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.
The Summer RAS students touring the State Hermitage Museum under the guidance of CIEE Excursions Coordinator Julia Semibratova
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 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.
L. 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!
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!
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.”
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.
RAS students pictured in front of the Moscow State University building (one of the seven famous Stalin sister towers) at Sparrow Hills
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)!
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.
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