A big warm and sunny hello from the northern capital of Russia!
Spring is in full bloom, the snow has long since melted, flowers are beginning to bud, and with each passing day, more and more sunshine fill our days. Hints of the warm days soon to come are felt by all – a welcome change from the long, dark winter students arrived in three months ago. These past few months have been an exhilarating whirlwind of new experiences and new adventures as students explore Russian language and culture.
The last week of March and the first week of April were especially captivating, as the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center’s spring “Travel Break” was inaugurated with the CIEE trip to Moscow; a perfect segway into students’ individual explorations of Russia.
Moscow, the City of Millions!
A semester studying abroad in Russia cannot be complete without a visit to Russia’s largest political, economic, cultural, and scientific epicenter – its capital city, Moscow! St. Petersburg, a distinctive city incomparable to all others, has a completely different feel from Moscow. Walking along the streets of St. Petersburg often impresses its guests with its sheer aesthetic beauty of ancient and colorful buildings and palaces, however, walking the streets of Moscow often impresses its guests by its sheer massiveness and powerfulness.
And we’re off! Students together with CIEE Excursion’s Coordinator, Julia Semibratova excited to board the overnight train from St. Petersburg to Moscow! (L-R) Andrew Woodcock (Indiana University-Bloomington), Olga Lefebvre (Howard University), Maddio Steup (Indiana University-Bloomington), Vita Khachaturyan (University of California-EAP), Townshend Cooper (The Ohio State University), Tess Clark (Kenyon College), Kelsey Douville (University of New Hampshire).
As University of Colorado student, Ryan McCahon reflected:
“I really enjoyed my time in Moscow seeing the place where all of the political decisions happen on the national and world scale. Even walking on the streets you can feel that Moscow is a more ‘Russian’ city than St. Petersburg, which has a distinctive European feel to it. It was also nice to see skyscrapers again. And authentic burgers and shakes too, can't forget that.” (A number of students visited a popular American diner that boasts authentic American milkshakes while in Moscow.)
CIEE group photo in front of St. Basil's Cathedral on the Red Square!
Students filled their time exploring the city and its vast array of museums. In addition to touring the Kremlin, the church within the Kremlin territory where all former tsars were crowned, and the Kremlin’s Armoury Chambers, students were able to choose to visit either the Museum of Contemporary History or the Tretyakov Gallery.
Maddie Steup (Indiana University-Bloomington '16)
“This was my second time visiting the Tretyakov Gallery, and it seems to only gets better and better the more times I’ve gone. The iconography there blows me away. Our guide knew a massive amount of information, and knew how to tell us all the interesting details about the artwork we viewed. It was really fascinating to learn how the icons were painted over throughout history, and to see firsthand the different layers of paint, revealed after so many years of degradation. It was indescribable how interesting it was to look at one icon and see so many different centuries of iconography all in one piece of artwork!”
Some of the iconography preserved and displayed in the Tretaykov Gallery.
Students touring the Tretyakov Gallery with our wonderful guide, Genadiy.
The Tretaykov Gallery’s beginnings trace back to Moscow merchant, Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov, who began collecting works by Russian artists. His humble collection quickly grew, becoming a collection of over 2,000 works, which he presented to Russia, hence beginning the Tretyakov Gallery. Later in the day, CIEE Excursions Coordinator, Julia Semibratova led a group of interested students through the Novodevichy Cemetery, one of Russia’s most famous cemeteries, laying rest to some of Russia’s most famous citizens, such as Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov.
The Novedevichy Cemetery is famous for the unique artistry of each gravestone, embodying the person who lies in rest there. Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov Is one of the famous Russian citizens buried here (as pictured on the right).
The Museum of Cosmonautics was another one of the noteworthy Moscow museums visited by our students and CIEE staff. As Washington and Lee University student, Max Stanley reflects:
“The most striking aspect of the museum is the approach, as you grow closer and closer to the museum, you see the gleaming glass edifice of the monument of a shuttle launching off, expressing glory and triumph. The contents of the museum itself are a catalogue of the greatest thinkers and minds of the Soviet Union. As you advance further into the museum, the focus begins to shift away from a Soviet mindset to one of a more global perspective. The endeavors of the international space station are the focus, leading one hopeful to a continued cooperation between the United States, Russia, and the rest of the world. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”
During the city bus tour, students explored the park overlooking the Novodevichy Convent, also known as Bogoroditse-Smolensky Monastery. The ducks is always a popular photo spot!
CIEE Alternative Break: Not a Single Day without an Act of Kindness!
On a warm Sunday night, right before the start of the CIEE Spring Travel Week, nine of our adventurous CIEE students boarded a 22-hour train that took them from Moscow to the capital of the Russian Arctic North (Pomorye), Arkhangelsk. This city resting upon the shore of the White Sea was by no way a random choice—this semester, Arkhangelsk was designated to be the CIEE’s Alternative Break location! The CIEE Alternative Break Program best fits those students, who wish to embrace their wanderlust, discover new places, while simultaneously giving back to the hosting community through volunteer efforts.
Upon arrival, students quickly understood that the weather in Arkhangelsk is relatively colder than in central Russia, and winter has not quite yet come to an end. Upon arrival, students embarked on a 3-hour tour of Arkhangelsk, giving students a feel of the Pomor culture, its people, traditions, and the town’s long history, dating back to the year of 1584, when the town was founded by Russian tsar, Ivan the Terrible.
L. to R.: Steavi Swinson (University of New Haven), Luke Munday (University of Alaska, Anchorage), Townshend Cooper (Ohio State University, Main Campus) and Yousef Kazerooni (University of California, Berkeley) enjoying their time at the open-air museum of wooden architecture Malye Korely.
The next five days our students were constantly on-the-go, filling their time from dawn till dusk, volunteering and integrating into the local community, and then spending lovely evenings with their Arkhangelsk homestay families that were carefully selected by the CIEE study center staff prior to their arrival.
Volunteering at a greenhouse in the local urban preservation center became one of the trip’s highlights. It was very refreshing to take a break from the vibrant big-city life that St. Petersburg offers, and to submerge into the quaint environment of the Arkhangelsk preservation center. During the day the group spent volunteering there, the CIEE students planted, dug, and cultivated flowers, making a diligent effort to help the gardening staff. As always, a hard working day was rewarded by a traditional Russian leisure activity, chaepitie, or socializing and conversing while drinking tea and eating cookies and other sweets.
Volunteering at the Urban Preservation Center. Left: Townshend Cooper (Ohio State University–Main Campus), Yousef Kazerooni (University of California, Berkeley), Andrew Woodcock (Indiana University–Bloomington). Right: McKenzy Seifert (Barnard College), Savanna Moen (University of Minnesota–Twin Cities)Townshend Cooper (Ohio State University ’16)
Townshend Cooper (Ohio State University ’16)
“Arkhangelsk was an incredible experience, from beginning to end. We did so much in so short an amount of time that when it came time to leave, it felt like we had only been in the city for a few days as opposed to a whole week. One of my favorite experiences has to be during our first day, when the CIEE visited the local “Urban Garden”, a small project aimed at bringing some of the surrounding wildlife and nature of the Arkhangelsk region directly into the city. We really got our hands dirty – sifting soil and moving piles of dirt and wood are only some of the tasks we were assigned. It was one of the first volunteering opportunities we were presented, and it really felt like we were helping to make a difference!”
During another unforgettable day in Arkhangelsk, our students visited the regional children hospital together with the local “Clown Care” group. Hospital Clowns is a global initiative that helps young children recover after serious illnesses. Initiative groups all around the world visit hospitals dressed up as clowns and geared with fun games, magic tricks, fairy tales, balloons and open hearts filled with compassion and support for these little patients. In Arkhangelsk, students of the Northern State Medical University have been implementing the “Clown Care” project for over two years. This spring they were very excited to meet the visiting CIEE students, who proved eager to learn from their peers and to contribute to the program development.
Angela Fairfield (University of California, Davis) and Yousef Kazerooni (University of California, Berkeley) entertaining children at the Arkhangelsk Regional Children Hospital.
Apart from the valuable experience that the students had volunteering and the input they made to the local community, Arkhangelsk also presented the CIEE students with the best gift of all, its unique and eloquent Pomor culture. During the program, students participated in a large number of cultural master classes, dance classes, tours, and excursions. The hosting organization, the Regional School for Gifted Children and their staff put great efforts into helping the CIEE students discover another side of Russia. Their hard work definitely paid off!
Luke Munday (University of Alaska, Anchorage):
"For my travel week I had the pleasure of visiting Arkhangelsk. An interesting excursion into a different part of Russia that I am very lucky to have seen. While I was there I was able to make new Russian friends, and really experience some Russian culture in the far north. Our hosts were very welcoming and accommodating and showed us the sights of their city. The volunteer work that I participated in with the local community was very rewarding and I will never forget the experience."
Angela Fairfield (University of California, Davis), Steavi Swinson (University of New Haven) and Savanna Moen (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities) during the cultural dancing master class
At the Talagi airport in Arkhangelsk, right before the departure. Ira Vasilyeva, CIEE Student Services Coordinator, and the group of nine CIEE students with a few of the Russian friends they made during the trip.
(Iskrenne Vashi) Sincerely yours,
The CIEE Fall Newsletter editors, Liz & Ira
Liz McBean, Student Services Assistant
Anton Stepanov, Student Services Assistant
Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant
Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator
Katya Rubtsova, Program Coordinator
Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator
Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator
Irina Makoveeva, Center Director