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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tatyana Yurevna during a tutoring session with Erika Larson (Northeastern University ’17) and Julia Tam (University of California ’17).
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.
CIEE Center Director, Irina Makoveeva introducing a film during one of this semester’s Cinema Club meetings.
Immersion with Russian Peers
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:
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.
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.
[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.
Plunging head first into their lives in St. Petersburg, students have actively gotten involved in the local life through various activities:
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.
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.
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