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2 posts from July 2015


July 2015, Russia Alumni Newsletter, Issue I


Dear CIEE Russia Alumni,

Let us keep you up-to-date on all things CIEE! In our ever developing initiative to strengthen alumni relations, we would like to keep your relationship with the St. Petersburg Study Center strong by mutually sharing our news and updates. We hope this will be the first of many more alumni letters. Please send us your stories and your updates (, we would love to hear from you!


Stay Connected. Be engaged.

Perpetuate your international experience by joining like-minded alumni in the quickly-growing CIEE Alumni Global Network. Although your semester in Russia has already drawn to a close, your relationship with CIEE is only beginning. We are steadfast in our belief that we change lives with our programs, and it is you, our dear alumni, who change the world.

The CIEE Alumni Global Network is a means of enriching the careers, lives, and friends of our global alumni in various ways. Because of this belief and a belief in our global mission, we will continue to facilitate new connections through new alumni events, programs, and on-line groups to cultivate your CIEE experience.


Join the CIEE Alumni Global Network and connect with your colleagues on LinkedIn.

One of our new initiatives to work towards strengthening alumni ties is the creation of regional networks in hub cities around the world, CIEE Alumni Local Chapters. The Local Chapter in Russia is growing and about to take off! We are still looking for a leader located in Russia, to undertake this endeavor and help lead and co-organize Local Chapter events with the CIEE Alumni team in Portland. From social meet-ups to community service to career networking, local chapters provide opportunities for alumni to reconnect. If you’ve returned or plan to return to Russia, reach out and engage with your fellow alumni!

Do you know that our alumni have returned to Russia to work for companies such as the Boeing Company, Marks and Sokolov Law firm, FC Zenit, Dechert LLP, EGO Translating, and the Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University. In addition to similar professional endeavors, as well as internships with the U.S. Consulate, every year, many alumni return to Russia pursuing teaching positions, as well as graduate studies at universities such as the European University or Middlebury College in Moscow. By connecting with your fellow alumni, you can collaborate and gain inspiration.


CIEE St. Petersburg Alumni & Student Weekend

December 5th through 7th, 2014 alumni working or studying in both Russia and the US, returned to St. Petersburg for the first official CIEE St. Petersburg Student & Alumni Weekend. Alumni ranging five decades and spanning all professional spheres were welcomed with open arms by staff and students, demonstrating firsthand what a diverse and global community the CIEE alumni are part of. 


Reception Dinner at the CIEE Administrative Office, opened in the Fall 2014 semester on the Moika Embankment.

The weekend consisted of a round table discussion with current students, meeting with the administration of SPSU (School of Political Science), participation in the center’s signature project devoted to Soviet culture of the 1970s, and a visit to St. Petersburg’s new Faberge Museum.

MordechaiStudents seized the opportunity to question alumni on how they have returned to Russia in a professional capacity, and to seek advice on how to incorporate Russian into their future careers in the US or abroad. To assist students with the future transition from university life to the professional world, alumni shared their personal paths which led them to their current positions. Alumni represented all professional spheres from law, business development, financial operations, international education, translating, to academia. This inspiring discussion with like-minded individuals motivated and enthused both students and alumni alike.


The round table discussion proved to be a highlight of the weekend!

Alumni Weekend

CIEE SPSU International Annual Student Research Conference

This spring, CIEE St. Petersburg undertook a new academic endeavor in its attempts to continually challenge its students in and outside the classroom, and to strengthen the academic ties between the School of Political Science (SPSU) of St. Petersburg State University. In addition to inviting former CIEE undergraduate and graduate students together with other students located across the globe, CIEE collaborated with SPSU to co-organize the Spring 2015 Student Research Conference. 


CIEE Center Director, Dr. Irina Efimovna Makoveeva presenting the opening remarks of the Student Research Conference.

This year’s topic, “Ethnic Contentions: Russia’s Perspective and Lessons from the West” provided much food for thought as our students, their Russian peers, and international participants  presented their research on these topics, resulting in lively discussions spanning a wide spectrum of historic and current political issues.


Discussions of this caliber and the international collaboration of young political scientists and historians across the globe are fundamental in light of today’s globalization. 


This conference will become an annual component of the CIEE spring semester. Stay subscribed to the CIEE Petersburg Alumni Facebook page for announcements on the next conference’s research topic. We invite all alumni to submit research proposals for the Spring 2016 Student Research Conference. 


CIEE Russia: What’s New!

CIEE Opens New Business and International Relations Program in Moscow

This year has commemorated the successful implementation of the first year of CIEE’s new Business and International Relations program in Russia’s capital city, Moscow. Directly enrolled in courses offered by the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, students receive incomparable experience learning from Russian experts in the fields of business, international relations, law, finances, political science, and history while located in a global center of business and culture.

In addition to classroom experience, CIEE’s BIR Internship Seminar, has enabled students to interns with Moscow-based companies such as Kommersant (national daily business newspaper), the Agency of Strategic Initiatives, the World Trade Center, and the Russian Council for International Affairs.


Graduation ceremony of the Fall '15 semester. CIEE students with SSC, Pasha Sergeev, and Deputy Director of School of Business at the MGIMO, Evgeny Glazov.

CIEE St. Petersburg


Continually expanding and depthening the Russian Language and Russian Area Studies Programs’ curricula, the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center has added multiple classes to its core collection. Advanced Russian language courses in Business Russian, as well as electives in specialized civilization courses, such as Agitation of Happiness, a course analyzing Soviet mass culture, and political science courses, such as Topics in Post-Soviet Politics.


Fall 2013 marked the inauguration of the CIEE St. Petersburg Administrative Office on the Moika Embankment, and the past two years have filled the office with various orientation sessions, cinema club meetings, karaoke nights, and numerous guest lectures on a wide range of topics, from doing business in Russia from a Russian and an American perspective, Russian rock music by famous music critic, Artmey Troitsky, to discussing the cultural phenomenon of the Soviet space dog movement with professor of the history of modern art and curator of the State Russian Museum, Dr. Olesya Turkina.


CIEE has expanded its collaborations with various organizations throughout Russia. Students now enjoy the opportunity to not only volunteer teaching English at St. Petersburg State University, but to also lead various discussion groups and classes at language schools throughout St. Petersburg, volunteer with the Red Cross, Nochlezhka (homeless shelter), at the Hermitage, as well as to volunteer with the second largest production branch of the Soviet film industry, Lenfilm, and volunteer in Russia’s largest museum of contemporary art, Erarta. In addition to these multiple community engagement opportunities in St. Petersburg, CIEE’s Alternative Break offered during the Travel Week semester breaks, has enabled students to familiarize themselves with Russian life in the provinces while serving the local communities. The past two Alternative Breaks have taken place in Nizhny Novgorod and Arkhangelsk.


A Taste of Petersburg

Alumni having returned to St. Petersburg enjoy revisiting the familiar places they grew to know during their study abroad experience. However, there are certain things that might surprise you! Here’s a little of what’s new in the ‘Cultural Capital’:


The St. Petersburg Subway

The St. Petersburg subway has undoubtedly left a strong impression on all its visitors with its 2.15 million passengers daily, and the sheer deepness of its schema. 2015 brought with it the 60th anniversary of its opening. Since then, the St. Petersburg subway station has continued to develop, building its deepest station yet at 86 meters deep, Admiralteyskaya.

The end of May 2015 brought with it a treat for Vasilyevsky Island residents, as it brought with it the unveiling of the moving walkway “travolator,” which extends the Sportivnaiya subway station’s exit/entrance to include the north-eastern side of Vasilyevsky Island.

“Creative Spaces”

A rapidly developing movement in the contemporary art world is taking hold in Russia’s cultural capital; creative art spaces. In the past few years, throughout the city, art lofts and spaces have been enriching life in the big city. These cultural centers, serve as hubs of creativity, hosting active studios, contemporary exhibitions, art festivals & fairs, film screenings, lectures, and other creative projects. Some of the newest art spaces in St. Petersburg are Loft “Hyper Space” , Art-space ‘Fligel,’ and Freedom.

Street Food Style Cafes

This style of delicious, ethnic food has begun to take a foothold in St. Petersburg. You can find Israeli style street food at Bekitzer, which includes pita with hummus, falafel, Shakshka, and many other authentic dishes. Similar street food style cuisine can be found at Pita’s, a relatively new restaurant that’s “European style” of light wooden benches, hashtags painted on the ceiling creates a friendly atmosphere.

Installation Art: Alley of Soaring Umbrellas


If you haven’t checked out the installation of colorful umbrellas covering Solyanoy Lane in the city center near Chernyshevskaya metro station, then it’s about time you do! Inspired by a similar installation in Portugal, this “Alley of Soaring Umbrellas” has been on display in the warmer months for the past few years.

The Faberge Museum

The Faberge Museum opened its doors in November 2013, revealing the world's largest collection of works by Carl Fabergé, including nine of the famous Imperial Easter Eggs, regarded not only as the finest jeweled works of art, but also as unique historical artifacts. The museum's collection also includes decorative and applied works made by the Russian masters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF)

ааSPIEF is a leading international economic and business forum held annually in St. Petersburg since 1997. SPIEF gathers the leading decision-makers of the emerging economic powers to identify and deliberate the key challenges facing Russia, emerging markets, and the world at large, while engaging communities to find common purpose and establish frameworks to forge solutions which will drive the growth and stability agenda. Over the past decade, the Forum has developed into a leading global business network: Last year’s conference alone boasted more than 500 speakers taking part in 82 interactive sessions under the theme “Sustaining Confidence in a World Undergoing Transformation” with official delegations from 73 countries and nearly 7,600 participants. This year’s Forum, “The Emerging Economic Powers’ Growth & Stability Network” will take place in June 2015.


Tweed Run Russia


Making its debut in St. Petersburg starting in 2012, this annual retro bike ride invites amateur bicyclists and history enthusiasts to partake in a massive retro bike ride around the city, while dressed in early 20th century attire. 




If your travels shall bring you back to Russia, let us know, our doors are always open! We’re looking forward to hearing from you!


Best Wishes from your CIEE family




Summer 2015, RASP, Session II

Header (newsletter)

As we are in the throes of July, the warm months of summer seem to be a bit delayed in arriving, yet that hasn’t put a hitch in the Russian Areas Studies Program’s second session. These past four weeks have been full of interesting and engaging activities designed to enable students’ head first plunge into St. Petersburg and Russian culture.


Second session Russian Area Studies Program students during the excursion to Peter the Great’s summer palace, Peterhof. [Left to Right] Elsa Schieffelin (University of Virginia), Chad Lawhorn (Middle Tennessee State University), Dana Rosenberg (University of California, Berkeley), Dogancan Sonmez (Pennsylvania State University), Alyssa Spence (University of California, Berkeley), Kate Panian (University of California, San Diego), Luke Smith (Davidson College), CIEE Excursions Coordinator, Julia Semibratova, Metsi Asfaw (University of California, Berkeley), and Crystal Sanchez (University of Houston).


Interesting Academic Courses

While in the first summer session, students were offered specialized courses in Russian cinema and political science, this summer session students have enjoyed intellectually stimulating courses in Russian culture and Russian art, exploring the unique culture of Russia’s cultural capital, St. Petersburg.


Smolny Cathedral as photographed by Chad Lawhorn (Middle Tennessee State University). This complex houses the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center in the Political Science Department of the St. Petersburg State University.

Cultural Myths and Realities of St. Petersburg

This course, specially designed for our Russian Area Studies program by Dr. Leonid Loshenkov, a St. Petersburg native and expert on the cultural history of Russia, adds a unique dimension to students’ understanding and knowledge of St. Petersburg and Russia as a whole. Professor Loshenkov garners over 15 years of experience teaching at St. Petersburg State University in the departments of psychology, philology, and political science, and multiple years of experience with CIEE and SpbSU teaching foreign students. Students have learned about this ‘splendid yet tragic’ city through lectures and field trips throughout the city and its outskirts. Architectural landmarks, works of poetry and literature, paintings and pieces of artwork, have been examined and transformed into emblems of the city, used as a tool to understand St. Petersburg, and St. Petersburg in the bigger context of Russia.

Traveling to the outskirts of the city, students explored Pavlovsk and the astonishing park surrounding the 18th century imperial palace, paying special attention to its unique English architecture. Their investigation of St. Petersburg and its unique and impressive parks continued with an exploration of The Summer Garden, designed by Peter the Great with the help of French and Dutch architects. St. Petersburg is a unique Russian city that provides intriguing academic material, and students have enjoyed the opportunity to dig further into their study abroad experience.

Dana Rosenberg (University of California, Berkeley)

“Leonid Loshenkov's Cultural Myths and Realities course is helping me to better understand varied local perspectives and contexts. I find the class discussions, multimedia presentations, and field trips particularly enriching.”]


Photograph of one of the 'alleys' of the Summer Gardens, as photographed by Chad Lawhorn (Middle Tennessee State University).


Arts of Saint Petersburg

The Arts of St. Petersburg, another unique course specially developed for our Russian Area Studies Summer Program, delves into the evolution of St. Petersburg art from its birth in the early 18th century all the way through the contemporary art movements of the 21st century. This course is led by another one of CIEE St. Petersburg’s finest, Dr. Sergey Akopov, a professor of political science with postdoctoral training in Hungary, Sweden, and Denmark, as well as experience lecturing in Russia, Finland, and Denmark on a vast multitude of subjects, including Russian history and culture, cross-cultural studies, political science, and anthropology. Similar to the Cultural Myths and Realities of St. Petersburg course, this course combines lectures with field trips throughout St. Petersburg. Initially focusing on the 18th and 19th century artwork, which included a visit to the oil painting restoration workshop of the State Russian Museum, students segued to the 19th and 20th century as a period of cardinal changes, which included a visit to the Academy of Art and an exploration of traditional art schooling. The Non-Conformism Museum, part of the Pushkinskaya 10 Arts Center has become the (un)official home of St. Petersburg alternative arts scene, and helped students see firsthand the evolution of St. Petersburg art from the 1960s through today.

Luke Smith (Davidson College ’16)

“I think that the arts class is great! The professor is highly knowledgeable and very approachable. The professor offered great exposure to a variety of arts, such as painting, architecture, music, and literature. My class also went on a plethora of field trips, which offered insights in ways that textbooks never could.”

Intercultural Comparative Experience Weekend in Valaam

As part of the worldwide CIEE reconfiguration of multiple CIEE summer programs such as our Russian Area Studies program, each four-week long session includes CIEE’s unique Intercultural Comparative Experience. During this immersive three-day weekend, students travel to another region or international city with fellow CIEE students, with the aim to expand global perspectives and sharpen cultural awareness. During the first session, students traveled to Moscow, visiting the Kremlin, the Armoury Chamber, exploring the grounds of the VDNKh, and walking through the Fallen Monument Park, Muzeon with fellow Russian students. During this session, students traveled to the Island of Valaam, an archipelago located in Lake Ladoga of the Republic of Karelia, famous for the Transfiguration of the Savior male monastery and the small monastic communities scattered throughout theisland’s forest which date back to the 14th century.


Prior to the trip to Valaam, students viewed the film, “Ostrov” (Paul Lungin, 2006) during a CIEE Cinema Club meeting. This thought-provoking film opens a window into Orthodox spirituality, and is renowned for its profound depiction of faith and monastic life. A component of the ICE weekend, was a lecture conducted by Dr. Leonid Loshenkov during the journey to Valaam. Under Professor Loshenkov’s facilitation, students discussed this film, as well as orthodoxy in Russia’s history and culture, and how it has developed in the monastic communities of Valaam.

Metsi Asfaw (University of California, Berkeley), Ethiopian native, had some interesting insights on Russian orthodoxy as seen in Valaam compared to predominately orthodox Ethiopia:

“Whether it's architecturally, artistically, or geographically, Valaam Monastery appeared relatively modern to me. It is easily accessible in comparison to monasteries in Ethiopia which are famously situated on isolated mountains. The interior walls of the churches were decorated with vivid colors & various icons giving it a modern impression. Both praying in front of icons and kissing the icons appeared to be similar with Ethiopian orthodoxy. I think the candles made of wax even made the churches' smell identical and it triggered some powerful emotional memories from Ethiopia.”


Elsa Schieffelin (University of Virginia), Kate Panian (University of California, San Diego), and Luke Smith (Davidson College) braved the cold waters of Lake Ladoga to check off their bucket lists swimming in the largest lake of Europe.

Exploring Russian Culture through Excursions

Take a look at the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center’s Official Facebook page to see more of the activities our students have been involved in this four week session. Students have walked in the footsteps of Dostoevsky’s main character, Raskolnikov, during the Crime and Punishment tour, have journeyed to the Gulf of Finland with fellow Russian students, toured Peterhof and the Peter and Paul Fortress, celebrated the Fourth of July on Krestovsky Island, partook in Russian and Georgian cooking classes, and even visited the ballet, Swan Lake.


Russian and CIEE students playing "danetka" during our day trip to the Gulf of Finland. Told only the beginning and the ending of a story, players can only ask yes or no questions (da or net) in order to guess the content of the story. The afternoon was full of good conversation, games, ultimate frisbee, and relaxation on the beach. Some students even ventured to explore famous Russian artist, Ilya Repino's estate, Penaty, which is now a museum.


(Iskrenne Vashi) Sincerely yours,


The RASP summer newsletter editor, Liz McBean & CIEE Staff


Liz McBean, RASP Student Services Assistant
Katya Rubtsova, Program Coordinator
Svetlana Matsvetova, Housing Coordinator
Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator
Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant
Irina Makoveeva, Center Director