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1 posts from March 2014


SPRING 2014, Issue I



This semester, our group of nearly 70 students arrived in the ‘City on the Neva,’ welcomed by one of the coldest days of the winter. Needless to say, the cold couldn’t stop us!


Within a week of arriving, students set off to explore the city for CIEE’s annual St. Petersburg Scavenger Hunt Contest. Equipped with a list and a map, teams of students traveled throughout the city completing various tasks helping them to leap into the rhythm of Russian life and culture. Passersby on that cold February morning might have seen our students breakdancing on Palace Square, taking selfies in front of the International Medical Clinic and the ticket window selling various event and concert tickets, as well as tasting kvass, a famous Russian beverage made of fermented black or rye bread, while snacking on pyshki, St. Petersburg-style donuts.  

1. And the Adventures Begin

Sasha Dale (UC Berkeley), Dylan Rothwell (Occidental College), Caroline Klonoski (Brandeis University), and Matthew Iudin-Nelson (Luther College) eating pyshki.



 Winners of the scavenger hunt were rewarded with opera tickets! 

2. Prized-opera tickets

Scavenger hunt winners at the Mikhailovsky Theater.



 One of the most powerful excursions students experience during their time in St. Petersburg is the Blockade Tour. The 872 day siege of Leningrad had an immense effect on the city that is now present day St. Petersburg, shaping the history of the city and its people. Students observed various remnants from this difficult era as we toured the city by bus, visiting the conservatory where Dmitry Shostakovich wrote Symphony №7, viewing the bullet holes still visible in the southern pillars of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, visiting Piskaryovskoe Memorial Cemetery and Museum.

As Drexel University and year-long CIEE student, Kailey Kluge reflected on the tour: “What was cool about it is that we went to a lot of places around the city that you see every day and you learn the real significance about them, and it changes how you feel about these places. It really changes everything. A lot of times you see the imperial history and modern politics, so it’s interesting to look back at that era.”


Students at the Piskaryovskoe Memorial.

The Siege of Leningrad tour nearly coincided with the Russian national holiday, Defenders of the Fatherland, a holiday in honor of all those who have served or are serving in the Russian Armed Forces. The tour was a good way to celebrate this holiday.



Music is part of the fabric of everyday life, and provides valuable cultural and literary references, as well as insights into the society and period of time from which it comes. Artemy Troitsky, a renowned Russian rock music critic visited the CIEE Study Center’s new office on the Moika Embankment, to guest lecture on Russian rock music to CIEE students. Students were fascinated by his insights on Russian rock music; how it was influenced by Russia’s unique history and political repression, the relief it provided its listeners, and how and why it differs from American rock music in popularity and its substance.

 Everest Law (Occidental College), a fan of Russian rock music and a CIEE Russian Area Studies student reflected on the lecture:

 “As a Russophile, it is a pleasure to learn about Russian rock music from someone who has witnessed its infancy and major evolutions. It is intriguing to hear Troitsky drawing contrasts between Russian and English-language rock. Perhaps, the unique tendency of writing self-reflecting, sentimental lyrics among classic Russian rock musicians says something about their era and the Russian civilization in general.”

 On March 22nd, CIEE students will be visited by another set of guest lecturers: Mordechai Rabinowitz, a CIEE St. Petersburg ’76 alum and current CFO of Boeing, and Dmitry Korchagin, a client rep for IBM. Students are looking forward to hearing more about business in Russia and how it compares to business in the US, from these professionals. 

4. Guest lecture 'Celebrating Russian Rock'

Artmey Troitsky (pictured on the right) during his conversation with CIEE students on rock music in Russia.



 Spring’s early arrival in St. Petersburg this year, helped students escape the monochromatic cold, gray days of February and March, and begin enjoying Petersburg in the sunshine. To welcome spring and eat bliny (Russian crepes), students went to Krestovsky Island in St. Petersburg and celebrated Maslenitsa, a traditional Russian holiday with pagan and Christian roots. There at Yelagin Park, students watched a Cossack-horseback riding show, learned traditional Russian folk dancing, mingled with locals dressed in traditional Russian clothing, and watched the infamous burning of the Maslenitsa straw doll.

 Our students enjoyed the day of festivities. As Lauren McGarry (Georgetown University) said at the end of the day, “Today was the most Russian day of my life, and it was awesome. Maslenitsa was definitely as wonderful and bliny-filled as promised. 

5. Maslenitsa festitivities

Calen Olesen (Washington State University), Emma Alperin (University of Rochester), and Benjamin Rogers (Pennsylvania State University) pose with Russians in traditional dress at a festival for Maslenitsa.



 Looking to shake off the winter slumber, students joined a group of European University students and professors in the first ever 7-game basketball tournament hosted by European University. The competition was tough, but armed with some amazing CIEE cheerleaders; our two teams pulled through with 5th and 6th place.

 As one of our basketball players, Dylan Rothwell (Occidental College) said “It was really cool that we were able to get together outside of the classroom and play sports against other students. I got to meet some new people.”

6. CIEE Slam Dunks (2)

Anton Stepanov (Student Services Assistant) and Edward McGovern (Siena College) duke it out during the basketball tournament (left). Some of CIEE's cheerleaders and players watch the games (right).



 Our students seem to never slow down! Given the option of volunteering, our students are involved with Red Cross, teaching English, assisting in test prep and discussion clubs at EducationUSA, as well as volunteering at Lenfilm.

 Additionally, they are constantly taking the initiative to seek new opportunities and activities. Justin Bliss (The Ohio State University) became engaged in yoga after visiting a class with his host family and has continued attending classes with a few other CIEE students. There he discovered a new medium through which to connect with his host family at a deeper level and also discovered a new perspective on Russia.

 “The décor there is so cool. I never expected to see something like that in Russia. It’s a lot more prevalent than I would’ve guessed. At the end of each session, the instructor will go through relaxing exercises focusing on each body part, almost in an out-of-body way. This mindset seems very prevalent, and it’s spurred some interesting conversations with my host mom,” explained Justin.

This semester, the equestrians of our group, accompanied by CIEE Excursions Coordinator, Julia Semibratova even found a place to go horseback riding.

7. Pursuing Passions outside the Classroom

Rayne Thomas-Kuehn (American University), Victoria Perrachon (Georgetown University), and Julia Semibratova (CIEE Excursions Coordinator).


Music on the Neva

With the help of CIEE staff, some of our musicians have found cafes that welcome its visitors to play during their visit. One of our students, Caitlin Gleed (American University) has visited these cafes with fellow students:

“I've been to Kofe na Kukhne and Muzika Krysh and played there. At Muzika Krysh, we played, and the bar clapped for us - we got free tea too!! As for Kofe na Kukhne, my friends and I go there every once in a while on the weekend to drink their hot chocolate and to play on their piano. There is even a sign painted on the wall that says "Pozhaluysta igraete (please play).

8. Music on the Neva

Lauren McGarry (Georgetown University) is playing on the piano, and Caitlin Gleed (American University) is playing on the guitar.


All the best (vsevo dobrovo),

 From the St. Petersburg team and myself, Liz McBean, the new editor of the Study Center’s newsletter!


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