CIEE students take over the Vesna ne za gorami (“Spring is just around the corner”) sign decorating the Vorobyovye Gory observation platform overlooking Moscow!
Warm greetings from the Northern Capital of Russia! Winter has long ago ended, and it’s hard to believe that the spring semester will soon be coming to an end as well. Students will return to the US with many bright memories of these past few unforgettable months.
“Walking the Streets of Moscow”
Red Square photographs! [left]: Students represent CIEE on the Red Square during the evening bus tour. [Right]: A group photo of one of the Kremlin tour excursion groups.
"And I am going to walk around Moscow, and I can still walk some more, To the salty Pacific Ocean and through the tundra and taiga. Maybe I'll set sail on a white sailboat, though I don't know with whom. And if I should become homesick, Under the snow, I'll recollect and remember about Moscow.”
These lyrics from the famous Soviet film “Walking the Streets of Moscow” (Ya shagayu po Moskve) present a good backdrop for CIEE’s semester trip to Moscow. Graced with sunny, blue skies, CIEE traveled to Moscow near the end of March, spending four days exploring Russia’s capital city.
Students had fun coming up with creative Red Square pictures such as this one!
American University student, Zachary Hinsch, reflected:
“Moscow’s massive and incredibly unique. It feels more Russian than St. Petersburg. There’s no other city like it. You get there, and immediately feel that this is the center of Russia. This is where the Russian government makes its decisions. You especially felt that when we toured the Kremlin.”
Students filled their time exploring the city and its wide array of museums. In addition to touring the Kremlin, the church where all the tsar’s were crowned, and the Kremlin’s Armoury Chambers, students were able to choose to visit one of six different museums led by CIEE staff. The choices ranged from touring Moscow’s unique subway stops, to visiting the Museum of Cosmonautics (as pictured below) and Mikhail Bulgakov’s apartment, among others.
Russian-language-heritage speaker, Ella Berishev (Western Washington University) was one of the students to visit the Great Patriotic War Museum:
“It was really powerful. I felt like, there, I was able to pay respect to my great-grandfather. In the museum, there were books with the names of deceased and MIA soldiers from the USSR during the Great Patriotic War. I found the book for Kazakhstan, where my great-grandfather’s name is written. After the museum, I looked online at their archives and found all the original documents from his enlistment, and was able to share that with my family. It's moments like this that remind me of my Russian heritage and why I came here to study.”
Alternative Break Outside of Petersburg
If asked to describe St. Petersburg, students would not hesitate to supply you with an endless stream of laudatory and grandiose adjectives. St. Petersburg, simply speaking, is very unique and beautiful, and is completely unlike any other city in Russia. Thus, travel opportunities within Russia, such as CIEE’s Volunteer-Alternative Break, give students the opportunity to delve even deeper into their understanding of Russia.
During the weeklong spring travel break, two students embarked on a 22-hour train ride, covering 800 miles across the Russian countryside to arrive in Kirov, while two other students traveled 15 hours to their final destination of Nizhny Novgorod. In both cities, representatives from the international volunteer camp, SFERA awaited the CIEE students’ arrivals. In Kirov, students spent their time teaching English to children, and leading discussion clubs with Russian students. In Nizhny Novgorod, CIEE students spent some of their time working with a theater boarding school for deaf children.
[Left] Morgan Parrette (University of Massachusetts-Amherst) with local children involved in the SFERA camp during Alternative Break in Kirov. [Right] Declan Habeck (American University), standing second from the right with local volunteers of SFERA in Kirov.
Kamisha Curtis (University of Rochester) was one of the two students to volunteer in Nizhny Novgorod:
“I’m really glad I traveled within Russia for travel break. Going on alternative break allowed me to see another side of Russia. The architecture was less grandstandy than St. Petersburg, but I felt like Nizhny was a lot closer to the real Russia. The people seemed nicer, and were interested in us, asking us lots of questions. Life was slower paced. In some aspects, it made me feel a lot closer to home than St. Petersburg.”
Quintessential Russian Literature: A Day of Dostoevsky
Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, throws its readers, inescapably into the mind of Rodion Raskolnikov as he falls further into madness as he roams the streets of St. Petersburg. One Saturday this April, the many Dostoevsky fans amongst our students, walked in the footsteps of these very characters during the “Crime and Punishment Walk.”
Students during the Crime and Punishment walking tour.
Jackie Moncayo (University of California, San Diego)was one of the Dostoevsky fans that embarked on this literary exploration:
“As a Russian and Soviet Studies major, it makes sense that I love Russian literature. The tour itself was nice; it was almost as if we were playing detective as we followed the footsteps of the characters. I had wanted a picture to the places I had read, and by the end of the tour, I definitely had it.”
To complete the day of Dostoevsky, in the evening, a number of students viewed a very unique and exceptional showing of Dostoevsky's “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man,” starring award-winning actor, Leonid Mozgovoi. This classical theater by candlelight in a 19th century apartment is an intimate theatrical experience, boasting talented actors and an exceptionally unique atmosphere, creating an unforgettable impression on all those who were in attendance.
Zoe Winkworth (Northwestern University), Victoria Perrachon (Georgetown University), Nika Bennett (New York University), Ella Berishev (Western Washington University), & Everest Law (Occidental College) with actor, Leonid Mozgovoi after the performance of Dream of a Ridiculous Man.
Russian-American Discussion Club: Corruption & Protests
Following our common tradition, CIEE students, met twice this semester with Russian students from the SPbSU School of Political Science to discuss "Corruption in Russia and Worldwide” and “Protests: Effective or Ineffective.” Moderated by Student Services Assistants, Anton Stepanov and Pasha Sergeev, students delved into these difficult, multi-layered questions.
Morgan Richardson (University of Tulsa), one of the regular Discussion Club participants, has enjoyed the opportunity to discuss these topics in such a unique setting:
“All of the discussion clubs were extremely well organized and quite fun. I like how they began with background information on the matter and then morphed into small discussion circles so that students could banter about ideas.”
Post-CIEE: Opening Horizons
It is clear that our group of students is an ambitious batch of budding linguists, historians, businesspersons, academics, marketing professionals, doctors, and more! Dedicated to facilitating students’ achievement during their semester abroad, CIEE is also dedicated to providing students with the tools needed to guide them professionally post-CIEE. CIEE strives to provide alumni with beneficial, relevant career services, including networking, resume development, and internship opportunities.
This semester, students were visited by guest lecturers such as the CFO of the Russian Division of Boeing, Mordechai Rabinowitz (CIEE ’76) and a Client Rep of IBM, Dmitry Korchagin, as well as attended informational sessions about graduate programs at European State University and in the Political Science Department of Saint Petersburg State University. Additionally, Student Services Assistant, Liz McBean (CIEE Spring ‘10) provided students with information on scholarship, grant, internship, and teaching opportunities in Russia, for those interested in pursuing a career in Russia and the Russian sphere.
Mordechai Rabinowitz (CIEE ’76), CFO of the Russian Division of Boeing guest lecturing at the Moika CIEE Office.
Iphones and ipads and ipods! Oh my! Living in an age of technological advances has a huge effect on one’s life, including one’s education. Dr. Andrey Shcherbenok (CIEE instructor ’11-’12), professor of practice in the Education Development Center at the Moscow School of Management, Skolkovo visited CIEE students to discuss the changing structure of higher education worldwide due to e-learning development.
Political science major, and CIEE Russian Area Studies student, Bill Tyndall (University of California, Berkeley) has been one of the constants at these events:
“It is nice to see the transition from being part of the CIEE program to having relevant work in Russia. It’s helped give an actual view of opportunities in Russia beyond studying, as well as understand the unique capabilities studying in Russia has compared to other countries.”
Lenin and the Bolshevik Headquarters of Smolny
It seems very fitting that the CIEE Study Center and the SPbSU Department of Political Science are located within the walls of the Smolny Convent, which borders the institute where Lenin lived and worked during the October Revolution. This Bolshevik headquarters became the Leningrad Party headquarters until 1991, and is now the office of the Mayor of St. Petersburg. Within walking distance from the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center, students had the opportunity to visit the museum housing Lenin’s modest apartment and office.
Students enjoying the 9th CIEE Pub Quiz!
How many dresses were still left in the wardrobe of Russian Emperor, Elizabeth Petrovna, 21 years after her death? In a box full of which fruit did Cheburashka travel to the city? Who was the first dog in space? To which political party did American President, John Adams, belong? Can you answer these questions and more? Every semester, Russian and American students take their hand at trivia during CIEE’s Pub Quiz nights.
Exploring the Athlete Within!
[Left] Students playing indoor beach volley! [Right] Daniel Ridge (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) fights for possession during a pick-up soccer game.
Without a doubt, many students will tell you their experience studying abroad, was one of their best life experiences. A semester outside the US takes students far beyond their comfort zones. It is a wonderful time of discovery as students plunge head first into a new world, which at times, despite its allure and excitement, can be emotionally draining. What better way to fight this mental drain than by playing pick-up soccer with Russian students, playing volleyball with fellow CIEE students, taking part in a basketball tournament with European University students, or joining the local St. Petersburg Ultimate Frisbee team’s practice? This spring we have an active group of students that have embraced any and all athletic opportunities in Russia. We have tried just about every sport this semester: basketball, soccer, volleyball, and most recently, ultimate Frisbee!
Declan Habeck (American University), one of the mainstays in the CIEE sporting arena has embraced all athletic CIEE endeavors:
“There’s something exhausting about not doing anything active, so it’s great to run around. It gives you a chance to meet locals, and really participate and use your Russian”
Magic in the Air: Spring Ball
[Right]: Emma Alperin (University of Rochester) and Caitie Gleed (American University) duke it out for the final seat in a game of musical chairs.
The embellished pannier-supported gowns, the elaborately embroidered waistcoats, the fancy wigs, the sparkling masks…simply speaking, Smolny was beyond enchanting the night of the annual Spring Ball. Transformed into an 18th century ballroom, those who entered Smolny’s doors, found themselves engulfed by the dizzying circles of guests waltzing beneath glistening chandeliers and waiters serving champagne and hors d'oeuvres.
This annual spring event is especially close to all our hearts as it is unique in terms of this enchanting tranformation of our students and the building itself, but also as it is uniquely Russian. And it doesn’t hurt to say that we’re especially proud to boast we’re the only study center to have such a spectacular event!
Caroline Klonoski (Brandeis University) looking radiant in red during the Polonaise.
This multi-staged project filled the month prior to the ball with student-staff ball committee meetings, costume fittings, rehearsals, and dance classes. Our students, or rather our esteemed lords and ladies, hussars, jesters, and a few stray gypsies, graced the dance floor with a polonaise, polka, and waltz.
Of the esteemed guests, Alexander Pushkin and his lovely wife, Natalia Goncharova made an appearance.
Justin Bliss (The Ohio State University) and Kailey Kluge (Drexel University), our very own Pushkin and Natalia sitting atop the carriage at the ball.
The ball culminated in the dramatic kidnapping of the hostess of the ball by a horse and carriage of that epoch. Luckily, the host and one brave guest came to her rescue, valiantly winning a sword fight against the rogue jester and villain, to return her to safety
Our four swordsmen, pictured above left to right, Sasha Dale (University of California, Berkeley), Bill Tyndall (University of California, Berkeley), Nathaniel Bybee (University of Utah), and Clifton Iler (American University), took fencing courses the week prior to the ball, training for the climactic kidnapping and ensuing swordfight.
Clifton Iler (American University), one of our brave swordsmen, reflected:
“Being a part of the ball committee is one of the best experiences I’ve had in CIEE. I mean, how many more times in my life will I get to swordfight in 18th century garb?”
Outside the City Center
Tsarskoe Selo, unsurprisingly translates to “The Tsar’s Village.” This town 15 miles outside of St. Petersburg was once the residence of the imperial family and visiting nobility. Now, it is part of the town Pushkin, and houses one of Petersburg’s most beautiful palaces, Catherine’s Palace. However, this is not the city of Pushkin’s only claim to fame! Infamous Russian poet and writer, Alexander Pushkin as well as the future participants of the failed December mutiny of 1825 graduated from the lyceum located next to Catherine’s Palace in 1817.
Strolling through the garden surrounding Catherine’s Palace, it’s not surprising that students found the exterior of the lavish blue and white palace familiar. Bartolomeo Rastrelli, renown French-born Russian-Italian architect, designed not only Catherine’s Palace, but also Smolny Cathedral. Students enjoyed walking through the large, extravagant gardens after walking through the lavish palace, which was restored after World War II.
Pskov: A Breath of Fresh Air
Students chose to take the short way up and climbed the somewhat steep hill to reach the Izborsk Fortress!
Studying abroad in a city, boasting a population of more than 5 million is exhilarating, unforgettable, and far from slow paced. The simple things, like bike riding on a country road, or looking at the stars at night become distant memories. On the first of May, after a gruelingly long bus ride (holiday traffic jams), the double-decker bus of CIEE students arrived in Pushkinskiye Gory, an urban locality in the Pskov region boasting a population of a little over 5 thousand.
Enjoying the breath of fresh air of a weekend in the countryside, students rented bicycles, traipsed through the country roads exploring the surrounding nature and delving into the countryside which inspired national poet and writer, Alexander Pushkin. Students were able to walk through the rooms of the very estate, Mikhailovskoe, in which Pushkin lived and wrote during his exile, and experience the respect towards and magnitude of Russia’s national poet, when we visited his grave at the Svyatogorsk monastery.
In addition to exploring a local watermill, Bugrovo (a village modeled after a 19th century Russian village), and the local fortress, students enjoyed an evening of banya (Russian steam bath) and sashliki (kebabs served outside).
The natural springs of Izborsk, such as the one pictured above, were one of the many beautiful sights we visited during the trip to the Pskov region. Each natural spring has a specific purpose – health, love, wealth, etc. – and drinking the fresh water of that spring, as the myth goes, will grant you that blessing.
Students are caught on camera in front of the Grand Cascade at Peterhof. Commonly known as the Russian Versailles, this series of palaces and gardens is always a favorite amongst students, as they explore the intricate and many times playful fountains laid out by Peter the Great.
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It has been a wonderful semester, and we hope you have enjoyed the glance into our students' lives in St. Petersburg! From all of the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center Staff,
Счастливо (shaslivo), take care!
CIEE Staff (Left to right): Nika Afansyeva, Julia Semibratova (Excursions Coordinator), Irina Navrotskaya, Pasha Sergeev, Liz McBean, Katya Rubtsova, Anton Stepanov
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Liz McBean, Student Services Assistant
Anton Stepanov, Student Services Assistant
Pasha Sergeev, Student Services Assistant
Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant
Katya Rubtsova, Program Coordinator
Irina Navrotskaya, Administrative Coordinator
Nadezhda Kirkova, Resident Director, RLP
Irina Makoveeva, Center Director