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As decades change, tides shift, and even the country’s and the city’s names may as well become history, it remains true that for CIEE students, studying abroad in Saint Petersburg compares to living on an entirely different planet. Exquisite language intricacies, startling habits and behaviors of the locals, and fickle weather could scare anyone, but not the fearless CIEE students!


Active learning begins as soon as students step foot on the Russian land: throughout the three-day onsite orientation right at the beginning of the semester, we introduced the CIEE students to safety and health matters, academic requirements, cultural differences and homestay life etiquette. Topped with the comprehensive language assessment, extensive city tour around main Petersburg landmarks and sights, and city scavenger hunt, the first two weeks of the program were indeed eventful, equipping the students with the skills and knowledge essential for navigating life in their new home for the next four months.

CIEE Saint Petersburg 50th Anniversary

We kicked off the fall 2017 semester with a grand celebration of CIEE’s 50 years in Saint Petersburg, former Leningrad. The four-day anniversary program engaged the alumni in activities ranging from high-profile opening reception, conferences, and panel discussions, to entertaining cultural activities: ‘Swan Lake’ ballet, Russian banya, Soviet musical hits dance party, and traditional Russian costume ball. One of the highlights of the weekend were the roundtable discussions hosted at the Saint Petersburg State University Philology Department, where the CIEE’s history in Soviet Union began in 1967. Students and alumni exchanged ideas on career pursuits and discussed the impact that the educational exchanges have had on mutual understanding between Russia and the U.S. The two generations’ experiences are very different but their passion for the Russian language and culture are very much alike.


Left: Sulamita Barbiyeru (U of Oregon) volunteers at the Opening Reception

Center: CIEE students volunteer at the Traditional Russian Costume Ball

Right: Roundtable discussions for CIEE alumni and students

Ben Shefner, U of Vermont (CIEE alum Summer 2017 & CIEE student Fall 2017):

The anniversary celebration was a great opportunity to meet with people of all ages and careers, all bound by our common experience in Russia. I got the chance to chat and swap stories with alumnus from all walks of life- from those who never used their Russian skills after the program to various business people and former diplomats."

Academic Program Highlights

How does a study abroad endeavor differ from a touristic adventure? In addition to the opportunity for language advancement, studying at CIEE allow students to examine different aspects of culture, socio-political life, and history of the foreign country through a variety of site-specific courses, discussions, open lectures, and local field trips to thematic museums and expositions.

Introducing New CIEE Course

Intercultural Leadership and Communication (Russian Area Studies Program)

The revised three-credit ICL course returns the intercultural learning component to the CIEE Saint Petersburg academic curriculum by engaging students in in-depth analysis of contemporary intercultural communication theories and practices. Throughout the course, students increase their cultural self-awareness and develop personal leadership skills that are geared to help them become successful leaders in an interdependent world.

ICL class activityICL students performing a skit on communication styles in class


Teaching Faculty Highlight

Prof. Grigory Yarygin, SPSU School of International Relations

Prof. Yarygin has joined the CIEE teaching faculty this semester as the instructor of Contemporary Russian Politics and Governance course. Having taught at Saint Petersburg State University since 2007, Yarygin largely focused his research on the electoral processes of the U.S. and Canada, and on the environmental safety and compliance. A member of The ISA (The International Studies Association) and an author of more than 40 publications in his field of expertise, Grigory Yarygin is an excellent addition to the CIEE Saint Petersburg teaching faculty, who brings his professionalism and enthusiasm to the classroom.

Guest Lectures Discussing the Social Media Role in Political Mobilization

SPSU School of Political Science Professor Alexander Sherstobitov presented his research on the role of network discussion in the dynamics of ethno-political conflicts in Russia. The research focused on the activity of both pro-state and oppositional political groups during the electoral cycle of 2011-2012. According to Sherstobitov, despite popular beliefs, social media rarely becomes a tool for real-life political organizing in Russia.

Albert J. Weatherhead III Professor at Harvard University Gary King in his recent study of the ways the Chinese government fabricates posts on the Internet, has demonstrated that in China the social media networking has a direct impact on off-line political behavior. Professor King discussed the rationale behind 448 million social media comments a year, which are fabricated by government employees.


Left: CIEE Discussion clubs focused on the concept of global village and women’s role in politics

Right: CIEE ‘Comparative Studies: U.S.–Russia’ students during field trip to Museum of Political History


Left: Harvard University Professor King’s guest lecture was attended by CIEE students and teaching faculty

Right: CIEE ‘Russian Fairytales’ students at a glass plates painting  master-class

Community Service & Volunteering

Among various ways to broaden your horizons and continue learning outside of classroom, volunteering takes the lead when it comes to the level of meaningful engagement with the local community. CIEE students partake in various initiatives that take them around and beyond Saint Petersburg. In addition to CIEE’s regular partner volunteering programs, such as teaching English as the SPSU Foreign Language Center and translating for the Lenfilm cinema studio, this semester CIEE students engaged in volunteering at a children camp in the small town of Pushkin, lending a hand at Rzhevka animal shelter, and paying a visit to a local orphanage. Abigail Pech (Rochester University) shares her volunteering experience:

I had a great time volunteering at the shelter.  I absolutely love dogs, so I'm pretty sure that I got more out of it than they did.  For the end of the day, they handed me a tiny puppy, and I started crying.  It was really embarrassing.


CIEE Alternative Break

Every semester CIEE students volunteer during one-week-long Alternative Break program and lend a hand with community service in smaller Russian towns. Kim Lantz (Lewis & Clark College) and Melanee Robles (UCSB) spent their fall break working with teens in a children camp outside Saint Petersburg. They facilitated creative developmental master-classes, engaged children in outdoor activities, and held 'storytelling evenings' daily. Throughout the program, Kim and Melanee were instructed and trained by experienced facilitators, which contributed to their expertise and development as young educators and helped them advance their Russian language skills.


Brendan Hebert, Macalester College, participated in Alternative Break in Rostov-on-Don. Read his impressions of the trip:

Rostov was truly an unforgettable experience and, at the risk of sounding cliche, I think I made lifelong friends there, or at least friends I will for sure stay in touch with after I leave. I jumped on the first opportunity to return and am truly floored by the hospitality of the people there.

CIEE Sports Engagement

A widely known aphorism, “В здоровом теле – здоровый дух” translating literally as "a healthy mind in a healthy body", perfectly outlines such an important component of CIEE student life in Saint Petersburg as extracurricular involvement. On top of joining the university and the city sporting clubs and teams, CIEE students and Russian Buddies enjoy their own initiatives, such as a volleyball club started by Sveta Chichvarina, a third-year student of SPSU School of Political Science.

Grace soccer

Grace Mannix (Pennsylvania State U), pictured in the center, with her Russian soccer team that she has been a part throughout the semester

Traveling to Explore the Region

In addition to CIEE’s own overnight trip to Moscow, day-long trip to Veliky Novgorod and the one-week Alternative Break program that took students to Rostov-on-Don and Pushkin this semester, the students take any chance they get to explore more of the unknown Russia, and beyond. This semester, the most popular travel destinations included Finland, Georgia, Estonia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Belarus.


CIEE students & Russian Buddy Nikita Bortnikov (SPSU) enjoying the Moscow city tour

Zach Smith (Georgetown University) reflects on the trips that he and his friends took throughout the CIEE semester:

Our trip to Siberia was the vacation of a lifetime. We experienced the Trans-Siberian Railroad, the Hot Springs of Arshan, the cabins in the South Siberian forests, and the vastness of Lake Baikal with its beautiful, commanding mountains that seemed to rise straight out of the lake itself. The sights were amazing, the interactions with the locals were fun and engaging, and the friendships we made will last for years!


Left: Jessica Marshall (U of Florida), Alexis Giunta (George Washington U), Riley Ries (Washington and Lee U), James Howard (UC Riverside), Erin Seewaldt-Dietze (Georgetown U), Zach Smith (Georgetown U), Louis Bethge (UCLA) during their Siberian adventure

Right: Lachlan Bebout (UC Berkeley), George Howe (Macalester College), Ty Goering (UCSC), Hayden Plunkett (UCSB) during the Independent Travel Week spent in Tbilisi, Georgia and Yerevan, Armenia

What Are You Thankful For?

Continuing a warm tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving in Russia, CIEE students, alumni, and staff put their efforts in planning, cooking, decorating, and setting up a beautiful feast right on Smolny campus on the Thanksgiving Day.

день благодарения

Now the November holiday cheer starts to slowly wither, leading way to the December holiday spirit and, inevitably, the conclusion of the incredible fall 2017 CIEE semester in Saint Petersburg. As we are approaching the final semester mark, we would like to say that we are beyond thankful for our amazing students, their families and instructors both at home and here in Russia. Happy Holiday season from all of us at CIEE Saint Petersburg! 

S nailuchshimi pozhelaniyami (Wishing you all the best),

CIEE Saint Petersburg

Katya Kavchenko, Student Services Assistant

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions and Activities Coordinator

Dr. Natalia Chernyaeva, Academic Coordinator

Dr. Irina Makoveeva, Center Director


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