Warm Greetings from Autumnal St. Petersburg
The days are getting shorter and the leaves are changing as winter creeps ever closer to our beloved city on the Neva. The growing cold and darkness outside doesn't intimidate our intrepid students, however, as they spend their days learning, exploring, and relaxing in and around beautiful St. Petersburg. Here's an idea of what they've been up to!
An exciting addition to our Language Program this semester is Business Russian. The course is taught by Marina Grigorevna Miroshnikova, an educator who has worked with our students for years. A graduate of the philological faculty at St. Petersburg State University, she has always been interested in teaching Russian as a foreign language. She wrote her dissertation on the topic of Russian syntax and has authored several publications on the topic of Russian grammar. Throughout her career she has taken visiting professor positions at such universities as Duke and the Freie Universitaet Berlin. Marina Grigorevna takes great pleasure in working with our students; her energy, enthusiasm and wealth of knowledge make her an irreplaceable component of the academic program at the CIEE study center. This is her first semester teaching Business Russian, so we sat down together and discussed two important questions about the course:
1. How do our students benefit form the Business Russian course?
Well, at their home universities, many of my students study economics or business. For these students the benefits of the course are clear. Other students study translation and interpretation. For these students Business Russian is also important. In their studies and careers they might find themselves in a business environment. What they learn in this course will come in handy. For heritage speakers or very advanced students this course is important because it offers them the chance to work and learn specialized language and improve their overall fluency.
2. Is it important that students take this course? If so, why?
Yes! Vocabulary and grammar are only one aspect of Business Russian. Really, this course offers students independence. They learn how to work with bank material, official paperwork and forms, and most importantly they become familiar with the systems that exist in the Russian business world as well as everyday life. One exercise I hope to introduce soon will be to analyze actual contractual or business discussions.
Great Novgorod and Staraya Russa
Our first trip as a group this semester was to the nearby city of Great Novgorod. This ancient Russian capitol was once the economic, political, and spiritual heart of the entire region. Today it is a source of fascinating insights into Russian history and culture.
A young Novgorodian welcomes Jason Finkelstein (USC), Keenen Wiles (USC), Sagatom Saha (American), and Scott Houser (Oklahoma) to her town!
In addition to the tour of Novgorod, this semester our students visited the neighboring town of Staraya Russa. If Novgorod provides insights into the Russian past, Staraya Russa offers an intimate look into contemporary life in Russia's periphery. Coincidentally, the New York Times recently published an article on the topic.
Staraya Russa is also famously known as the town where author Fedor Dostoevsky had his country home. In fact, Dostoevsky composed most of his final novel, The Brothers Karamazov, in Staraya Russa. Many believe that the town inspired the rural setting in which most of the story plays out.
Jamaica Vaubel-Palmer (St. Olaf) poses for a moment in front of the Dostoevsky house.
Banya boys and babes, it's getting cold outside! This semester going to the bath house is getting easier and easier for our students as the weather worsens and the days get darker. Relaxing and spending time with friends is only one aspect of these frequent excursions. Banya is an important cultural tradition in Russia. The banya ritual and the intense bonding that results from it have kept banya a significant component of Russian social life. By going to banya our students are able to warm up, get to know each other a little better and experience this quintessentially Russian tradition together.
This semester's first discussion club meeting was held under the topic, "The Place of Women in Society." Our subject was inspired by the recently launched CIEE and Girl Rising partnership, which is working to support girls' education worldwide. Moderated by our student services staff and a visiting poli-sci graduate student-expert on the topic, our students came together with their Russian counterparts to discuss various subjects related to the situation of women in the United States, Russia and the world. Presentation topics included, the history of American feminism, the changing role of women in the twentieth century, and the current situation of women in Russia. Our meeting increased awareness and interest in an important and interesting topic that will continue to be discussed as we prepare to screen "Girl Rising" around St. Petersburg.
Student services assistant Pasha Sergeev engages the students in his discussion group.
Volunteerism is a cornerstone of the student experience in St. Petersburg. Every semester many of our students choose to dedicate a little of their free time to a local cause or organization. We're always looking for new volunteering opportunities for our students: this fall is no exception. In the following you'll get an idea of what our volunteers are up to this semester!
One of the new volunteering options we're offering students this fall is at Lenfilm studios. Volunteers at Lenfilm become a small part of a long and proud tradition. The breadth of this tradition is evident everywhere on the studio grounds; on the first day, our students were taken on an exclusive tour of the complex, from the pavilions where the recent film Rasputin (I. Kvirikadze, 2013) was shot to the huge vaults where props from classic Soviet movies such as Cinderella (N. Kosheverova/M. Shapiro, 1947) are kept.
Like students volunteering at fine arts museums such as the Hermitage or Erarta, student volunteers spend much of their time aiding full-time employees by editing and translating texts, or helping out in the studio. Julia Slessova (University of Vermont) is one of our student volunteers, this is what she had to say about working at Lenfilm:
Lenfilm is the oldest 'film production' company in Russia. Once you enter the building, you get a sense of Russian culture and history. I enjoy volunteering there, not only because the people I work with are pleasant and incredibly intelligent, but also because it is great practice for students like me who are in the field of translation/interpreting.
Nathaniel Bybee (Utah), Jackson Taymans (Vermont), Julia Slessova (Vermont), Rebecca Steffens (Arizona State), Jamaica Vaubel-Palmer (St. Olaf), Isabelle Stamler-Goody (Michigan), Kailey Kluge (Drexel), stop for a picture in front of the iconic Lenfilm emblem (which is shown at the beginning of every film produced there).
Every semester many CIEE students decide to volunteer by teaching or tutoring English. Our study center has several partnerships with schools and organizations throughout the city. A new addition to this list of partners is EducationUSA. EduUSA is an organization dedicated to aiding foreign students find and apply to universities and colleges across the United States. Whether teaching English, prepping for the GRE, or filling out complicated application materials, volunteers help local Russians on the way towards studying in the United States. This semester some of our students will even be able to represent their home universities at at an international higher education fair, held by EducationUSA. In the following, Kailey Kluge (Drexel), describes what this volunteering opportunity is all about:
EducationUSA focuses on helping Russian students learn English and prepare to study at American and other English-speaking universities. I've been able to help EduUSA with a variety of activities, including an English discussion club, an SAT prep course, a TOEFL prep course, and other presentations. All of the students are bright and excited to learn, which makes the work all the more rewarding. Plus, after our meetings, it is fun to chat with students about college life in our countries and tell them about different US cities. After a day learning all about Russian school, it is a great way to reflect back on your own culture.
Another first this semester is a special volunteering opportunity for hockey enthusiasts. Volunteers have the opportunity to help out at the Ice Palace from time to time before Sunday games and receive free tickets in return. At one of the October matches, Josh Priddy (American) was interviewed by a sports reporter. This interview was broadcasted all over Russia, have a look:
For the second semester in a row, our study center is offering students the option to stay in a hostel instead of a homestay. Obviously, staying in a hostel comes with its own set of challenges and rewards that only sometimes coincide with those of living in a homestay. For students who don't wish to reconcile their lifestyle or habits with a family, the hostel offers an appealing alternative housing option. Jackson Taymans (Vermont) had the following to say about living in the hostel:
Life at the hostel can be summed up in one word: freedom. The freedom to come and go as you please, the freedom to cook your own meals, and the freedom to live your life in Petersburg however you're most comfortable. At the same time, cultural and lingual immersion is far from lost; nearly all my friends in the hostel are Russian, and while it's great to have a babushka or mom to cook your meals, getting the chance to be surrounded by Russians your age, sharing the same experiences, and exploring a new city together is a fantastic opportunity to get a look into Russia's youth culture, and of course pick up that ever important slang!
Russian-American Soccer Match
Something that many of our students don't know about political science professor Alexander Sergeevich Sherstobitov is that he's an avid soccer player. With Alexander's help, this semester we've arranged a series of friendly soccer games between Russian students of the faculty of political science and American students studying at Smolny. The matches are a lot of fun and a great opportunity to let off some steam and make new friends.
Eric Coiffi (Miami University) on the attack!
Russian Cooking Class
Another fun way our students keep out of inclement autumn weather in St. Petersburg is to attend cooking classes. Every semester, we offer excursions to an exclusive cooking school, where expert chefs teach our eager students how to prepare their favorite Russian and Georgian dishes.
This semester, director of operations; Northern Europe, Caroline Maas, joined our students for a spirited Russian cooking class. Caroline has visited our center before, but never had the time to join our students for dinner. Participating in such an activity allowed Caroline valuable insight into the student experience in St. Petersburg. In addition to learning how to make perfect schi (Russian cabbage soup), Russian fried potatoes with mushrooms, pazharskie kotleti (breaded chicken cutlets), piroshki (Russian pies with apples and raspberry jam), she had a great time talking to and getting to know some of our students.
Our chef, Alexander, instructs Lacey Carlson (St. Olaf), Caroline Maas, and Daniel Didok (Wofford College).
That's about it for the first fall newsletter from us in St. Petersburg. As the weather grows colder and the days grow darker, our students will continue their Russian adventure. Expect our next update in December!
С наилучшими пожеланиями (Best wishes),
Student Services Assistant
Student Services Assistant
Student Services Assistant