adapting to the Russian language: “The first four weeks here passed slowly and awkwardly: as I simultaneously tried to throw myself into speaking and understanding a language I had previously spoken, at best, haltingly, I also withdrew from the strangeness permeating my environment. Speaking English at home over Skype or even to type it on my phone became a temporary haven for me in that time. Now, however, I'm beginning to find that the reverse is true! I'm not fluent, of course, but more and more often I find that the Russian words for what I want to express come ahead of the English ones.”

            Sometimes our motivated students have a need to go outside of the courses we offer. Those who wish to design their own interdisciplinary course of study at the St. Petersburg State University have every opportunity to do so. One of our students, Emily Dollemore, shares her experience with the program:

        “While studying with CIEE, I am also taking an independent course to fulfill a missing requirement to graduate from my home school. Although students are not required to attend any services or to subscribe to any religion, they do ask that we participate in community volunteering and take at least two courses in religious studies.

            I'm grateful to have the opportunity to study Orthodoxy, this beautiful, intriguing belief system, this time with real curiosity and acceptance of what I learn. The professor, Anna Olegovna Fedotova, and I meet for coursework every Thursday afternoon to review the previous lesson and the questions she gives me for weekly homework, before moving forward with a new topic. The course is taught in Russian, so in addition to fascinating new knowledge of church traditions, I'm also learning the specialized vocabulary of the church itself. In the past four weeks, I have learned the language of church architecture and interiors, iconography, and ritual. In each of these aspects of the Orthodox Church exists an extraordinary wealth of detail that I never before realized. The prospect of learning more about it invites me back to every lecture.”

           The benefits of an overseas experience are difficult to quantify, but there is no doubt that studying abroad can be beneficial for all students, regardless of their background, or the school they attend. International education, especially if enhanced by language training, can open doors and confer lifelong contacts and interests that a student might not have developed otherwise.

 

          Rachel (Katya) Essel (University of Southern California: CLAS), who is considering a career in interpreting, shares her struggles and triumphs of learning Russian:

            “The biggest challenge really is the language. I try hard to learn it but people speak it fast and it's hard to understand. Plus a lot of Russian you learn in school is scholarly and formal Russian and when coming here you have to learn colloquial words and very situation specific words which can be challenging, like trying to buy makeup in a new language! But overall I love the challenge, I love learning Russian, and I love being here in Russia and Saint Petersburg.”


           Alice Giliarini (University of California-EAP), an American CIEE student who is a native Russian language speaker, gives her insight into explaining some of the classroom environment: “Something I did expect to find different, and nonetheless am shocked by every day, is the beautiful architecture of St. Petersburg. To complete the beauty of the architecture, the classrooms are furnished with nice wooden tables and benches (I will miss them). If you don't consider the physical placement of classrooms, classes are taught the same way. There are differences of course, for example, homework is viewed differently in Russia. Here, the focus of what a student should be doing at home is more about learning and less about grades. The teacher may not check your homework, but if you come unprepared, you simply won't learn. This applies to reading material, as well. A student is encouraged to read more on material about which they know less. One other small difference is that in Russian classrooms, to give a professor respect, students stand up when the professor comes into the classroom.”

            Our students’ insights once again prove that sending college students abroad promotes better understanding of global affairs and has other positive impacts at home. CIEE sincerely hopes that our academic programs will help our students achieve the greatness they are destined for.

 

MASLENITSA

            As the winter snow melts and temperatures finally rise above freezing, St Petersburg emerges with newfound energy and optimism each spring. Residents surface from their seasonal hibernations and outdoor venues take down their shutters, casting a celebratory air over the city. Spring semester has the best holidays, the days are getting longer, and you get to practice being a true Russian in the winter so when all the tourists show up, you can blend in as a local.

            The traditional Slavic festival of Maslenitsa is a favorite time of year for Russians all over the world, and the festival is widely celebrated in many countries. Maslenitsa is a time-honored Russian festival, and its origins, of course, are pagan. Troika rides, sledding, theater, puppets, singing, and fireworks are all a part of the Maslenitsa celebration.

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Alice Giliarini (University of California-EAP) and her fellow Russian students at the traditional Maslenitsa festival

 

VOLUNTEERING

            “When in Rome do as the Romans do” goes an old saying. We cannot stress enough how beneficial immersing in the local community can be. This semester our students yet again showed how becoming a part of the local community enhances their experience abroad. Students are offered plenty of volunteering opportunities, including, but not limited to, teaching English at one of the country’s top higher education institutions, St. Petersburg State University, and our signature volunteering project with volunteering for St. Petersburg professional hockey team, SKA; volunteering for the Hermitage gives our students a unique opportunity to gain an amazing insight into the life of one of the world's leading museums as well as get professional experience.

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Joseph Barker (Indiana University-Bloomington), Henry Diggins (Tulane University of Louisiana), Rebecca Powell (Rice University), Ian Gilchrist (Oberlin College), Jenna Friedberg (George Washington University), Dakota Potts (Miami University-Oxford) and our Russian Buddy Nastya Kostina (SPSU) after a SKA game.

            Alice Giliarini (University of California-EAP): “Besides going to school, I have been taking part in extracurricular activities. These include CIEE choir, folk-dancing classes, and volunteering at the Hermitage. It hasn’t been long, and I already feel like I have a lot of bright stories to tell, thanks to these activities.”

 

HOSTING SHORT-TERM PROGRAMS

            CIEE Study Centers in Russia are continuing to host an increasing amount of short-term faculty-led customized programs. Just a few weeks ago, we were lucky to welcome a group of students and faculty from Texas Christian University.

TCU St. Isaac's Cathedral

               The group of intrepid Communication Studies students traveled to Russia only for the duration of their spring break and spent unforgettable nine days exploring Saint Petersburg and Moscow with CIEE’s mindful guidance. Despite the incredibly full schedule of lectures in Russian History and Politics, community engagement activities and museum excursions, the TCU students never missed an opportunity to mingle with the CIEE Study Center’s semester- and year-long students and learn some Russian. Although all TCU students learned to read Cyrillic alphabet only upon arriving in Russia, they eagerly dived into practicing and singing the famous Russian folk-song Kalinka with the help of the CIEE staff and CIEE students!

 

MEETING RUSSIANS

            Immersion with Russian students is a cornerstone of our students’ study abroad language experience. There’s nothing that helps you adjust and learn more about Russian culture and peculiarities of life in St. Petersburg than becoming deeply engaged with the local community.

            CIEE takes pride in its devotion to helping students get the most of their time here with the help of our Russian students. “Sobesedniki”, the CIEE Russian Language Partner Program, has become a crucial part of our students’ experience abroad.

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Alice Giliarini (University of California-EAP), Emily Dollemore (Mercyhurst University), Travis Beohm (Temple University), Iain Cunningham (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) and our Russian students Julia and Nastya studying Russian poetry in a café.



         Alice Giliarini (University of California-EAP): “Outside of CIEE, I have been taking walks around St. Petersburg, exploring, spending time with newfound friends, and simply living here. Through CIEE I have made good native friends and they have helped me feel less like a tourist, and more like St. Petersburg is my temporary home. Shout out to my Собеседница (Sobesednik) for making my stay here pleasant, fun, and memorable.”

         Rachel (Katya) Essel (University of Southern California: CLAS): “I've been absolutely LOVING Saint Petersburg. It's honestly such a cool place filled with so much culture. Some of my favorite things are driving over Dvortsoviy Bridge on my commute to and from school because it's so beautiful seeing the Hermitage and the Neva river in the sunrise and sunset. And I love that I made Russian friends because they're so much fun and really interesting and cool and they help my Russian so much.”

        Katya Kletkina (a first-year student at St. Petersburg State University, and yet already actively involved with St. Petersburg CIEE Study Center) reflects on her experience as a Sobesednik: “CIEE will never let you get bored, and this applies not only to American students, but to their Russian counterparts, too. Last semester my Sobesednik Dagmara and I used to practice Russian and English languages, we spent time learning about our countries’ cultures while sipping tea in a cafe on Ligovskiy prospect. Together with the rest of the group we visited Catherine Palace in Pushkin, played board-games in the Gaga Play Loft. Shout out to the CIEE Study Center for organizing everything!

            This semester my Sobesednik is Rachel (Katya): everyone calls her “the American Katya” because this name, Katya, is probably the most common name in Russia, and a lot of people in the CIEE are called Katya (including me!).

            Katya and I are very like-minded. We’ve already been to the Mikhailovsky theatre’s Don Quixote, we’ve taken countless strolls around the beautiful St. Petersburg and even studied Russian-American economics enjoying a good cup of coffee in one of St. Petersburg’s countless cafes. And there’s so much to look forward to!”

 

We cannot but absolutely agree with Katya: there is so much to look forward to! As we are embarking on the second half of the amazing spring 2016 CIEE adventure in Russia, we are sending our warmest regards from already warmer Saint Petersburg to all professors, study abroad advisors, families and friends of our Saint Petersburg CIEE students!

 

 

S nailuchshimi pozhelaniyami (Best regards),

The CIEE Spring 2016 Newsletter editors, Katya & Ira

 

Katya Kavchenko, CIEE Study Center Intern

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Dr. Irina Makoveeva, Center Director