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2 posts from August 2015


Summer 2015, RASP, Session III

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This August concludes the first summer which has implemented the worldwide CIEE reconfiguration of multiple CIEE summer programs, such as St. Petersburg’s Russian Area Studies program. The previous 6-week program has evolved into three four-week long sessions, which has enabled students to enroll in consecutive sessions, or to pair sessions with multiple CIEE sites in other countries!


Many of the Session III students outside Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin (Tsarskoe Selo). [Left to Right] Metsi Asfaw (University of California, Berkeley), Joie Tanaka (Luther College), Elsa Schieffelin (University of Virginia), Kate Panian (University of California, San Diego), Cassie Loveland (University of Wyoming), Kelsey Wolf (Rhodes College), Dogancan Sonmez (Pennsylvania State University), Alyssa Spence (University of California, Berkeley), Sean Finck (University of California, Santa Barbara), CIEE Excursions Coordinator, Julia Semibratova, Brittany Dobos (University of Oregon), and Cheyenne Warren (University of California, Berkeley).

Interesting Academic Courses

While in the first two summer sessions, students were offered specialized courses in Russian cinema and political science, art and culture, the third summer session offered students an intellectually stimulating course in Russian civilization, “Russian Civilization: Popular Stereotypes and Social Behavior.”

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. Over the four week session, students examined the popular concepts of Soviet and Russian civilization and society, critically examining the constructs of Russian traditionalism and social behavior, the application of privileges versus rights, and how the Russian system contradicts as well as sustains popular stereotypes.

The course began by exploring topics such as Russian conformism and dissent through the subtopics of westernizing dissidents and their critique of Soviet communism to neo-Slavophil ambivalence towards communism. From there, the course further developed, exploring the “East and West Attitude,” and the “Quest for the Russian Idea.” Apocalyptic Russia, as seen in Russian classics such as Dostoevsky’s “The Legend of the Great Inquisitor” in The Karamazov Brothers, was investigated, as well as alcoholic consciousness, and the particular significance of music and song as a constant of national character. These topics, as well as additional topics such as Soviet Russian Patriotism and the idea “World War II Was Only Yesterday” all work to add depth and well-roundedness to students’ understanding of Russian civilization and the its people.



Exploring Russia and St. Petersburg through Excursions

Four weeks may not sound like it is enough time to submerge oneself deeply into their surroundings, however, these past four weeks have been full of classes, field trips, museums, local engagement activities, and exploration, helping students to successfully finish this third session with a much deeper understanding of Russia.

Students toured the point upon which St. Petersburg was founded, the Peter and Paul Fortress; investigated and felt the weight World War II and the Siege of Leningrad had on the city that was once called Leningrad when visiting the Rumyantsev Mansion which houses an extensive museum of the history of St. Petersburg which focuses on the Siege of Leningrad; toured the Museum of Political History; and of course, spent the afternoon delving into Russian and European art at the infamous State Hermitage Museum.

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Pushkin is probably one of the most picturesque and historically significant suburbs of Saint Petersburg. Pushkin, former Tsarskoe Selo, “Tsar’s Village”, houses the former imperial summer residence. Students enjoyed comparing the similar architectural style of the exterior of Catherine’s Palace (as pictured below) with Smolny Cathedral: Italian architect, Francisco Bartolomeo Rastrelli designed both of these notable sites in St. Petersburg.

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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.

Intercultural Comparative Experience Weekend in Moscow

Moscow, the political, economic, and social epicenter of the largest country in the world was our destination for this summer session’s ICE weekend. Departing from St. Petersburg’s Moscovsky Railway Terminal, students experienced Russia’s well-developed rail infrastructure while traveling by overnight train to Moscow.

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Students and staff along the Moskva River with the Kremlin in the background.

Despite friendly rivalry between Russia’s two largest metropolitans, Moscow managed to captivate and find a way into the hearts of our students, who have already found a second home in St. Petersburg. The weekend was highlighted by a visit to the Kremlin complex, which houses the official office of the president of the Russian Federation. While exploring the Kremlin, our tour coincided with the Presidential Regiment’s ceremonial procession on Cathedral Square; this included the cavalcade of the military orchestra, cavalry, and footmen. In addition to touring the grounds of the Kremlin, students visited the 16th century Cathedral of the Archangel, which contains the tombs of all the rulers of Muscovy and Russia from the 14th Century until Peter the Great moved the capital to St. Petersburg in 1703, including the tombs of the Romanovs and Ivan the Terrible. As usual, the Armoury Chamber, one of Moscow’s oldest museums located within the Kremlin, housing treasures of Russia, including relics of ancient Russian state regalia, ceremonial vestments, and precious gifts from other states was a favorite of students.


Saturday evening was inspirited by the Russian National Dance Show, Kostroma. This completely uniquely Russian performance by the Russian National Ballet “Kostroma,” uses elements of Russian folklore and traditional folk dance to trace the vastly deep and rich history of Russia, from the times of Rus through tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union. With the help of 600 beautifully designed national costumes, 8 sets, and over 300 intricate props, Russia’s enigmatic soul, with its multiethnic people and multifaceted culture is illustrated, and a window into the life of its various people, from those living in the Far Arctic North, to those in the southern steppes, the mountains of the Caucasus, or Central Russia is revealed.


Following the “Kostroma” show, students explored the grounds of the VDNKh, vystavka dostizheniy narodnogo khozyaystva, (Exhibition of Achievements of the People’s Economy). During Soviet times, this general purpose exhibition center hosted more than 300 national and international exhibitions each year, attracting nearly 11 million visitors annually, and to this day, it has only grown in size, serving as a symbol of pride of Russian and Soviet achievement. The ‘Friendship of People’ Fountain (pictured above), features the union of the different republics of the Soviet Union, and has become a symbol of the VDNKh.


CIEE staff and students, together with local Russian students studying in Moscow, spent Sunday afternoon enjoying the sunny summer day that reached the 90s (!) in Moscow’s central park, Gorky Park. Gorky Park has become a fountain of life, attracting more than 40,000 visitors daily and 250,000 visitors on weekends! This eco-friendly park (one of the few places in Russia to have water fountains!) is a beloved place for recreation, sport, dance, outdoor games, and relaxing with friends and family; strolling around the parks grounds, visitors can play ping-pong, beach volleyball, enjoy free dance classes, rent a bike or rollerblades, relax on a paddleboat, take an open-air dance class, relax on one of its many giant bean bag chairs, or listen to a free lecture in English or Russian (to name a few). Students enjoyed exploring this unique park with their Russian peers.

It has been a productive and transformative summer at the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center! We wish you all a relaxing end to the summer, and a successful start to the 2015-16 academic school year!


(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




Summer 2015 RLP Newsletter

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For the past eight weeks, despite the surprisingly chilly and rainy weather, the charming city of Saint Petersburg has been unraveling its grandeur to the CIEE Summer Russian Language Program students. The fading of the white nights season also brings with it an end to their exciting summer study abroad adventure with CIEE in Saint Petersburg. These two months helped our students to fully immerse into the language environment, familiarize themselves with the Russian culture and traditions, make lifelong friends and get a grasp for the very essence of Russia, its people and its values. 

1. First day RLP in front of SmolnyCIEE Summer 2015 Russian Language Program students in front of the Smolny Cathedral, also known as the venue of the CIEE study center in Saint Petersburg


     This summer, CIEE in cooperation with the Saint Petersburg State University (SPSU) redesigned the CIEE Summer Russian Language Program curriculum. The new “Russian Seasons” program is comprised of eight themed weeks, and each week has a specific focus that provides an outline for all language classes. Whether it is a sports week, or a visual arts week, the material studied in class always coincides with CIEE’s extracurricular schedule providing students with necessary tools to master newly acquired language skills in a real-world environment.

    The author of the initiative, SPSU academic director Elena Anatolievna Predtechenskaya, shares her vision on the new academic curriculum:

“Such approach makes every week a comprehensive journey into Russian language and culture. We keep the program flexible to ensure that the needs of our students are being met throughout their summer in Russia. Our main goal is to help CIEE students learn as much as possible about Russia and to improve their Russian language skills, at the same time providing them with opportunities to open up while in Russia and discover their new talents, such as singing, cooking, playing sports and musical instruments”. 

2. Music class with Anton, week 7Additional class on the history of guitar poetry, instructed by Anton Stepanov, CIEE Student Services Assistant and a musician

    Parker Riley (University of Kansas) shares his insights on the new academic component of the CIEE Summer Russian Language Program:

“The weekly themes really helped to unify the various courses, making the whole program feel focused. Also, exploring the topics from different angles (vocabulary, culture, current events, grammar, etc.) helped to really understand the material. Finally, the themes themselves were great! My personal favorite was food, but they were all interesting and fun to learn about.”

    In addition, Russian Culture lectures have helped broaden students’ understanding of Russia’s historical and cultural heritage and through the prism of mass media and cinema students got a chance to explore Russia’s current political and social life.

    Austin Hyde (Baylor University) shares his thoughts on the Program overall and on the lecture classes that were offered this summer:

“I am very pleased to have been a part of a program with such an illustrious history and reputation for excellence. I feel that the films selected for the Kino (Cinema) class are reflective of the Russian (and Soviet) perspective of film. Many times I felt as if we were looking into the minds of Russians and seeing how they viewed the world. The Russian Culture class was my favorite in the CIEE program due to the fascinating and intricately-woven breadth of information pertinent to comprehending the evolution of Russian Culture over the past centuries.”


    “Learning never exhausts the mind,” as Leonardo Da Vinci once said. CIEE Russian Language Program students have been proving this by actively engaging in CIEE extracurricular activities and constantly challenging themselves linguistically.


    The unique blend of Petersburg’s imperial and soviet architecture never ceases to impress the viewer, but the city has a lot more to offer, for example, the allure of “garden city” urban districts. CIEE students learned all about the garden city movement from its foundation in the beginning of the 20th century by an English scientist, Ebenezer Howard, up till modern urbanism and its effect on the architecture of Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

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During the guest lecture on garden cities by writer, Ekaterina Taratuta, a specialist in urbanism

   Nick Fenton (University of Virginia–Main Campus) on his participation in CIEE organized lectures and cinema club meetings:

“Some of my favorite extracurricular offerings this summer were the events connected with cinema club. We watched movies in Russian, and then discussed them as a group afterwards. My favorite was without question "Я Шагаю по Москве", a Soviet classic about growing up in Moscow in the 1960s. We watched the film right before our own CIEE excursion to Moscow. All of this culture exposure without question enhanced my experience in this amazing city and country!”


    This summer we proved that karaoke is not simply about singing and having fun, but it can also be an exciting language practice session revealing telling insight on popular Russian music of different decades!

4. Nick Fenton singing at the kraoke nightNick Fenton (University of Virginia) performing the famous “Ya shagau po Moskve” (“Walking the streets of Moscow”) during a CIEE karaoke night

    Megan Kupka (The Ohio State University) attended all the karaoke nights this summer:

“Anyone can read a page of text, but the real challenge is bringing the words to life. Language is more than mere sounds, but intonation and inflection. Phonetics lessons have helped me to improve on these skills, and karaoke nights have been an extremely fun way to focus on making my speech more natural.”


    Eight weeks might seem to be a very short period of time, but not for a CIEE study abroad student! Our students seized every opportunity to meet their Russian peers, make new friends and practice speaking Russian in a casual environment during CIEE’s game nights, “Pub Quiz” trivia games, karaoke nights, cinema club meetings and even during the 4th of July celebration.

5. CIEE Game Nights

L.: Max Roder (Georgetown University), Alexey Pricinovskis (The Ohio State University) learning to play Jungle Speed from their Russian peers, Nikita Bortnikov and Anastasia Konina (both of Saint Petersburg State University)

R.: Alejandro Perez-Reyes (Georgetown University) and Sebastian Richardson (Portland State University) playing Russian Scrabble with their Russian friend, Anton Meshkov (Higher School of Economics) and CIEE Student Services Assistant Anton Stepanov


    Aside from schoolwork and excursions, many students chose to participate in extracurricular activities, such as CIEE Russian choir, playing sports and taking dancing classes, volunteering at the Hermitage and at the Mayakovsky public library, teaching English to Russians and many more!

    Emily Kohlman, a second-year student at Pennsylvania State University, shares her experience of volunteering as an English language teacher:

“Studying abroad in Saint Petersburg, Russia was the experience of my lifetime, and devoting a few hours a week to teaching English to Russian adults made my summer abroad even more thrilling. I enjoyed sharing stories with my students while they shared helpful tips about Russian culture and Saint Petersburg with me. I learned more than I ever imagined possible from my teaching experience—about interacting with a language barrier and about cultural immersion—and I am so grateful that I was able to have such an awesome opportunity to meet locals from all different walks of life.”

6. Katie Fuhs, article from Phoenix    Katie Fuhs, a young talented athlete from Dartmouth College, made the best out of her stay here and joined a local soccer club “Phoenix”, where she played beach soccer with her Russian peers for the past two months. This summer “Phoenix” soccer club even published an article about Katie! (available in Russian)


    Every study abroad student is familiar with the typical anxiety related to meeting their host family for the first time. This summer, all CIEE Russian language program students experienced life in a Russian family, with all of its perks and challenges. The CIEE study center in Saint Petersburg boasts a database of over two hundred host families, many of whom have been hosting with us for decades.

    Sebastian Richardson, a Portland State University student, shares the impressions of his life with a Russian host family:

"In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of this program is the opportunity to live with a homestay family. It is during my conversations with my host mother I feel my language skills are improving the most and living here gives me the chance to utilize my Russian in situations that I normally would not in a classroom setting. Aside from that, homestay families allow students to get a first-hand look at what life in Russia is like instead of reading some generalized rhetoric from a textbook. I feel I have learned so much from my host mom and from the stories other students have shared about their homestay experiences."

7. CIEE students meeting their host families for the first time

L.: Laura Fogger (University of Alabama at Birmingham) and Emily Golitzin (Dartmouth College) are on their way to meet their host families

R.: Kane Stratman (University of Evansville) introducing himself to his host mother, Olga Evgenievna


    Traveling around Russia indeed comprises a large component of our CIEE Summer Russian Language Program. Over the past two months, CIEE students took exciting trips to Veliky Novgorod, one of the most important historic cities in Russia, and to the vibrant city of Moscow, the capital, and political and economic center of the Russian Federation.

8. CIEE students travel beyond Petersburg

L.: CIEE RLP group picture on the Red Square in Moscow

R.: CIEE RLP students in front of Veliky Novgorod izba (wooden house) in the open-air wooden museum Vitoslavlitsy 

    Georgia Jackson (University of Vermont) shares her memories of CIEE’s overnight trip to Veliky Novgorod:

“Within the Kremlin of Novgorod I enjoyed learning about the significance of the statues adorned on the monument to the Millennium of Russia, seeing some of the oldest churches such as the Cathedral of St. Sophia, and the Great Patriotic War memorials. One of my fondest memories of Veliky Novgorod was at Vitoslavlitsy, where amongst the many village houses we went inside one of the churches and listened to a beautiful acapella performance of an old Russian song.” 

    The CIEE trip to Moscow had it all: taking an overnight train to Moscow and a high-speed Sapsan train back to Petersburg, walking the grounds of Kremlin, seeing Lenin’s mausoleum, taking pictures on the Red Square, visiting classical and modern art museums and galleries, and much more. The four days spent in Moscow were filled with new discoveries, impressions and experiences, which gave the CIEE students an idea of what life in the political and economic epicenter of Russia must feel like.

    Adrienne Carter (The University of Texas at Austin) tells us that visiting Moscow has been her childhood dream that finally came true with CIEE:

“Ever since I was in elementary (school), I dreamed of visiting Saint Basil's Cathedral. When we traveled to Moscow and saw the cathedral for the first time on our city tour, I just started smiling–being able to actually walk on Red Square with St. Basil's at the end was a completely surreal experience. My favorite thing about Moscow was being able to see so many different parts of history so close together--places where tsars were crowned right next to the resting places of the most significant Soviet leaders.”


    CIEE semester in Saint Petersburg was highlighted by several ballets and operas at the world-famous Mikhailovsky Theater, wonderful excursions to the Hermitage, Pushkin’s apartment museum, Peter and Paul Fortress, etc. Students also enjoyed the literature-themed “Crime and Punishment” walking tour that follows the life of F. M. Dostoyevsky himself and his novel’s characters. Finally, students’ initiative and curiousness came in handy during additional CIEE events, such as Russian and Georgian cooking classes and a trip to a real Russian banya (bathhouse)! 

    CIEE students were also offered to visit Peterhof and Pushkin, probably the most picturesque and historically significant suburbs of Saint Petersburg that were the place for the imperial summer residences. But those weren’t the only suburbs visited by our students! On Navy Day, a national Russian holiday celebrated on the last Sunday of July, students took the opportunity to visit Kronstadt, a small town to the West of Petersburg located on Kotlin Island in the Gulf of Finland. 

9. CIEE in Pushkin

    Joseph Nakpil (Pennsylvania State University) reflects on his trips to one of the neighboring towns:

    Pushkin (Tsarskoe Selo)

“If a single phrase could describe this former tsarist residence, an appropriate choice would be: “a dream within a dream”. One can’t help but slowly stroll among the sentinel statues, tree-lined streets, ponds, flowerbeds, and even inquisitive animals (mostly squirrels and finches). The rooms of the central palace can only be described as courses upon courses of desserts, each more colorful than the last, with the amber room the prized cake.”


We hope you also have had an exciting and eventful summer!


S nailuchshimi pozhelaniyami (Warm regards),

Ira & the rest of the CIEE Team!


Anton Stepanov, RLP Student Services Assistant

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Irina Makoveeva, Center Director