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Summer 2016 RASP Session III


    As the summer season is slowly winding down, and the Saint Petersburg nights are starting to get longer and darker, the CIEE Summer Russian Area Studies students are already reflecting on the one, two, or even three months that they have spent studying with CIEE in Saint Petersburg. CIEE’s worldwide summer framework allows students to participate in consecutive one-month sessions throughout the summer. Students can independently design their summer with CIEE by choosing to participate in only one session, to combine their sessions and spend two or three months in one location, or to complement the one-session experience in Saint Petersburg with sessions in other CIEE locations. No matter what track they chose, all of our Session Three Russian Area Studies students have definitely accomplished their incredible goals, both academically and culturally.

Pushkin group photo intro

Summer RAS students during the field trip to the town of Pushkin, home to the stunning Catherine’s Palace and the Amber Room. L. to R.: Andrew Kroninger (Middle Tennessee State University), Christopher Majesky (Pennsylvania State University), Amanda Sepp (University of Pittsburgh), Piper Foulon (Pacific Lutheran University), and Kirby Shramuk (University of Pittsburgh)


    Nothing describes Saint Petersburg better than the vision of hundreds of museums featuring artistic, historical, architectural, and cultural heritage of the city and the whole country in its imperial, soviet, and contemporary eras. Being a CIEE student in this city encourages exploration and ignites interest, as summer intensive in-class learning is always augmented by class field trips and excursions to the main historical and cultural sites.

    While the first two sessions of CIEE Summer RAS Program invited students to explore Russian history, to study cultural myths and realities of St. Petersburg, and to engage in analyzing contemporary art through the prism of socio-political context, the third session offered the courses on Russian Civilization and on the arts of St. Petersburg. Both courses taught by prominent CIEE St. Petersburg professors truly unravel the essence of Russian traditionalism, spirituality, conformism, and other popular stereotypes and the evolution of Saint Petersburg art from its birth in the early 18th century up to the present day, respectively.


    What can be a better way to discover the Russian art if not through an interactive course taught by the leading contemporary art curator of the State Russian Museum, the largest collection of Russian art in the world?

    CIEE is very proud to have Dr. Olesya Turkina among CIEE Summer RAS faculty members. The lead curator for the State Russian Museum, the Stedelijk Museum (the Netherlands), and the Pori Art Museum (Finland), an art critic and journalist for “Flash Art International”, and an acting member of The Russian Space Federation: these accomplishments perfectly capture the versatile and vibrant professional career of Dr. Turkina.

Dr. Turkina Dr. Olesya Turkina

    The Arts of St. Petersburg course, specially designed for the CIEE students, aims to reveal the evolution of Saint Petersburg art (by exploring of works of famous writers, literature, music, and artwork) from its birth in the early 18th century through the beginning of the 21st century. By the means of rigorous in-class learning, individual research projects, and engaging study of the works of art Dr.Turkina takes the students on an adventure of the Russian art and its symbolism.

    Piper Foulon (Pacific Lutheran University), a student in the Arts of St. Petersburg course, shares the impressions that the course left on her:

            The Arts of St. Petersburg was one of the most profound learning experiences I have ever had. Our physical proximity to so many important works made the class deeply engaging and completely singular.  Our professor was simultaneously an expert, a mentor, an encouraging teacher, and a friend.  I felt so incredibly lucky for the entire duration of the class.

    Creativity and well-roundedness indeed are some of characteristics of CIEE content-based courses, and Dr. Turkina’s Arts of St. Petersburg is an outstanding example of this! Throughout the whole month, the students enjoyed regular class field trips, which perfectly complement the in-class learning with presentations and analytical readings. The course includes visits to the Academy of Arts, the State Russian Museum and its Benois Wing, the Non-Conformism Museum, and the Saint Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music.

    During one of such afternoons spent at art galleries and museums, the CIEE students under the Professor’s guidance participated in an authentic ballet dancing lesson, while learning about the Russian ballet icons and history.

Theater museum field trip

L. to R.: Amanda Sepp (University of Pittsburgh), Ryan Torres (Muhlenberg College), Andrew Kroninger (Middle Tennessee State University), Kirby Shramuk (University of Pittsburgh), Geoff Putman (University of California-EAP), Piper Foulon (Pacific Lutheran University)


    It might seem that one month is time hardly enough to explore Saint Petersburg and all that it has to offer, but the CIEE Summer RAS students are proving that you can accomplish so much more beyond this, even if you have only four weeks in Russia. During this program, our students have traveled to Moscow with the CIEE Intercultural Comparative Experience, to the medieval town of Vyborg that lies to the West of Saint Petersburg, and to the Sukhodolskoe Lake resort for a full day of exploring nature and enjoying outdoor sports and activities.


    CIEE’s global Intercultural Comparative Experience weekends are designed to help students see the destination city from an in-depth perspective and broaden their horizons by expanding intercultural awareness and gaining the unique insight into country’s history.

    While Saint Petersburg perfectly captures Russian imperial heritage, Moscow indeed provides an incredible overview of the soviet period of the Russian history, and our CIEE students have learned this for themselves having spent three days in the heart and the capital of Russia, Moscow. During the eventful three days, the students got to walk on the Grounds of the Moscow Kremlin, see the Armory Chamber collections and the Assumption Cathedral interiors, and witness the largest cannon in the world, Tsar Cannon, and the Tsar Bell—evidently, the heaviest bell known to exist in the world today.

    Besides Moscow’s musts, such as the State Tretyakov Gallery or the Red Square framed by the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral, the incredible GUM department store (and its famous ice-cream!), and the State Historical Museum, the students additionally enjoyed their time at Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy, formerly known as All-Russia Exhibition Centre, the Space Museum, the Jewish Museum and the Center of Tolerance, and much more!

Moscow, near the Tsar Cannon and the Lunch picture

    Zachary Hudson, University of Oklahoma Norman Campus, shared his key impressions of the CIEE trip to Moscow:

            Being able to see this great city not only as a tourist, but as a student of history and international relations through CIEE, has given me an invaluable set of experiences that I could not possibly gain anywhere else.

Group photo in fronnt of Moscow State University

CIEE Summer RAS students in front of the Moscow State University on Sparrow Hills 

    The Summer Russian Area Studies students agree that one cannot explore everything that Moscow has to offer during the three days, and they all are looking forward to coming back one day, but what is definitely true is that CIEE’s Intercultural Comparative Experience is a perfect format for experiencing such an incredible city, especially during the first-time trip.


    One of the program weekends was highlighted by a journey to Vyborg, a medieval old town which dates back to 1293 and is known to have the most versatile and sophisticated architecture in the Leningrad Region. During the one-day field trip, the CIEE students had an opportunity to see the history unravel in front of their eyes during the guided tour at the Vyborg Castle and participated in the open-air clay modeling master class among stunning nature and authentic 17th century stone towers.


    We can’t leave out the fact that language learning and advancement followed the students throughout all of the program adventures. As Professor Aksyonova, the Communicative Russian Language instructor shared with us at the end of the summer, the consistent homework assignment for the students was using Russian on all of their trips and excursions: from ordering food and asking for directions to reading and grasping everything that they come across on their way. No doubt tour guides, homestay families, and Russian peers were constantly impressed with our students’ impeccable motivation and effort!


    The month with CIEE Russian Area Studies was filled with activities and events that truly deepened students’ understanding of Russia, Russians, Russian history, and Russian culture. From simple joys like attending a real Russian banya [traditional wooden bathhouse] and swimming in the Sukhodolskoe Lake during a program one-day getaway to exploring the gems of the State Hermitage and the Catherine’s Palace, our students have come a long way in expanding their knowledge and perception of Russia.

City excursions and trips

Left: CIEE Summer RAS students during the guided tour to the Menshikov Palace, a branch of the State Hermitage Museum

Right: Kirby Shramuk (University of Pittsburgh), Christopher Majesky (Pennsylvania State University), and Piper Foulon (Pacific Lutheran University) at the Catherine’s Palace Park

    What a productive and memorable summer we have been having at the CIEE Study Center in Saint Petersburg! Dissolving barriers, both language and cultural, is never easy, but is always very rewarding. We would like to wish our summer 2016 Russian Area Studies students all the best in their future endeavors, and we are looking forward to the day when our paths cross again!


Vsego khoroshego (All the best),

The CIEE 2016 Summer RASP Team

Nastya Kostina, Student Services Assistant

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Dr. Irina Makoveeva, Center Director


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Wow, seems like you guys had an interesting trip! I always wanted to visit the medieval city of Vyborg, maybe one day i will visit as well.

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