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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.

Pushkin group photo intro

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

01/08/2016

Alumni Bulletin, Issue III

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новый год

New Year’s celebrations, December 31, at Palace Square in St. Petersburg.

The paths of each student and alumnus varies greatly, expanding all spheres and professions, however, one thing is consistent when we review the lives of CIEE’s former students; each and every CIEE student possesses an unparalleled passion for the world and knowledge, a wanderlust excitement to explore the world, and an ability to ceaselessly question all that is encountered. In this New Year, we wish for all of you to never cease questioning the world around you, to never let that adventuresome spirit within you dimmer, and for your passion for the world to be as strong as it was the day you chose to travel to Russia. We wish you all a Happy New Year and a Merry Russian Orthodox Christmas this January 7th!

Please join us in our New Year's edition, in which we share with you some of the inspiring lives of CIEE Russia’s alumni, which includes some of the CIEE love stories!

 

The Faces of CIEE

Diana Ohlbaum

CIEE Russian Language Program, Fall 1982

Ohlbaum, DianaThen and Now! Left: Diana in St. Petersburg with Russian friend, Misha in the fall of 1982. Right: Pictured in the spring of 2015.

Diana Ohlbaum embarked on her international education experience with CIEE Russia in the fall of 1982, when St. Petersburg was still known as Leningrad. After graduating from Amherst College with a BA in Russian, and completing a Ph.D. in political science from Johns Hopkins University, Diana launched a career in foreign assistance and international development. With over 25 years overseeing U.S. foreign assistance programs, primarily on Capitol Hill as a professional staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee, Diana now heads an independent consulting firm, which provides legislative and political strategy for sustainable human security. 

“Living and studying in then-Leningrad was the formational experience of my lifetime.  I have traveled all over the world since then, for work and for pleasure, and each journey always gets subtly compared and contrasted to my time in the USSR.  I think that I see much of my life through the lens of that experience, and I still tell cocktail-party stories about living in obshchezhitie No. 6!

Although I did not end up using Russian professionally, there is no life experience which would have been comparable to my semester in Leningrad (except, perhaps, for the Peace Corps, and they did not offer placements in “communist” countries at that time).  I did, however, end up studying in Moscow a decade later for my Ph.D., which was also an amazing period in my life, but not as life-changing as the CIEE semester.

During my CIEE semester, I learned to boil clothes in a pot on the stove, since we did not have washing machines.  I learned to cook and bake without measuring implements, normal kitchen tools, or routine ingredients – at the time, we could really only buy eggs, sosiski (hot dogs), cabbage, beets and maybe a few other staples in the stores.  We lived without toilet paper, without hot water (in the middle of winter!) and without safe drinking water from the tap (brushed our teeth with mineral water).  We had no contact at all with the outside world.  I could go on with stories about scarcity and deprivation, but what was most important were the people we met and the friends we made.  I have kept in touch with several of them for 30 years now, despite worrying that we would never be able to see or contact each other again.  The wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed, the Internet was created – and the friendships survived.”

 

John & Tracy Machado

CIEE Russian Language Program, Fall 1993

MachadosThen and now! Left: Tracy and John Machado Fall 1993 in Leningrad. Pictured right: Tracy and John Machado with their five daughters.

Studying in Leningrad during the early 90s and experiencing the uncertainty, the volatility, the economic difficulties of a nation, and experiencing the depth of the Russian soul, is a life-altering experience that endows its adventurers with perspectives very few have been able to experience. Friendships and relationships form, such as the love that Tracy and John found during their semester abroad that will last a lifetime.

Machado

­­­Tracy was a sophomore at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and John was a junior at the University of Tennessee when they met during their semester abroad with CIEE in the Fall of 1993. Majoring in Russian, John used his degree and experience with CIEE in Leningrad to launch a career in the U.S. Department of State, and Tracy became a Finance Manager. Studying in Leningrad put their fates in motion, beginning their love story, and creating an enduring relationship and passion with and for Russia and its culture.

“It was only a few months of our lives really, but it began a life journey. After our time in St. Petersburg, we went back to our respective schools and attempted to put the genie back in the bottle and just let that summer stand alone. The Horseman would have none of it. It took a long time. We lost track of each other, both secretly pining away and wondering what could have been. 

I used my CIEE experience to move my career forward, working in US State Department’s Bureau of Russian and Eurasian Affairs, working in three US Embassies in the former Soviet Union, in Moscow, Tbilisi, and Bishkek. I certainly could not have done that without this program. Later, I was sent to St. Petersburg as part of Colin Powell’s team, and it came rushing back. Before I left DC, I did all I could to find Tracy. St. Petersburg will never leave you.

The journey that began 22 years ago in the CIEE Program had never ended really.  A few years later we were married and spent our honeymoon in St. Petersburg, of course, walking the same canals and parks as before.  We arrived on May 8, slept off some jet-lag, and emerged right when May 9 Victory Day fireworks were above. It’s a St. Petersburg story after all.

We now live in Dallas Texas, with our five daughters, and an appropriately-named golden retriever, Peter.  It’s not possible for us to look at our lives now and not reflect on the program. We both have degrees in Russian, and are teaching our girls. Our home is a tour of the city; a painting of Griboedova, a palekh box of Letniy Sad, a bread ration card from 1942 framed on a wall, a bronze of Peter the Great on the mantel, a Cheburashka in the toy box, Ushanki in the coat closet. What Tracy and I found in St. Petersburg is as alive today as it was then. The CIEE Program was as wonderful then as I’m sure it is now. But be forewarned, this city of romance and beauty will change you, and you will never regret it.”

 

Katya & Jay Slater

CIEE Russian Language Program, Fall 2010

SlatersThen and Now! Left: Jay Slater and Katya Tabares during the Fall 2010 St. Petersburg trip to Estonia. Pictured right, The Slaters during their wedding in June 2015.

Another CIEE love story that began in the Venice of the North is Jay and Katya Slater. Jay, a software engineer was a Russian and Computer Science double-major at the University of Rochester, and Katya was a Russian and History double-major at Vanderbilt, who continued on to obtain a masters in counseling from the Dallas Theological Seminary, starting her career as the Education Coordinator at a non-profit pregnancy resource center. Katya and Jay’s friendship began in St. Petersburg, and strengthened and grew after they parted ways in December of 2010, leading to their engagement in 2014.

“As is fitting and proper, our wedding had a number of Russian elements that paid tribute to where our relationship began. For example, my bridesmaids carried books by Russian authors down the aisle, our ceremony music featured Russian composers, and perhaps most fun of all, our cake toppers were two matryoshka dolls painted to look like us! “From Russia, with love,” indeed!” (Katya Slater, CIEE Russian Language Program, Fall 2010).

How has your experience with CIEE in Russia influenced your professional life?

J: The language skills I picked up in Russia have come up once or twice in my professional life. A year or two ago, my company was presented with a chance to visit a trade show in Moscow. Although we were unable to exploit that chance, the Russian I learned while studying abroad let us consider it seriously. More generally, I find that being in Russia, getting to know some Russians, and gaining a better understanding of the Russian mindset puts me ahead of my peers when it comes to talking about the way that the Russian government interacts with the world.

K: Everyone is impressed that I spent a semester in Russia – particularly employers. Plenty of people study abroad in Western Europe or South America, but comparatively few choose Russia. It gives me a competitive edge, since it’s such an unusual location that is so significant, geopolitically. On a personal note, Russia is the reason I went into ministry. I learned who I was and who I wanted to be because of the people I met and the conversations I had. Studying abroad set off a chain of decisions that led me to the fulfilling life I have now.”

Lauren Nelson

CIEE Russian Language Program, Spring 2008

Nelson, LaurenThen and now! Left: Lauren Nelson pictured on Palace Square in front of the Hermitage in the spring of 2008. Pictured right: Lauren in her classroom in Chicago where she teaches high school Russian.

Teacher of high school Russian in Chicago, Lauren’s penchant for Russian language and culture began with her undergraduate studies at Illinois Wesleyan University, and strengthening with her CIEE experience in St. Petersburg during the spring of 2008, and in Prague during the summer of 2008, where she interned with the Russian Information Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, After graduating with a bachelor’s in International Studies specializing in Russia and Eastern Europe, Lauren continued on to complete her masters in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies from Stanford University.

Nelson

“I lived on the Fontanka in an apartment with Inna and Zora, who I recently learned are still hosting students. They used to make a grated carrot, apple, and honey salad that I now make myself. I didn't really like sour cream until living with them: now it's one of the most-used condiments in my refrigerator. Those are some tangible, edible remnants of my time in Russia. I think about Inna and Zora a lot when I come up with my lesson plans. The words I learned from them were right in front of me as they showed them to me – immediately useful and necessary: matches, traffic, towel, butter. I try and give my students words that they'll need and use, rather than vocabulary that has nothing to do with their lives.

While studying in St. Petersburg, I met one of my best friends. We ended up completing the same graduate program at Stanford and he moved to Georgia (the country, not the state) to teach English. I convinced a coworker of mine to fly to Georgia with me to visit him. En route to the Stalin museum in Gori, our marshrutka driver invited us to his home for dinner. We ended up in a tiny village called Mokhisi picking grapes and enjoying a feast of shashlik and homemade wine with some friendly Georgians who toasted in Russian. That day is one of my favorite memories, and there are a lot of little things that led me there, but the biggest one was CIEE, where I learned to say "yes" to things that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable.”

Russia boasts one of CIEE’s longest withstanding study centers. Founded in 1967, CIEE Russia is nearing its 50th anniversary of having its doors open to curious students who venture to Russia with a vigor for learning in and outside of the classroom, who pursue deeper insights, and who seek new ways of looking at the U.S., Russia, and the world at large. Following their experience in Russia, alumni have chosen to build careers rooted in Russian language and Russia, have chosen to build careers accentuated by their specialized knowledge of Russia, and have established careers in other fields, preserving their proclivity for Russia as a passion pursued in their spare time. Regardless of what path our alumni have chosen and choose, it is undeniable, the lasting effect one semester with CIEE in Russia has in shaping the lives of its alumni.

From all of us at CIEE Russia, Happy New Year, Merry Russian Christmas, and happy holidays! We hope to see you this May at the CIEE Russia Student & Alumni Weekend. Stay tuned for the official invitation!

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The weekend will include

Stay involved

 

 

 

 

 

12/21/2015

Fall 2015, Issue III

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By December, the allure of living in a completely new environment has lessened to more normal levels, and the darker, shorter days that come with living in a city nearly 60 degrees north of the equator have begun to be felt by all. This pervading monochrome is brightened by the New Year’s lights decorating the city and the end of the semester projects and celebrations, keeping students involved in all this city has to offer!

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Alexander Evanoff (University of California, Davis ’17), Gray Phillips (Kenyon College ’17), Dan Berenberg (University of Vermont ’17), Jean-Paul Gilbert (Oberlin College ’17), Chloe Follis (Bates College ’17), Erica Ditmore (Macalester College), Boryana Borisova (Illinois Wesleyan University ’17) during the Fall 2015 Signature Event.

During this bittersweet last week, the halls of Smolny are filled with the buzz of students preparing for their final exams, taking their Oral Proficiency Interview exams, and saying goodbye to the city and people they have called home these past four months. It is undeniable that the friendships and relationships formed here are unique bonds that will last a lifetime; especially those relationships which students have formed with their host families. In their host families, students have found a home away from home.

From the words of a mother, visiting her daughter after having met her daughter’s host mother:

“I am incredibly thankful for this amazing woman, Elena Petrovna, Bridget's host mom while studying in St. Petersburg. She is such a gracious, lovely person who has truly been Bridget's 'Mom' while away from Mom. Very grateful, indeed.”

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Bridget Menkis (Oberlin College ’17) with her host mother, Elena Sukneva.

CIEE Celebrates Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, a holiday spent with those near and dear to one’s heart, is an especially hard time to be away from home. This semester marked the sixth year that Thanksgiving was celebrated together at the CIEE St. PetersburgStudy Center. Students tackled the task of transforming Smolny into a festively decorated venue, and prepared their favorite Thanksgiving dishes at home, after spending an evening scouring the Russian grocery stores for all necessary ingredients.

2 Thanksgiving, dinner

Students captured the spirit of Thanksgiving, using the opportunity to appreciate those for whom they are thankful; filling a poster full of thanks to teachers and staff, and distributing turkey hands, decorated with personal notes of thanks to friends and teachers and staff.

Tanveer Karim (University of Rochester ’17)

“Thanksgiving holds a special position in the American culture because no matter where you are, you try your best to spend some time with family and be thankful for everything. So it was no surprise to see all the American students get excited for Thanksgiving. After all, we wanted to spend some time with our new friends in Russia and be thankful for the most awesome semester! I had a tremendous amount of fun with the decorations committee and the food committee cooked delicious food. Lastly, I would like to thank the CIEE staffs and our Russian sobesedniki once again for making this a truly memorable semester. You are all invited for next year’s Thanksgiving dinner!”

CIEE Visits the U.S. Consul General

4. US Consul meeting

At the end of November, students were invited to the U.S. Consulate General to meet with the newly-appointed U.S. Consul General Thomas Leary. Mr. Leary shared many insights into the current state of U.S. – Russian relations, and shared many of his personal and professional impressions of the St. Petersburg today, compared to the St. Petersburg he knew during his first appointment in St. Petersburg in the late 90s. Mr. Leary stressed the importance of educational exchange programs, the necessity for young Russian-Eurasian specialists, and explained what a career with the U.S. State Department consists of, including the way a career as a Foreign Service officer has affected his life and his family’s life. Students found the opportunity enlightening, and were happy to learn more about what takes place behind the doors of the U.S. Consulate’s office.

Sarah Krasner (Scripps College ’17)

“It was really interesting to hear about the different duties of the consulate workers, and learn about what is actually going on behind the scenes at the U.S. Consulate offices, especially because I think one day I might work for the State Department.”

Challenging and Interesting Academics

5. LL

Professor Leonid Loshenkov during the civilization course “Russian Social and Political Life” taught to RLP students.

Host Institution Courses

The CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center is located strategically within the Political Science Department of the St. Petersburg State University. This provides an opportunity to audit regular university courses taught to Russian university students in Russian, in addition to their CIEE courses. This semester, a few students tackled the challenge of auditing St. Petersburg State University political science courses. Navigating a different educational system and learning subjects together with students of a different cultural background proved to not be an easy task, yet became an incredibly rewarding experience revealing to its students a deeper understanding of both Russia and the U.S.

Russian Fairy Tales

This semester, Center Director, Dr. Irina Makoveeva, professor of Russian, teaches a course on Russian Fairy Tales to RASP students in English. This course explores a broad variety of Russian fairy tales and introduces students to different approaches to the study of folklore, including structuralism, psychoanalysis, sociology, Marxism, and feminism. Fairy tales play a very telling part in every culture, revealing the morals and stories children are raised on, and the complex multi-faceted characters that decorate its stories who are admired, feared, loved, hated, etc. Russian fairy tales have numerous recurring characters that are incorporated across a wide spectrum of tales, revealing to CIEE’s students of Russian fairy tales, a unique look into Russian culture. 

From an anonymous note written by one of Professor Makoveeva's students on Thanksgiving:

“I am very thankful for such a wonderful class. I enjoy fairy tales so much and I love hearing all the wonderful little extra details about the tales, the history attached to them, etc. Irina Efimovna clearly loves the subject, and I am thankful for her bringing that love of the tales to the classroom. I hope this class gets offered in all the coming programs!”

This semester, Professor Makoveeva’s students, in addition to the normal course load have endeavored to create their own adaptation of “The Magic Swan Geese.” CIEE Housing Coordinator, Svetlana Mantsvetova, is the creative force behind the scenes, choreographing and directing the play’s adaptation to be performed at the Closing Ceremony.

6. Fairy tale

The final dress rehearsal before the fairy tale’s grand reveal! [Left] Tanveer Karim (University of Rochester ‘17), Gray Phillips (Kenyon College ’17), and Dexter Blackwell (Occidental College ’15) are the 3 Magic Swan Geese who at Baba Yaga’s bidding, steal Alyonushka’s little brother, Ivanushko.

Independent Research Projects

In addition to the plethora of excursions, museums, volunteering, and extracurricular activities which our students have enjoyed, many students have sought additional extracurricular activities and research projects independently.

One such student is Hannah Freyer (Colorado College ’17), a student of Russian Language and Literature who is pursuing a research project in environmental studies.

“One of my most rewarding experiences this semester has been an independent research project I sought outside of the official CIEE program, investigating Russian perspectives on environmental issues. As part of my project I have created a survey, given a presentation at a university seminar, and begun to learn a new, specialized vocabulary. This project has allowed me to reach outside of everyday interactions and better understand Russia’s culture and language.

Although I have a formal goal for this independent project, what I have learned simply from the journey of starting it has taught me so much more than I would have by just taking classes here. While the formal goal of my project is an increased understanding of Russian environmental perspectives—in order to think about how to create more effective and achievable environmental goals in the international sphere—I have learned even more about Russian just by attempting to craft the survey that is a key aspect of the project. This survey, which is the first part of my project and now completed, required hours of time spent sitting down (with copious amounts of help) to translate it in a way that both mimics the English equivalents of my questions and perhaps more importantly, were culturally understandable. Since completing the survey, I have asked many professors and students to take it and pass it around; so far I have over sixty responses from all over Russia!”

Ben Pearce, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has also been pursing independent study during his semester with CIEE. At his home university, Ben is working on a master’s project that involves synthesizing aluminum nanoparticles using a nonthermal plasma, and throughout this fall semester, has visited with Russian scientists conducting research in related fields.

"CIEE St. Petersburg’s office helped me create my own independent study translating scientific articles related to my research back home.  I had no experience at the start of the semester.  My instructor, Neda Vladimirovna, guided me sentence-by-sentence to help me perfect my drafts.  I enjoyed I enjoyed having a practical outlet for applying grammar recently picked up from class, while also learning new technical vocab. During independent travel week I met with scientists at the Joint Institute for High Temperatures in Moscow who work in the fields of nanoscience and plasma physics. It was a great experience meeting researchers in Russia for the first time and hearing about their work.”

CIEE’s Got Talent

Each semester brings with it new students and more alumni, who continually remind us of the passionate and curious individuals we are lucky enough to welcome to Russia. Our students constantly astound us with their dedication to learn the Russian language, and to delve into Russia, unraveling the mystery of its culture. Each semester, the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center tackles a culturally-oriented Signature Project, an initiative developed in 2010, designed to culminate the semester, and deepen student experience in St. Petersburg.

11. CIEEs Got Talent, rap

[Left] Cora Neumann (university of Pennsylvania ’17), Angelika Kropiowski, Daga Franczak, and Sarah Krasner (Scripps College ’17) during Dan Berenberg’s rap [pictured right].

Every spring, CIEE St. Petersburg rekindles the spirit of imperial Russia by holding the enchanting Spring Ball, the grandeur of which is in many ways similar to that of the Lev Tolstoy’s depiction of the 19th century Russian ballroom enigma. During the fall semesters, CIEE St. Petersburg embraces contemporary Russia through signature concerts that embody a decade or theme. This year, students were able to their hidden talents and gifts through a talent show!

9

Ian Edgley (University of Dayton ’17) impressed the crowd with his touching rendition of “Landslide” originally by Fleetwood Mac which was dedicated to his mother.

All the musical performances were accompanied by CIEE’s very own band, led by Program Officer, Anton Stepanov. In the weeks prior to the concert, this talented group of students; Matt Stewart (Colorado College ’15), Andrew Westenskow (University of Utah ’17), and Dexter Blackwell (Occidental College ’17) rehearsed in the evenings and on weekends, preparing to accompany the diverse set of songs, originally performed by groups such as the Cranberries, Fleetwood Mac, Amy Whinehouse, the Kooks, Pixies, Blink 182, Arcade Fire, Dead Weather, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and songs in Russian by groups such as Kombinatsiya, Okean Elzi, and Zemfira.

10

[Left] Victoria Long (University of Evansville ’17) livened up the crowd with her renditions of “Sugar We’re Going Down” by Fall out Boy and Dead Weather’s “Hang you from the Heaven.” [Right] And Angela Ipock (Middle Tennessee State University ’17) wowed the crowd with her Disney song medley.

12. CIEEs Got Talent, Dance

Hannah Freyer (Colorado College ’17), Sarah Krasner (Scripps College ’17), Andrew Crawford (Tulane University of Louisiana ’17), Madeleine Lebovic (Tufts University ’17), and Maddie Herman (Lewis & Clark College ’17) pictured below, were 5 of the 8 students that performed a dance choreographed by Madeleine Lebovic.

Dan Berenberg (University of Vermont ’17)

“The CIEE's Got Talent Spectacle was located at a local venue, and we literally metaphorically blew the roof off that bar. The air was filled with an extremely positive, strong energy of support, bonding, and fun. Students, both of our program and Russians performed with each other, or alone. I blasted on stage with a heavy set of rhymes and rapped the socks off the audience. It was truly a night to remember, by far one of the most rewarding events CIEE held during the semester.”

XXV CIEE Pub Quiz

A favorite pastime of students is CIEE Program Officer, Anton Stepanov’s brainchild, the CIEE trivia “Pub Quiz” nights with Russian students. Students have the opportunity to test their knowledge on American and Russian culture and history together with their Russian friends during this informal gathering at a local St. Petersburg venue. And this month we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Pub Quiz. To commemorate this anniversary, CIEE staff formed a team, competing neck to neck with Russian and CIEE students. The competition was tough, yet CIEE staff pulled through victoriously after a tie breaker with one other team.

13. pub quiz

The St. Petersburg team would like to wish you a happy holiday season. We hope the New Year brings all of us a year full of happiness, health, mutual understanding across the nations,  new experiences, and adventure!

14. Staff

CIEE Staff during the Fall 2015 Signature Event “CIEE’s Got Talent.”

 

S Novym Godom (Happy New Year) from Liz & the CIEE team

 

 Liz McBean, Student Services Assistant

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Anton Antonov, Program Manager

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Irina Makoveeva, Center Director

11/24/2015

Fall 2015, Issue II

Header (newsletter)

An essential and innate component of the study abroad experience is the spectrum of emotions and reflections the process of immersing oneself into a culture different from your own brings. November marks the third month of our students’ lives in Russia’s Northern Capital, St. Petersburg and the unusually bright and warm fall days have been growing shorter and colder as the dark, cold winter the northern areas of Russia are known for begin to rear its head. At this point, the halls of Smolny, the home to the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center, is full of the confident faces of students who have acclimated to their ‘Russian lives’, and who have made great strides in their goals of learning firsthand about Russia, and grasping the nuances and complexities of Russian culture and the Russian language.

1. Quote

This introspective quote from Margaret Mead’s book, Coming of Age in Samoa, was posted anonymously by a CIEE student to the CIEE bulletin boards, which are generally used to post pertinent information such as weekly calendars, important announcements, and sign-ups for excursions and extracurricular activities: “As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.” Time and time again, our alumni recall the transformative and self-reflective journey studying in St. Petersburg guided them through, and this semester, proves no exception.

CIEE Explores Russia!

2. angela

St. Petersburg and Moscow illustrate two unique perspectives of Russia, similar to the way New York City paints a very unique, relevant, yet distinct portrait of the U.S. Russia is a vast country of over 20 republics, multiple languages, ethnicities, and cultural history, and differs as much regionally, as it does geographically and climatically throughout its vast 6.6 million square miles. This semester, we’ve traveled from the Gulf of Finland to just west of the Ural Mountains, with a pit stop in Russia’s capital city, Moscow. After CIEE’s trip to Moscow and Kazan, a number of inquisitive students continued their travels in Russia during CIEE’s Alternative Break, and traveled to Arkhangelsk and Kirov.

3. map

Student travels during the month of November: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan, Kirov, and Arkhangelsk!

First stop: The Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan!

Every city has a different personality, with its own rhythm, characteristics, and peculiarities. Kazan, coined the “third capital” of Russia, is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan. This multi-ethnic city is a unique blend of Russian and Tatar culture, which helps to unfold a fuller picture of the diversity and vastness of Russia to students.

It’s undeniable, Kazan buzzes with the excitement of innovation and development, from its new housing projects to its highly-developed sports facilities, which have helped to make Kazan an international hub for athletic competition. In the past two years alone, it has hosted the 2013 Summer Universiade, the 2014 World Fencing Championships, the 2015 World Aquatic Championships, and is looking forward to hosting the 2017 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Students enjoyed the one-of-a-kind opportunity to contrast the luxurious baroque style architecture and the lasting remnants of imperial Russian St. Petersburg with the modern innovation and development of Kazan.

4. Kazan, Fuchss

During the city tour, students visited the Fuch’s Garden, named after Karl Friedrich Fuchs, the first researcher of the life and culture of the Kazan Tatars. The Garden is more than 100 years old, and features a statue to Karl Fuchs. In the palm of his left hand the face of the sculptor is engraved!

CIEE’s arrival in Kazan coincided with the Glorification of Our Lady of Kazan, an Orthodox feast day particularly special to Kazan. Kazan, the Muslim capital of Russia is known for the peaceful coexistence and harmony of varying faiths. For this reason, it is unsurprising that during CIEE’s visit to Kazan, students witnessed the religious procession for Our Lady of Kazan, as well as visited two mosques.

5. Kazan, Gray, Kazan, mosque

Jean-Paul (Oberlin College ’17), Phillip-Gray Clark (Kenyon College ’17), Erica Ditmore (Macalester College ’17) in front of the Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan.

6. Tanveer

Not only did students enjoy exploring Kazan and the Kremlin built at Ivan the Terrible’s behest, home to the only 16th century church to have six piers and fives apses and home to the largest mosque in Russia, but they were excited to discover the Liverpool Football Club soccer team was staying in the same hotel, which made Liverpool’s victory over the Kazan Rubin team that much more exciting of an experience. CIEE traveled beyond Kazan’s city walls to the island of Sviyazhsk, and visited the motley of churches, bell towers, teetering homesteads, and monastery, which once was at the center of one of the most dramatic, violent episodes in Russian history: the capture of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century.

7. Kazan, Ivan the Terrible

While exploring Sviyazhsk, students had some time to “play.” Phillip Gray Clark (Kenyon College ’17) dressed as Ivan the Terrible.

Another highlight was the Temple of All Religions in the microdistrict, Staroye Arakchino. Idar Khanov, the artist of the Temple of All Religions explains the architectural structure, which incorporates an Orthodox church, a mosque, a synagogue, and other religious architecture was built with the intention to be an architectural symbol of all religions, a museum of religion of sorts, an international cultural center of spiritual unity. 

8. Kazan, Temple of All ReligionsAaron Kennett (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) in front of the Temple of All Religions.9. Aaron

Second Stop: Moscow!

The adventure continued as students took an overnight train from Kazan to the capital of Russia, Moscow! A semester studying abroad in Russia cannot be complete without a visit to Russia’s largest political, economic, cultural, and scientific epicenter. St. Petersburg, a distinctive city incomparable to all others, has a completely different feel from Moscow. Walking along the streets of St. Petersburg often impresses its guests with its sheer aesthetic beauty of ancient and colorful buildings and palaces; however, walking the streets of Moscow often impresses its guests by its sheer massiveness and powerfulness.

10. Moscow, Gray, red squareDan Berenberg (University of Vermont ’17), Alex Evanoff (University of California ’17), Phillip Gray Clark (Kenyon College ’17), Jean-Paul Gilbert (Oberlin College ’17)

The adventures of the second day began with Lenin’s Mausoleum, giving students a unique chance to visit Lenin’s Tomb and to experience the solemn ambience of the resting place of the man whose political theories inspired a nation, and whose impression on Russia’s history is still visible to this day. This visit was followed by a tour of the Moscow Kremlin, which included an excursion to the Armory Chamber, one of Moscow’s oldest museums, founded in 1808.

11. Moscow, IMG_20151106_115500

Students preparing a ‘jumping’ picture in front of the New Maiden Convent in Moscow. [L to R] Ian Edgley (University of Dayton ’17), Sarah Krasner (Scripps College ’17), Aaron Kennett (University of Maryland, Baltimore County ’17), Yiorgos Bosnakis (Virginia Commonwealth University ’15), Boryana Borisova (Illinois Wesleyan University ’17), Jean-Paul Gilbert (Oberlin College ’17), Chloe Follis (Bates College ’17), Mary-Bailey Frank (Georgetown University ’17), Erica Ditmore (Macalester College ’17).

12. Daga

On the final day in Moscow, students had the choice to visit either the Tretyakov State Gallery, the foremost depository of Russian fine art in the world, housing more than 170,000 works by Russian artists from early religious paintings to modern art, spanning a period of a thousand years, or to visit Museum of Contemporary History of Russia, which boasts an extensive collection of over 2 million exhibits documenting the country’s political development over the last 150 years.

13. Jeremy

14. Moscow, IMG_20151107_134004

 Students during a tour of the Kremlin grounds in Moscow, 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. This semester, students were offered to travel to the far north and spend a week volunteering in Arkhangesk, or to travel just west of the Ural Mountains to the city of Kirov.

Alternative Break in Arkhangelsk

Immediately following the trip to Kazan and Moscow, a group of seven CIEE students boarded the 22-hour train that took them from Moscow to the Russian Arctic North (Pomorye), Arkhangelsk! Winter had already long ago begun to take its hold in Arkhangelsk, and students enjoyed a week of weather in the low teens.

15. AB, Arkhangelsk, WP_20151112_15_42_29_Pro

16. Angela, AB

During the following week, our students were constantly on-the-go with their days full of volunteering and integrating into the local community. Evenings were spent at discussion club meetings with their Russian peers, students of the Northern State Medical University.

17. AB, Arkhangelsk, bird feeder

Students making birdfeeders. [Left] Kendall Gildersleeve (University of Rochester ’17), Rut Hormann (Macalester College ’17), Jenna Hooper (Gustavus Adolphus College ’17), Maddie Hermann (Lewis & Clark College ’17). [Right] Jenna Hooper (Gustavus Adolphus College ’17)

One of the highlights of the next five days was a visit to a rural school, which enabled CIEE students to get a firsthand look at ‘village school’ life, and interact with the young students, who were very curious to meet foreign students studying in Russia. Other highlights included the construction of local birdfeeders, cleaning up a local school, and working in an animal shelter.

18. AB, Arkhangelsk animal shelter

Throughout the week of volunteering, students got a feel of the Pomor culture, its people, traditions, and the town’s long history, dating back to the year of 1584, when the town was founded by Russian tsar, Ivan the Terrible. While volunteering in the rural school, students toured the local church, climbing to the top its bell tower, opening up a breath-taking view of the surrounding land, while the priest rang the evening bells.

19. AB, arkhangelsk, bell tower

Alternative Break in Kirov

Two of our adventurous, philanthropic students journeyed further east towards the Ural Mountains to the city of Kirov, where representatives from the international volunteer camp, SFERA awaited the CIEE students’ arrival.

20. Sightseeing on the first day in Kirov, near the Vyatka embankment (with local European Volunteer

Sightseeing on the first day in Kirov, near the Vyatka embankment with local European Volunteer Service Program volunteers and Sfera Coordinator, Svetlana Matantseva, and Maria Mikhaylova.

Throughout the week, the alternative break volunteers were engaged in a variety of activities. Students led a round table discussion discussing education in the U.S. with the linguistics department of the Vyatka State University of Humanities, visited the Physics and Math Lyceum, spending the day giving lectures, presentations, and interactive language classes with the middle school students, spending time at a local youth community center, and even taught English and shared about American and Mexican culture to a group of senior citizens participating in a community learning class.

21. AB, kirov, teaching

[Left] Amy Peshkova (University of California) Teaching a class at the Physics and Mathematics Lyceum in Kirov [Right] Amy Peshkova and Vivian Garcia (University of California) facilitating a master class at the Physics and Mathematics Lyceum.

22. IMG_8127CIEE Student Services Coordinator, Ira Vasilyeva, and students Vivian Garcia and Amy Peshkova with the senior citizens from the community learning class they lectured in.

23. amy

Students were thrilled to delve into the local culture with the help of local students who prepared a Russian culture extravaganza, as well as learn about Kirov’s famous Dymkovo toys, moulded painted clay figurines, usually depicting people and animals by participating in a master-class after touring the museum.

 

Volunteering at a Local St. Petersburg Animal Shelter

24. Animal ShelterMaddie Herman (Lewis & Clark College), Hannah Freyer (Colorado College), Yiorgos Bosnakis (Virginia Commonwealth University), Gulya Tlegenova (University of California), Angela Ipock (Middle Tennessee State University ’17), Rut Horrmann (Macalester College).

Our students never cease to surprise us at their initiative to improve the world around them through even the smallest deeds. Despite their days being full of classes, homework, excursions, and exploration, many of our students have still found time to spend their weekends volunteering at a local animal shelter. The animal shelter houses three shelters in one place, giving students many dogs to give lots of love to!

25. gulyad

CIEE Board of Directors Visit St. Petersburg

This October was a very special month for the St. Petersburg Study Center, as we had the opportunity to host the CIEE Board of Directors. This inspiring group of exemplary leaders with a special interest in higher education and international education ensure that every study abroad program meets the highest standards for academic quality, intercultural exchange, and student safety, and guarantees CIEE’s leading position in the field of international education through continual development and innovation.

26. BOD, WP_20151101_15_26_06_Pro

The weekend was highlighted by a tour of the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center; class visits to two of the Russian Area Studies Program course electives taught in English: Presidential Elections and Ethnic Studies; lunch with students; and visits to some of St. Petersburg’s most exciting places of interest such as the State Hermitage Museum, Yusupov’s Palace, and the Faberge Museum, as well as a magical evening watching the ballet, A Midsummer’s Night Dream at the Mariinsky Theater.

27. Members of CIEE’s Board of Directors during dinner with CIEE students and their host families. Pictured left: Andrew Westenkow (University of Utah); pictured right: Cora Neumann (University of Pennsylvania).

 

Iskrenne Vashi (Sincerely yours),

Liz & the CIEE team

 

Liz McBean, Student Services Assistant

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Anton Antonov, Program Manager

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Irina Makoveeva, Center Director

 

10/28/2015

Fall 2015, Issue I

Header (newsletter)

As the nights and evenings grow longer, and the chill of fall permeates the air, the excitement of living in St. Petersburg and studying Russian language and culture in Russia, keeps our students excited and looking forward to the adventures and new knowledge each day brings. These first two months have been rich with excursions, visits to museums, interesting courses, volunteering opportunities, and exploration. 

1

Fall at Smolny! The walk across the Smolny complex to the Department of Political Science, where the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center is located. (Pictured by: Tanveer Karim (University of Rochester))

CIEE students all share a passion for Russian language and culture, complemented by wanderlust and a sense of adventure. A semester in St. Petersburg provides students with the perfect platform to put this curiosity to use, and the fall provides students with an idealistic outdoor landscape to plunge into. Our students have been doing just this! One weekend, a few students took their hand at mushroom picking, a favorite Russian pastime during the September months, and ventured beyond the St. Petersburg city walls, exploring its outskirts by elektrichka (commuter train). After a full day of collecting mushrooms and picking wild blueberries, students returned to their host families sharing their treasures. Sautéing the fruit of their wandering proved just as delicious, as their day spent in the Russian countryside.

2.Madeline Hermann

3. mushroom picking

Hannah Freyer (Colorado College), Madeline Hermann (Lewis & Clark College), and Madeleine Lebovic (Tufts University) [pictured left to right] during their day of mushroom picking.

Exploring St. Petersburg through Excursions

This semester began with a flourish of activities designed to assist students in becoming acquainted with the Northern Capital, St. Petersburg. Students visited the summer palace of Peter the Great, enjoying the intricate and unique fountains of Peterhof; students toured Catherine’s Palace, viewing in person the celebrated amber room; students followed in the footsteps of Raskolnikov, the main character in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, Crime and Punishment, during the Crime and Punishment walking tour; and have enjoyed a guided tour through one of the world’s largest and oldest museums, the State Hermitage.  Among our usual long list of excursions, students also have had the opportunity to put their creative powers to the test during a matryoshka doll painting master-class. Students learned the Russian fairy tale, “The Gigantic Turnip,” and the significance of the different components of these Russian nesting dolls.

4. matreshki, master-class

CIEE Russian nesting dolls from the Matryoshka nesting doll master-class.

Not only have our students demonstrated their creative prowess in the arts and their intellectual curiosity in and outside of the classroom, our students have also demonstrated their culinary expertise during Russian and Georgian cooking classes this semester! During the Russian cooking class (pictured below), under the guidance of a professional chef, students learned to prepare borscht, kotlety po-adzharski (breaded meat patties), and a potato-based side dish. 

5. Russian Cooking Class

 

Life with a Russian Host Family

Every study abroad student is familiar with the typical anxiety related to meeting their host family for the first time. Experiencing life in a Russian family, with all of its perks and challenges plays a pivotal part in students’ semesters in St. Petersburg. 

6. hostfamilies

Students meet their host families for the first time at the end of the orientation sessions.

Living with a host family encourages language growth across many spectrums, and provides students with another look into everyday Russian life. The CIEE study center in Saint Petersburg boasts a database of over two hundred host families, many of whom have been hosting with us for decades.

7. Ian

 

Academic Highlights

The Russian Language Program of the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center offers a wide array of electives taught by highly-experienced professors of St. Petersburg State University who have many years of experience teaching Russian and American students in Russia and abroad. Specially-designed advanced elective courses enable students to study various topics such as such as Russian literature of the 19th century, or comparative cultural studies of the United States and Russia in the sphere of cultural, social, and political issues. 

WORD FORMATION

Irina Sergeevna Brodt, a senior lecturer of Russian language and Ph.D. candidate of philology has been teaching the most complex and advanced topics in Russian grammar for nearly three decades, and during the fall semester, teaches students of the most advanced Russian language group, morphology.  1. Dan

Agitation for Happiness; the Mass Culture of the Soviet Period in Tales, Poems, Songs, and Movies

Professor Leonid Vladimirovich Loshenkov, one of CIEE’s most experienced professors, is teaching a course on Soviet mass culture and socialist realism. This course provides students with a unique and in-depth exploration of the Soviet Union. The course explores the idea of Soviet mass culture, analyzing the “old genres” such as adventure novels, stories, movie melodramas, ballads, together with the infusion of the new. Topics such as Soviet avant-garde art, Soviet Empire style, and socialist realism are investigated.

3. katya

Tutoring

The CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center continues the tradition of uniting students who seek additional Russian language support through individual tutoring sessions with SPSU language instructors. Tatyana Korepanova is one of our highly-qualified Russian language professors, who boasts to both American and other foreign students over 20 years of experience in one-on-one and group teaching of Russian as a Foreign Language. For the past three years, Tatyana Korepanova has been working with CIEE students through additional individual tutoring sessions.

 

8. Tutoring

Tatyana Yurevna during a tutoring session with Erika Larson (Northeastern University ’17) and Julia Tam (University of California ’17).

9. joe

Cinema Club

What can be better on a brisk, fall evening than to spend it in the company of CIEE and Russian friends, watching and discussing a Russian film during the bi-weekly cinema club meetings? Center director and Russian cinema expert, Dr. Irina Makoveeva, familiarizes students with the films chosen, providing necessary context, and facilitating meaningful discussions after the film’s viewing.

10. cinema club

CIEE Center Director, Irina Makoveeva introducing a film during one of this semester’s Cinema Club meetings.

11. lucas

Immersion with Russian Peers 

12. sobesedniki

CIEE and Russian students at the Sobesedniki conversation partners mixer.

An important component of student experience while studying with CIEE in St. Petersburg is student immersion with Russian peers. Eager to learn Russian and experience Russian culture, becoming friends with their Russian counterpoints not only gives students an insider’s look at life in Russia, helps them to traverse their home abroad,  but also anchors students into their lives in St. Petersburg. 

For these reasons and more, the CIEE Russian Language Partner Program, “Sobesedniki” has become a significant element of students’ semester abroad. After an initial meeting at the Sobesedniki mixer, Russian and American students are paired together.

Following the mixer, CIEE students and their Russian sobesedniki are invited to various events like board game nights at a local anti-café, trivia “Pub Quiz” nights, pick-up volleyball and soccer games, and even karaoke nights at the CIEE administrative office on the Moika Embankment.  

During the mixer, Russian and American students rotate around the room in a fashion similar to speed-dating (for friends!). Nastya Kostina, a junior at St. Petersburg State University can often be found in the halls of Smolny near the CIEE Study Center, as her classes in the Department of Political Science are located in the same building. Nastya has been a sobesdenik for already two years:

13. nastya

 

14. Russian peers

CIEE students and Sobesedniki at Board Game Night (left) and Karaoke Night (right).

 

Volunteering in the Local Community

Becoming a part of the local community in many different capacities is vital to any study abroad experience. Our students prove how rewarding this challenge can be, by taking advantage of the manyu opportunities to volunteer in the city. A few of the highlight volunteer opportunities offered by CIEE in St. Petersburg include volunteering for St. Petersburg professional hockey team, SKA; translating for Russia’s oldest film studio, Lenfilm; teaching English at one of the country’s top higher education institutions, St. Petersburg State University; assisting in various tasks and projects at one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, the Hermitage; the Red Cross; and others.

15. Volunteering

Gulnur Tlegenova (University of California), Dan Berenberg (University of Vermont), Alexandra Stois (Kenyon College), Hannah Freyer (Colorado College), Jenna Hooper (Gustavus Adolphus College).

CIEE students have been exploring the cultural capital of Russia through visits to the ballet at the renown Mikhailovsky Theater. Students have had the opportunity to choose between viewing Le Corsaire, Swan Lake, and the Wayward Daughter. Moreover, winners of the semesterly scavenger hunt viewed the opera, Iolanta.

16. Ballet

[Left to Right] Matt Stewart (Colorado College), Madeline Hermann (Lewis & Clark College), Kendall Gildersleeve (University of Rochester), Madeleine Lebovic (Tufts University), Isabel Hughes (University of New Hampshire-Main Campus), and Center Director, Irina Makoveeva at the ballet.

Student Reflections

Plunging head first into their lives in St. Petersburg, students have actively gotten involved in the local life through various activities:

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CIEE Staff Team-building Weekend in the Republic of Karelia

CIEE prides itself on their dedicated, passionate, and knowledgeable staff who ceaselessly strive to provide students with a meaningful and transformative learning experience in Russia. It is no doubt that a successful study center like the St. Petersburg study center runs like a well-oiled machine, however, every so often, even the best teams need to add a little oil to their wheels. The CIEE St. Petersburg team set off to do just that during a weekend of team-building activities in the Republic of Karelia. The Republic of Karelia, located in the northwest corner of Russia is famous for its abundant natural wonders, such as its 60,000 lakes. Staff spent the weekend working through collaborative tasks designed to perfect their skills working together as a team, and still managed to hike around the Karelian woods, explore the marble quarries and skerries in Ruskeala, cliff jump and zip-line across the Ruskealan marble quarry, and visit a wood-carving museum of local artist, Kronid Gogolev. 

20. karelia

CIEE St. Petersburg staff exploring a marble quarry in Ruskeala between team-building activities [Left] (Back) Administrative Assistant, Nika Afanasyeva; Student Services Assistant, Liz McBean; Housing Coordinator, Svetlana Mantsvetova; Student Services Coordinator, Ira Vasilyeva (Front) Program Manager, Anton Antonov; Excursions Coordinator, Julia Semibratova; Program Coordinator, Katya Rubtsova; Program Officer, Anton Stepanov; Center Director, Irina Makoveeva.

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22. SurprisePartyforKatyaSeptember28

CIEE staff and partners with Program Coordinator, Katya Rubtsova, pictured center, during a surprise party organized in recognition of her contribution to CIEE programs in St. Petersburg.

 

 

Iskrenne Vashi (Sincerely yours),

Liz & the CIEE team

 

Liz McBean, Student Services Assistant

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Anton Antonov, Program Manager

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Irina Makoveeva, Center Director