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        Time flies like an arrow, but in St. Petersburg it moves with supersonic speed! As we are already two months in the program, it is time to look back and reflect on our adventures.

CIEE Fall 2016 Russian Language Program and Russian Language Studies students in front of Neva River and Saint Isaac's Cathedral


            The city looks captivating and very different in the snow, and all the museums, theaters and concert halls are in full swing so winter is an excellent relaxed time to see everything and stay busy. Traditionally, the semester began with our students’ favorite activity, ballet. St Petersburg has proudly been at the forefront of the classical ballet scene for rather a long time. This semester students have had the opportunity to choose between Giselle and Don Quixote. Additionally, winners of the CIEE beginning of semester scavenger hunt together with our professors viewed the “Love Potion” opera, sung in Italian and subtitled in Russian.

From Right to Left: Lisa Miller (Indiana University-Bloomington), Russian Buddy Yulya Karmatkova (SPSU), Dakota Potts (Miami University-Oxford), Ian Gilchrist (Oberlin College), Shu Ting (Jonathan) Chen (University of California-EAP), Justin Choi (University of California-EAP), Russian Buddy Nastya Kostina (SPSU) and Rachel Essel (University of Southern California: CLAS) at Mikhailovsky’s Don Quixote.



            Winters in St. Petersburg can be summed up in three words: cold, dark, and icy. Despite these insignificant nuisances, winter can really be a wonderland filled with so many things to do and places to see. Russians’ love for the ice is a well-known fact, in recent years ice-skating has become so popular that there is no shortage of modern state-of-the-art rinks in St. Petersburg and our students are using this opportunity to do what Russians do best — ice-skating.


Ice skating
CIEE students enjoying their time at the ice-skating rink with our CIEE Russian Buddies Nastya Kostina (SPSU School of Political Science) and Yulya Karmatkova (SPSU School of Political Science) and other fellow Russian students and CIEE Sobesedniki (Conversation partners)

             Ice-skating, however, is not the only winter pastime; since the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 snowboarding is slowly, but surely gaining more recognition among Russians. Our students took advantage of one of St, Petersburg’s ski-resorts and spent a day skiing, snowboarding and exploring Russian suburbia.


Rebecca Powell (Rice University), Katharine Baum (University of Rochester), Jenna Friedberg (George Washington University), Jeremy Hunt (Rutgers University) and Ben Pearce (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) enjoying a sunny day out at Tuutari Park.



            Living with a host family encourages language proficiency improvement across many spectrums, and provides students with a new look into everyday Russian life. No doubt, the opportunity to live with a homestay family is a life-changing experience for both the students and their homestay families. Students admit to their language skills to improve drastically due to full immersion with their families.

            CIEE boasts an impressive database of over 100 active homestay families, many of whom have been welcoming American students into their homes for decades now. We are also very proud of our newly-found gems, the families with only a few semesters of experience but very positive reviews and, indeed, warm hearts. All of our host families are truly unique in their professional and life experience; many possess outstanding talents and are always happy to introduce their CIEE students to the culture of Russian music, art and theater. All CIEE homestay families have been screened and evaluated by CIEE's own Housing Coordinator, Svetlana Valentinovna Mantcvetova, who used to host CIEE American students for many years, too.

            Two weeks ago, CIEE hosted a grand event where our students and their host families enjoyed a dinner at Nikolaevsky palace (Grand Duke Nikolay Palace, a son of the Emperor Nikolay I) - a historic building in the heart of Saint Petersburg. Not accidentally, this celebration took place on March 5th, right before the country’s celebration of one of the most revered holidays, Women’s day. This holiday is widely celebrated in Russia; it can be roughly compared to Mother’s Day in the rest of the world, except that in Russia it celebrates all women, not just mothers – sisters, teachers, grandmothers and wives.

            Our students and their host families also experienced a full exposure to Russian dance and music. A part of the event was devoted to the traditional Russian folk dancing—a very dynamic and colorful show, where you don’t get to sit still and enjoy the show quietly, but you will get to learn how to dance. Traditional costumes, national songs and dances, gifted musicians truly were an unforgettable experience

            With this dinner we intended to celebrate the unique bond between our students and their host families; it is truly inspiring and touching to see how close they grow together in such a short period of time as just one semester.

Our students with their families at a dinner party; right: Rachel Essel (University of Southern California: CLAS) with her host mom Marina Vasilievna Bondarovich.


николаевский dance
CIEE students participating in the traditional Russian folk dance show “Feel Yourself Russian”

             Aside from the usual CIEE sightseeing staples like Mikhailovsky ballet or the Hermitage tours, our students have enjoyed various under-the-radar alternatives. Our Sobesedniki (Russian conversation partners) are helping students get the most of their experience in Saint Petersburg. What can be better than a girls' night out enjoying live jazz sessions in a retro bar? Or, alternatively, if you feel like you have watched enough crime TV shows to participate in a mock FBI investigation, there is just an escape quest for you.

Rinyuda (Pa) Promphenrangsi (Lewis & Clark College), Josephina Sances (Tulane University of Louisiana) and Rebecca Spinner (University of Vermont) enjoying live jazz-sessions.


        Lisa Miller (Indiana University-Bloomington): “I didn't know what to expect at first, but the escape quest was really fun. Also, putting myself into a situation where I had to think critically and out of the box was exciting. I was up for the challenge, although, I was disappointed that we didn't get to finish the quest because we ran out of time. If only Sky Plaza worked the first time then maybe we could have finished! I would definitely go back!”

            Our students’ took exploring of the city to the next level: more and more of them can be found in anti-cafes, dearly loved by the locals. The concept behind anti-cafes is that customers pay for their time rather than their tea. In exchange everything else, from unlimited coffee and biscuits to Wi-fi, is included in the price.

        Kendall Gildersleeve (University of Rochester): “Anticafes are places where instead of paying for the food you eat, you pay for the time you spend there. So every minute, you pay the equivalent of a few cents, and there’s coffee and tea and cookies and you can have as much as you like. There are also usually books you can read or board games you can borrow, and you don’t have to pay anything extra for those either. Most of the anticafes I’ve been to have been tucked away on side streets, or on the very top floor of buildings, and the staff is friendly and the chairs are warm and comfortable, so it can be really easy to forget how much time you’re spending there, especially if you’re chatting with a friend or two, time can pass pretty quickly… But at least the tea is free.”



                One of the biggest assets of the CIEE Study Center is its selection of Russian language classes and elective courses taught by highly experienced professors of St. Petersburg State University, who all possess many years of experience teaching Russian and American students both in Russia and abroad. Specially-designed advanced courses enable students to study various topics such as Russian literature of the 19th century, Russian Civilization, Business Russian, or Russian mentality and social behavior.

                Dr. Anna Volkova, a Senior Lecturer at School of Political Science, Saint Petersburg State University, is a new member of the CIEE faculty. She received her first Ph.D. degree in Political Governance from Saint Petersburg State University in 2000, which was followed by a second Ph.D. degree in Political Science, too, received from Saint Petersburg State University in 2014. Her research interests lie in the fields of political culture and administrative reforms in Russia and the system of public administration in Russia. She was recruited to Department of the Socio-Political reforms in Russia, Saint Petersburg State University as an Assistant Lecturer in 1997 and subsequently she was offered a position of Senior Lecturer. Her course on Comparative Cultural Studies: the United States and Russia is a part of our students’ curriculum.

            Dr. Natalia Khan, who joined our faculty this semester, has been teaching Russian as a foreign language since 2009. She received her Ph.D. degree from Saint Petersburg State University in 2013. Her outstanding achievements have been recognized not only by her home university, but also by numerous organizations in Russia and abroad. Her research interests are in the field of Russian Linguistics, particularly in spontaneous speech, communicative and discursive constructions, and the correlation between speaker’s speech and his/her personality traits. She has taught Russian as a foreign language since 2009: Colorado College students in St. Petersburg and on Colorado College campus, and 2015 Middlebury College Summer School. Her students come from the USA, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Finland, and Turkey. She skillfully combines all aspects of Russian language in her classes: students are exposed to real-life conversations and unprepared speech, the class is focused on making students comfortable in Russian-language environment and breaking the language barrier.

Dr. Khan
Dr. Natalia Khan during the Elementary Russian Grammar class for the CIEE Russian Area Studies students

            Shu Ting (Jonathan) Chen (University of California-EAP) who is also one of Natalia’s students reflects on his experience in St. Petersburg:CIEE provides us with lots of opportunities to immerse into the culture. For example, in my first week at St. Petersburg, I stopped by more than 10 local stores, talked to vendors, took picture on bridges and ran over 5 miles with the city. The city exploration begins as soon as I landed. I had the opportunity to try out Russian donuts and Russian versions of red bull and energy bar.

                The languages class here is rather vibrant than I expected. Not only did I learn Russian fast through hilarious role play and local interviews, I learn a lot about Russian culture by watching and discussing Russian songs and movies. Class size is very small, which enables the professor to provide extra attention for individuals.

                In parallel with vibrant languages learning and diverse culture delving, I was even surprised by how fast my Russian is improving.”


            Emily Dollermore (Mercyhurst University) reflects on how she’s adapting to the Russian language: “The first four weeks here passed slowly and awkwardly: as I simultaneously tried to throw myself into speaking and understanding a language I had previously spoken, at best, haltingly, I also withdrew from the strangeness permeating my environment. Speaking English at home over Skype or even to type it on my phone became a temporary haven for me in that time. Now, however, I'm beginning to find that the reverse is true! I'm not fluent, of course, but more and more often I find that the Russian words for what I want to express come ahead of the English ones.”

            Sometimes our motivated students have a need to go outside of the courses we offer. Those who wish to design their own interdisciplinary course of study at the St. Petersburg State University have every opportunity to do so. One of our students, Emily Dollemore, shares her experience with the program:

        “While studying with CIEE, I am also taking an independent course to fulfill a missing requirement to graduate from my home school. Although students are not required to attend any services or to subscribe to any religion, they do ask that we participate in community volunteering and take at least two courses in religious studies.

            I'm grateful to have the opportunity to study Orthodoxy, this beautiful, intriguing belief system, this time with real curiosity and acceptance of what I learn. The professor, Anna Olegovna Fedotova, and I meet for coursework every Thursday afternoon to review the previous lesson and the questions she gives me for weekly homework, before moving forward with a new topic. The course is taught in Russian, so in addition to fascinating new knowledge of church traditions, I'm also learning the specialized vocabulary of the church itself. In the past four weeks, I have learned the language of church architecture and interiors, iconography, and ritual. In each of these aspects of the Orthodox Church exists an extraordinary wealth of detail that I never before realized. The prospect of learning more about it invites me back to every lecture.”

           The benefits of an overseas experience are difficult to quantify, but there is no doubt that studying abroad can be beneficial for all students, regardless of their background, or the school they attend. International education, especially if enhanced by language training, can open doors and confer lifelong contacts and interests that a student might not have developed otherwise.


          Rachel (Katya) Essel (University of Southern California: CLAS), who is considering a career in interpreting, shares her struggles and triumphs of learning Russian:

            “The biggest challenge really is the language. I try hard to learn it but people speak it fast and it's hard to understand. Plus a lot of Russian you learn in school is scholarly and formal Russian and when coming here you have to learn colloquial words and very situation specific words which can be challenging, like trying to buy makeup in a new language! But overall I love the challenge, I love learning Russian, and I love being here in Russia and Saint Petersburg.”

           Alice Giliarini (University of California-EAP), an American CIEE student who is a native Russian language speaker, gives her insight into explaining some of the classroom environment: “Something I did expect to find different, and nonetheless am shocked by every day, is the beautiful architecture of St. Petersburg. To complete the beauty of the architecture, the classrooms are furnished with nice wooden tables and benches (I will miss them). If you don't consider the physical placement of classrooms, classes are taught the same way. There are differences of course, for example, homework is viewed differently in Russia. Here, the focus of what a student should be doing at home is more about learning and less about grades. The teacher may not check your homework, but if you come unprepared, you simply won't learn. This applies to reading material, as well. A student is encouraged to read more on material about which they know less. One other small difference is that in Russian classrooms, to give a professor respect, students stand up when the professor comes into the classroom.”

            Our students’ insights once again prove that sending college students abroad promotes better understanding of global affairs and has other positive impacts at home. CIEE sincerely hopes that our academic programs will help our students achieve the greatness they are destined for.



            As the winter snow melts and temperatures finally rise above freezing, St Petersburg emerges with newfound energy and optimism each spring. Residents surface from their seasonal hibernations and outdoor venues take down their shutters, casting a celebratory air over the city. Spring semester has the best holidays, the days are getting longer, and you get to practice being a true Russian in the winter so when all the tourists show up, you can blend in as a local.

            The traditional Slavic festival of Maslenitsa is a favorite time of year for Russians all over the world, and the festival is widely celebrated in many countries. Maslenitsa is a time-honored Russian festival, and its origins, of course, are pagan. Troika rides, sledding, theater, puppets, singing, and fireworks are all a part of the Maslenitsa celebration.

Alice Giliarini (University of California-EAP) and her fellow Russian students at the traditional Maslenitsa festival



            “When in Rome do as the Romans do” goes an old saying. We cannot stress enough how beneficial immersing in the local community can be. This semester our students yet again showed how becoming a part of the local community enhances their experience abroad. Students are offered plenty of volunteering opportunities, including, but not limited to, teaching English at one of the country’s top higher education institutions, St. Petersburg State University, and our signature volunteering project with volunteering for St. Petersburg professional hockey team, SKA; volunteering for the Hermitage gives our students a unique opportunity to gain an amazing insight into the life of one of the world's leading museums as well as get professional experience.

Joseph Barker (Indiana University-Bloomington), Henry Diggins (Tulane University of Louisiana), Rebecca Powell (Rice University), Ian Gilchrist (Oberlin College), Jenna Friedberg (George Washington University), Dakota Potts (Miami University-Oxford) and our Russian Buddy Nastya Kostina (SPSU) after a SKA game.

            Alice Giliarini (University of California-EAP): “Besides going to school, I have been taking part in extracurricular activities. These include CIEE choir, folk-dancing classes, and volunteering at the Hermitage. It hasn’t been long, and I already feel like I have a lot of bright stories to tell, thanks to these activities.”



            CIEE Study Centers in Russia are continuing to host an increasing amount of short-term faculty-led customized programs. Just a few weeks ago, we were lucky to welcome a group of students and faculty from Texas Christian University.

TCU St. Isaac's Cathedral

               The group of intrepid Communication Studies students traveled to Russia only for the duration of their spring break and spent unforgettable nine days exploring Saint Petersburg and Moscow with CIEE’s mindful guidance. Despite the incredibly full schedule of lectures in Russian History and Politics, community engagement activities and museum excursions, the TCU students never missed an opportunity to mingle with the CIEE Study Center’s semester- and year-long students and learn some Russian. Although all TCU students learned to read Cyrillic alphabet only upon arriving in Russia, they eagerly dived into practicing and singing the famous Russian folk-song Kalinka with the help of the CIEE staff and CIEE students!



            Immersion with Russian students is a cornerstone of our students’ study abroad language experience. There’s nothing that helps you adjust and learn more about Russian culture and peculiarities of life in St. Petersburg than becoming deeply engaged with the local community.

            CIEE takes pride in its devotion to helping students get the most of their time here with the help of our Russian students. “Sobesedniki”, the CIEE Russian Language Partner Program, has become a crucial part of our students’ experience abroad.

Alice Giliarini (University of California-EAP), Emily Dollemore (Mercyhurst University), Travis Beohm (Temple University), Iain Cunningham (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) and our Russian students Julia and Nastya studying Russian poetry in a café.

         Alice Giliarini (University of California-EAP): “Outside of CIEE, I have been taking walks around St. Petersburg, exploring, spending time with newfound friends, and simply living here. Through CIEE I have made good native friends and they have helped me feel less like a tourist, and more like St. Petersburg is my temporary home. Shout out to my Собеседница (Sobesednik) for making my stay here pleasant, fun, and memorable.”

         Rachel (Katya) Essel (University of Southern California: CLAS): “I've been absolutely LOVING Saint Petersburg. It's honestly such a cool place filled with so much culture. Some of my favorite things are driving over Dvortsoviy Bridge on my commute to and from school because it's so beautiful seeing the Hermitage and the Neva river in the sunrise and sunset. And I love that I made Russian friends because they're so much fun and really interesting and cool and they help my Russian so much.”

        Katya Kletkina (a first-year student at St. Petersburg State University, and yet already actively involved with St. Petersburg CIEE Study Center) reflects on her experience as a Sobesednik: “CIEE will never let you get bored, and this applies not only to American students, but to their Russian counterparts, too. Last semester my Sobesednik Dagmara and I used to practice Russian and English languages, we spent time learning about our countries’ cultures while sipping tea in a cafe on Ligovskiy prospect. Together with the rest of the group we visited Catherine Palace in Pushkin, played board-games in the Gaga Play Loft. Shout out to the CIEE Study Center for organizing everything!

            This semester my Sobesednik is Rachel (Katya): everyone calls her “the American Katya” because this name, Katya, is probably the most common name in Russia, and a lot of people in the CIEE are called Katya (including me!).

            Katya and I are very like-minded. We’ve already been to the Mikhailovsky theatre’s Don Quixote, we’ve taken countless strolls around the beautiful St. Petersburg and even studied Russian-American economics enjoying a good cup of coffee in one of St. Petersburg’s countless cafes. And there’s so much to look forward to!”


We cannot but absolutely agree with Katya: there is so much to look forward to! As we are embarking on the second half of the amazing spring 2016 CIEE adventure in Russia, we are sending our warmest regards from already warmer Saint Petersburg to all professors, study abroad advisors, families and friends of our Saint Petersburg CIEE students!



S nailuchshimi pozhelaniyami (Best regards),

The CIEE Spring 2016 Newsletter editors, Katya & Ira


Katya Kavchenko, CIEE Study Center Intern

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Dr. Irina Makoveeva, Center Director


Alumni Bulletin, Issue III



новый год

New Year’s celebrations, December 31, at Palace Square in St. Petersburg.

The paths of each student and alumnus varies greatly, expanding all spheres and professions, however, one thing is consistent when we review the lives of CIEE’s former students; each and every CIEE student possesses an unparalleled passion for the world and knowledge, a wanderlust excitement to explore the world, and an ability to ceaselessly question all that is encountered. In this New Year, we wish for all of you to never cease questioning the world around you, to never let that adventuresome spirit within you dimmer, and for your passion for the world to be as strong as it was the day you chose to travel to Russia. We wish you all a Happy New Year and a Merry Russian Orthodox Christmas this January 7th!

Please join us in our New Year's edition, in which we share with you some of the inspiring lives of CIEE Russia’s alumni, which includes some of the CIEE love stories!


The Faces of CIEE

Diana Ohlbaum

CIEE Russian Language Program, Fall 1982

Ohlbaum, DianaThen and Now! Left: Diana in St. Petersburg with Russian friend, Misha in the fall of 1982. Right: Pictured in the spring of 2015.

Diana Ohlbaum embarked on her international education experience with CIEE Russia in the fall of 1982, when St. Petersburg was still known as Leningrad. After graduating from Amherst College with a BA in Russian, and completing a Ph.D. in political science from Johns Hopkins University, Diana launched a career in foreign assistance and international development. With over 25 years overseeing U.S. foreign assistance programs, primarily on Capitol Hill as a professional staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee, Diana now heads an independent consulting firm, which provides legislative and political strategy for sustainable human security. 

“Living and studying in then-Leningrad was the formational experience of my lifetime.  I have traveled all over the world since then, for work and for pleasure, and each journey always gets subtly compared and contrasted to my time in the USSR.  I think that I see much of my life through the lens of that experience, and I still tell cocktail-party stories about living in obshchezhitie No. 6!

Although I did not end up using Russian professionally, there is no life experience which would have been comparable to my semester in Leningrad (except, perhaps, for the Peace Corps, and they did not offer placements in “communist” countries at that time).  I did, however, end up studying in Moscow a decade later for my Ph.D., which was also an amazing period in my life, but not as life-changing as the CIEE semester.

During my CIEE semester, I learned to boil clothes in a pot on the stove, since we did not have washing machines.  I learned to cook and bake without measuring implements, normal kitchen tools, or routine ingredients – at the time, we could really only buy eggs, sosiski (hot dogs), cabbage, beets and maybe a few other staples in the stores.  We lived without toilet paper, without hot water (in the middle of winter!) and without safe drinking water from the tap (brushed our teeth with mineral water).  We had no contact at all with the outside world.  I could go on with stories about scarcity and deprivation, but what was most important were the people we met and the friends we made.  I have kept in touch with several of them for 30 years now, despite worrying that we would never be able to see or contact each other again.  The wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed, the Internet was created – and the friendships survived.”


John & Tracy Machado

CIEE Russian Language Program, Fall 1993

MachadosThen and now! Left: Tracy and John Machado Fall 1993 in Leningrad. Pictured right: Tracy and John Machado with their five daughters.

Studying in Leningrad during the early 90s and experiencing the uncertainty, the volatility, the economic difficulties of a nation, and experiencing the depth of the Russian soul, is a life-altering experience that endows its adventurers with perspectives very few have been able to experience. Friendships and relationships form, such as the love that Tracy and John found during their semester abroad that will last a lifetime.


­­­Tracy was a sophomore at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and John was a junior at the University of Tennessee when they met during their semester abroad with CIEE in the Fall of 1993. Majoring in Russian, John used his degree and experience with CIEE in Leningrad to launch a career in the U.S. Department of State, and Tracy became a Finance Manager. Studying in Leningrad put their fates in motion, beginning their love story, and creating an enduring relationship and passion with and for Russia and its culture.

“It was only a few months of our lives really, but it began a life journey. After our time in St. Petersburg, we went back to our respective schools and attempted to put the genie back in the bottle and just let that summer stand alone. The Horseman would have none of it. It took a long time. We lost track of each other, both secretly pining away and wondering what could have been. 

I used my CIEE experience to move my career forward, working in US State Department’s Bureau of Russian and Eurasian Affairs, working in three US Embassies in the former Soviet Union, in Moscow, Tbilisi, and Bishkek. I certainly could not have done that without this program. Later, I was sent to St. Petersburg as part of Colin Powell’s team, and it came rushing back. Before I left DC, I did all I could to find Tracy. St. Petersburg will never leave you.

The journey that began 22 years ago in the CIEE Program had never ended really.  A few years later we were married and spent our honeymoon in St. Petersburg, of course, walking the same canals and parks as before.  We arrived on May 8, slept off some jet-lag, and emerged right when May 9 Victory Day fireworks were above. It’s a St. Petersburg story after all.

We now live in Dallas Texas, with our five daughters, and an appropriately-named golden retriever, Peter.  It’s not possible for us to look at our lives now and not reflect on the program. We both have degrees in Russian, and are teaching our girls. Our home is a tour of the city; a painting of Griboedova, a palekh box of Letniy Sad, a bread ration card from 1942 framed on a wall, a bronze of Peter the Great on the mantel, a Cheburashka in the toy box, Ushanki in the coat closet. What Tracy and I found in St. Petersburg is as alive today as it was then. The CIEE Program was as wonderful then as I’m sure it is now. But be forewarned, this city of romance and beauty will change you, and you will never regret it.”


Katya & Jay Slater

CIEE Russian Language Program, Fall 2010

SlatersThen and Now! Left: Jay Slater and Katya Tabares during the Fall 2010 St. Petersburg trip to Estonia. Pictured right, The Slaters during their wedding in June 2015.

Another CIEE love story that began in the Venice of the North is Jay and Katya Slater. Jay, a software engineer was a Russian and Computer Science double-major at the University of Rochester, and Katya was a Russian and History double-major at Vanderbilt, who continued on to obtain a masters in counseling from the Dallas Theological Seminary, starting her career as the Education Coordinator at a non-profit pregnancy resource center. Katya and Jay’s friendship began in St. Petersburg, and strengthened and grew after they parted ways in December of 2010, leading to their engagement in 2014.

“As is fitting and proper, our wedding had a number of Russian elements that paid tribute to where our relationship began. For example, my bridesmaids carried books by Russian authors down the aisle, our ceremony music featured Russian composers, and perhaps most fun of all, our cake toppers were two matryoshka dolls painted to look like us! “From Russia, with love,” indeed!” (Katya Slater, CIEE Russian Language Program, Fall 2010).

How has your experience with CIEE in Russia influenced your professional life?

J: The language skills I picked up in Russia have come up once or twice in my professional life. A year or two ago, my company was presented with a chance to visit a trade show in Moscow. Although we were unable to exploit that chance, the Russian I learned while studying abroad let us consider it seriously. More generally, I find that being in Russia, getting to know some Russians, and gaining a better understanding of the Russian mindset puts me ahead of my peers when it comes to talking about the way that the Russian government interacts with the world.

K: Everyone is impressed that I spent a semester in Russia – particularly employers. Plenty of people study abroad in Western Europe or South America, but comparatively few choose Russia. It gives me a competitive edge, since it’s such an unusual location that is so significant, geopolitically. On a personal note, Russia is the reason I went into ministry. I learned who I was and who I wanted to be because of the people I met and the conversations I had. Studying abroad set off a chain of decisions that led me to the fulfilling life I have now.”

Lauren Nelson

CIEE Russian Language Program, Spring 2008

Nelson, LaurenThen and now! Left: Lauren Nelson pictured on Palace Square in front of the Hermitage in the spring of 2008. Pictured right: Lauren in her classroom in Chicago where she teaches high school Russian.

Teacher of high school Russian in Chicago, Lauren’s penchant for Russian language and culture began with her undergraduate studies at Illinois Wesleyan University, and strengthening with her CIEE experience in St. Petersburg during the spring of 2008, and in Prague during the summer of 2008, where she interned with the Russian Information Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, After graduating with a bachelor’s in International Studies specializing in Russia and Eastern Europe, Lauren continued on to complete her masters in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies from Stanford University.


“I lived on the Fontanka in an apartment with Inna and Zora, who I recently learned are still hosting students. They used to make a grated carrot, apple, and honey salad that I now make myself. I didn't really like sour cream until living with them: now it's one of the most-used condiments in my refrigerator. Those are some tangible, edible remnants of my time in Russia. I think about Inna and Zora a lot when I come up with my lesson plans. The words I learned from them were right in front of me as they showed them to me – immediately useful and necessary: matches, traffic, towel, butter. I try and give my students words that they'll need and use, rather than vocabulary that has nothing to do with their lives.

While studying in St. Petersburg, I met one of my best friends. We ended up completing the same graduate program at Stanford and he moved to Georgia (the country, not the state) to teach English. I convinced a coworker of mine to fly to Georgia with me to visit him. En route to the Stalin museum in Gori, our marshrutka driver invited us to his home for dinner. We ended up in a tiny village called Mokhisi picking grapes and enjoying a feast of shashlik and homemade wine with some friendly Georgians who toasted in Russian. That day is one of my favorite memories, and there are a lot of little things that led me there, but the biggest one was CIEE, where I learned to say "yes" to things that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable.”

Russia boasts one of CIEE’s longest withstanding study centers. Founded in 1967, CIEE Russia is nearing its 50th anniversary of having its doors open to curious students who venture to Russia with a vigor for learning in and outside of the classroom, who pursue deeper insights, and who seek new ways of looking at the U.S., Russia, and the world at large. Following their experience in Russia, alumni have chosen to build careers rooted in Russian language and Russia, have chosen to build careers accentuated by their specialized knowledge of Russia, and have established careers in other fields, preserving their proclivity for Russia as a passion pursued in their spare time. Regardless of what path our alumni have chosen and choose, it is undeniable, the lasting effect one semester with CIEE in Russia has in shaping the lives of its alumni.

From all of us at CIEE Russia, Happy New Year, Merry Russian Christmas, and happy holidays! We hope to see you this May at the CIEE Russia Student & Alumni Weekend. Stay tuned for the official invitation!


The weekend will include

Stay involved







Fall 2015, Issue III


By December, the allure of living in a completely new environment has lessened to more normal levels, and the darker, shorter days that come with living in a city nearly 60 degrees north of the equator have begun to be felt by all. This pervading monochrome is brightened by the New Year’s lights decorating the city and the end of the semester projects and celebrations, keeping students involved in all this city has to offer!


Alexander Evanoff (University of California, Davis ’17), Gray Phillips (Kenyon College ’17), Dan Berenberg (University of Vermont ’17), Jean-Paul Gilbert (Oberlin College ’17), Chloe Follis (Bates College ’17), Erica Ditmore (Macalester College), Boryana Borisova (Illinois Wesleyan University ’17) during the Fall 2015 Signature Event.

During this bittersweet last week, the halls of Smolny are filled with the buzz of students preparing for their final exams, taking their Oral Proficiency Interview exams, and saying goodbye to the city and people they have called home these past four months. It is undeniable that the friendships and relationships formed here are unique bonds that will last a lifetime; especially those relationships which students have formed with their host families. In their host families, students have found a home away from home.

From the words of a mother, visiting her daughter after having met her daughter’s host mother:

“I am incredibly thankful for this amazing woman, Elena Petrovna, Bridget's host mom while studying in St. Petersburg. She is such a gracious, lovely person who has truly been Bridget's 'Mom' while away from Mom. Very grateful, indeed.”


Bridget Menkis (Oberlin College ’17) with her host mother, Elena Sukneva.

CIEE Celebrates Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, a holiday spent with those near and dear to one’s heart, is an especially hard time to be away from home. This semester marked the sixth year that Thanksgiving was celebrated together at the CIEE St. PetersburgStudy Center. Students tackled the task of transforming Smolny into a festively decorated venue, and prepared their favorite Thanksgiving dishes at home, after spending an evening scouring the Russian grocery stores for all necessary ingredients.

2 Thanksgiving, dinner

Students captured the spirit of Thanksgiving, using the opportunity to appreciate those for whom they are thankful; filling a poster full of thanks to teachers and staff, and distributing turkey hands, decorated with personal notes of thanks to friends and teachers and staff.

Tanveer Karim (University of Rochester ’17)

“Thanksgiving holds a special position in the American culture because no matter where you are, you try your best to spend some time with family and be thankful for everything. So it was no surprise to see all the American students get excited for Thanksgiving. After all, we wanted to spend some time with our new friends in Russia and be thankful for the most awesome semester! I had a tremendous amount of fun with the decorations committee and the food committee cooked delicious food. Lastly, I would like to thank the CIEE staffs and our Russian sobesedniki once again for making this a truly memorable semester. You are all invited for next year’s Thanksgiving dinner!”

CIEE Visits the U.S. Consul General

4. US Consul meeting

At the end of November, students were invited to the U.S. Consulate General to meet with the newly-appointed U.S. Consul General Thomas Leary. Mr. Leary shared many insights into the current state of U.S. – Russian relations, and shared many of his personal and professional impressions of the St. Petersburg today, compared to the St. Petersburg he knew during his first appointment in St. Petersburg in the late 90s. Mr. Leary stressed the importance of educational exchange programs, the necessity for young Russian-Eurasian specialists, and explained what a career with the U.S. State Department consists of, including the way a career as a Foreign Service officer has affected his life and his family’s life. Students found the opportunity enlightening, and were happy to learn more about what takes place behind the doors of the U.S. Consulate’s office.

Sarah Krasner (Scripps College ’17)

“It was really interesting to hear about the different duties of the consulate workers, and learn about what is actually going on behind the scenes at the U.S. Consulate offices, especially because I think one day I might work for the State Department.”

Challenging and Interesting Academics

5. LL

Professor Leonid Loshenkov during the civilization course “Russian Social and Political Life” taught to RLP students.

Host Institution Courses

The CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center is located strategically within the Political Science Department of the St. Petersburg State University. This provides an opportunity to audit regular university courses taught to Russian university students in Russian, in addition to their CIEE courses. This semester, a few students tackled the challenge of auditing St. Petersburg State University political science courses. Navigating a different educational system and learning subjects together with students of a different cultural background proved to not be an easy task, yet became an incredibly rewarding experience revealing to its students a deeper understanding of both Russia and the U.S.

Russian Fairy Tales

This semester, Center Director, Dr. Irina Makoveeva, professor of Russian, teaches a course on Russian Fairy Tales to RASP students in English. This course explores a broad variety of Russian fairy tales and introduces students to different approaches to the study of folklore, including structuralism, psychoanalysis, sociology, Marxism, and feminism. Fairy tales play a very telling part in every culture, revealing the morals and stories children are raised on, and the complex multi-faceted characters that decorate its stories who are admired, feared, loved, hated, etc. Russian fairy tales have numerous recurring characters that are incorporated across a wide spectrum of tales, revealing to CIEE’s students of Russian fairy tales, a unique look into Russian culture. 

From an anonymous note written by one of Professor Makoveeva's students on Thanksgiving:

“I am very thankful for such a wonderful class. I enjoy fairy tales so much and I love hearing all the wonderful little extra details about the tales, the history attached to them, etc. Irina Efimovna clearly loves the subject, and I am thankful for her bringing that love of the tales to the classroom. I hope this class gets offered in all the coming programs!”

This semester, Professor Makoveeva’s students, in addition to the normal course load have endeavored to create their own adaptation of “The Magic Swan Geese.” CIEE Housing Coordinator, Svetlana Mantsvetova, is the creative force behind the scenes, choreographing and directing the play’s adaptation to be performed at the Closing Ceremony.

6. Fairy tale

The final dress rehearsal before the fairy tale’s grand reveal! [Left] Tanveer Karim (University of Rochester ‘17), Gray Phillips (Kenyon College ’17), and Dexter Blackwell (Occidental College ’15) are the 3 Magic Swan Geese who at Baba Yaga’s bidding, steal Alyonushka’s little brother, Ivanushko.

Independent Research Projects

In addition to the plethora of excursions, museums, volunteering, and extracurricular activities which our students have enjoyed, many students have sought additional extracurricular activities and research projects independently.

One such student is Hannah Freyer (Colorado College ’17), a student of Russian Language and Literature who is pursuing a research project in environmental studies.

“One of my most rewarding experiences this semester has been an independent research project I sought outside of the official CIEE program, investigating Russian perspectives on environmental issues. As part of my project I have created a survey, given a presentation at a university seminar, and begun to learn a new, specialized vocabulary. This project has allowed me to reach outside of everyday interactions and better understand Russia’s culture and language.

Although I have a formal goal for this independent project, what I have learned simply from the journey of starting it has taught me so much more than I would have by just taking classes here. While the formal goal of my project is an increased understanding of Russian environmental perspectives—in order to think about how to create more effective and achievable environmental goals in the international sphere—I have learned even more about Russian just by attempting to craft the survey that is a key aspect of the project. This survey, which is the first part of my project and now completed, required hours of time spent sitting down (with copious amounts of help) to translate it in a way that both mimics the English equivalents of my questions and perhaps more importantly, were culturally understandable. Since completing the survey, I have asked many professors and students to take it and pass it around; so far I have over sixty responses from all over Russia!”

Ben Pearce, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has also been pursing independent study during his semester with CIEE. At his home university, Ben is working on a master’s project that involves synthesizing aluminum nanoparticles using a nonthermal plasma, and throughout this fall semester, has visited with Russian scientists conducting research in related fields.

"CIEE St. Petersburg’s office helped me create my own independent study translating scientific articles related to my research back home.  I had no experience at the start of the semester.  My instructor, Neda Vladimirovna, guided me sentence-by-sentence to help me perfect my drafts.  I enjoyed I enjoyed having a practical outlet for applying grammar recently picked up from class, while also learning new technical vocab. During independent travel week I met with scientists at the Joint Institute for High Temperatures in Moscow who work in the fields of nanoscience and plasma physics. It was a great experience meeting researchers in Russia for the first time and hearing about their work.”

CIEE’s Got Talent

Each semester brings with it new students and more alumni, who continually remind us of the passionate and curious individuals we are lucky enough to welcome to Russia. Our students constantly astound us with their dedication to learn the Russian language, and to delve into Russia, unraveling the mystery of its culture. Each semester, the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center tackles a culturally-oriented Signature Project, an initiative developed in 2010, designed to culminate the semester, and deepen student experience in St. Petersburg.

11. CIEEs Got Talent, rap

[Left] Cora Neumann (university of Pennsylvania ’17), Angelika Kropiowski, Daga Franczak, and Sarah Krasner (Scripps College ’17) during Dan Berenberg’s rap [pictured right].

Every spring, CIEE St. Petersburg rekindles the spirit of imperial Russia by holding the enchanting Spring Ball, the grandeur of which is in many ways similar to that of the Lev Tolstoy’s depiction of the 19th century Russian ballroom enigma. During the fall semesters, CIEE St. Petersburg embraces contemporary Russia through signature concerts that embody a decade or theme. This year, students were able to their hidden talents and gifts through a talent show!


Ian Edgley (University of Dayton ’17) impressed the crowd with his touching rendition of “Landslide” originally by Fleetwood Mac which was dedicated to his mother.

All the musical performances were accompanied by CIEE’s very own band, led by Program Officer, Anton Stepanov. In the weeks prior to the concert, this talented group of students; Matt Stewart (Colorado College ’15), Andrew Westenskow (University of Utah ’17), and Dexter Blackwell (Occidental College ’17) rehearsed in the evenings and on weekends, preparing to accompany the diverse set of songs, originally performed by groups such as the Cranberries, Fleetwood Mac, Amy Whinehouse, the Kooks, Pixies, Blink 182, Arcade Fire, Dead Weather, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and songs in Russian by groups such as Kombinatsiya, Okean Elzi, and Zemfira.


[Left] Victoria Long (University of Evansville ’17) livened up the crowd with her renditions of “Sugar We’re Going Down” by Fall out Boy and Dead Weather’s “Hang you from the Heaven.” [Right] And Angela Ipock (Middle Tennessee State University ’17) wowed the crowd with her Disney song medley.

12. CIEEs Got Talent, Dance

Hannah Freyer (Colorado College ’17), Sarah Krasner (Scripps College ’17), Andrew Crawford (Tulane University of Louisiana ’17), Madeleine Lebovic (Tufts University ’17), and Maddie Herman (Lewis & Clark College ’17) pictured below, were 5 of the 8 students that performed a dance choreographed by Madeleine Lebovic.

Dan Berenberg (University of Vermont ’17)

“The CIEE's Got Talent Spectacle was located at a local venue, and we literally metaphorically blew the roof off that bar. The air was filled with an extremely positive, strong energy of support, bonding, and fun. Students, both of our program and Russians performed with each other, or alone. I blasted on stage with a heavy set of rhymes and rapped the socks off the audience. It was truly a night to remember, by far one of the most rewarding events CIEE held during the semester.”


A favorite pastime of students is CIEE Program Officer, Anton Stepanov’s brainchild, the CIEE trivia “Pub Quiz” nights with Russian students. Students have the opportunity to test their knowledge on American and Russian culture and history together with their Russian friends during this informal gathering at a local St. Petersburg venue. And this month we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Pub Quiz. To commemorate this anniversary, CIEE staff formed a team, competing neck to neck with Russian and CIEE students. The competition was tough, yet CIEE staff pulled through victoriously after a tie breaker with one other team.

13. pub quiz

The St. Petersburg team would like to wish you a happy holiday season. We hope the New Year brings all of us a year full of happiness, health, mutual understanding across the nations,  new experiences, and adventure!

14. Staff

CIEE Staff during the Fall 2015 Signature Event “CIEE’s Got Talent.”


S Novym Godom (Happy New Year) from Liz & the CIEE team


 Liz McBean, Student Services Assistant

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Anton Antonov, Program Manager

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Irina Makoveeva, Center Director


Fall 2015, Issue II

Header (newsletter)

An essential and innate component of the study abroad experience is the spectrum of emotions and reflections the process of immersing oneself into a culture different from your own brings. November marks the third month of our students’ lives in Russia’s Northern Capital, St. Petersburg and the unusually bright and warm fall days have been growing shorter and colder as the dark, cold winter the northern areas of Russia are known for begin to rear its head. At this point, the halls of Smolny, the home to the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center, is full of the confident faces of students who have acclimated to their ‘Russian lives’, and who have made great strides in their goals of learning firsthand about Russia, and grasping the nuances and complexities of Russian culture and the Russian language.

1. Quote

This introspective quote from Margaret Mead’s book, Coming of Age in Samoa, was posted anonymously by a CIEE student to the CIEE bulletin boards, which are generally used to post pertinent information such as weekly calendars, important announcements, and sign-ups for excursions and extracurricular activities: “As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.” Time and time again, our alumni recall the transformative and self-reflective journey studying in St. Petersburg guided them through, and this semester, proves no exception.

CIEE Explores Russia!

2. angela

St. Petersburg and Moscow illustrate two unique perspectives of Russia, similar to the way New York City paints a very unique, relevant, yet distinct portrait of the U.S. Russia is a vast country of over 20 republics, multiple languages, ethnicities, and cultural history, and differs as much regionally, as it does geographically and climatically throughout its vast 6.6 million square miles. This semester, we’ve traveled from the Gulf of Finland to just west of the Ural Mountains, with a pit stop in Russia’s capital city, Moscow. After CIEE’s trip to Moscow and Kazan, a number of inquisitive students continued their travels in Russia during CIEE’s Alternative Break, and traveled to Arkhangelsk and Kirov.

3. map

Student travels during the month of November: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan, Kirov, and Arkhangelsk!

First stop: The Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan!

Every city has a different personality, with its own rhythm, characteristics, and peculiarities. Kazan, coined the “third capital” of Russia, is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan. This multi-ethnic city is a unique blend of Russian and Tatar culture, which helps to unfold a fuller picture of the diversity and vastness of Russia to students.

It’s undeniable, Kazan buzzes with the excitement of innovation and development, from its new housing projects to its highly-developed sports facilities, which have helped to make Kazan an international hub for athletic competition. In the past two years alone, it has hosted the 2013 Summer Universiade, the 2014 World Fencing Championships, the 2015 World Aquatic Championships, and is looking forward to hosting the 2017 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Students enjoyed the one-of-a-kind opportunity to contrast the luxurious baroque style architecture and the lasting remnants of imperial Russian St. Petersburg with the modern innovation and development of Kazan.

4. Kazan, Fuchss

During the city tour, students visited the Fuch’s Garden, named after Karl Friedrich Fuchs, the first researcher of the life and culture of the Kazan Tatars. The Garden is more than 100 years old, and features a statue to Karl Fuchs. In the palm of his left hand the face of the sculptor is engraved!

CIEE’s arrival in Kazan coincided with the Glorification of Our Lady of Kazan, an Orthodox feast day particularly special to Kazan. Kazan, the Muslim capital of Russia is known for the peaceful coexistence and harmony of varying faiths. For this reason, it is unsurprising that during CIEE’s visit to Kazan, students witnessed the religious procession for Our Lady of Kazan, as well as visited two mosques.

5. Kazan, Gray, Kazan, mosque

Jean-Paul (Oberlin College ’17), Phillip-Gray Clark (Kenyon College ’17), Erica Ditmore (Macalester College ’17) in front of the Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan.

6. Tanveer

Not only did students enjoy exploring Kazan and the Kremlin built at Ivan the Terrible’s behest, home to the only 16th century church to have six piers and fives apses and home to the largest mosque in Russia, but they were excited to discover the Liverpool Football Club soccer team was staying in the same hotel, which made Liverpool’s victory over the Kazan Rubin team that much more exciting of an experience. CIEE traveled beyond Kazan’s city walls to the island of Sviyazhsk, and visited the motley of churches, bell towers, teetering homesteads, and monastery, which once was at the center of one of the most dramatic, violent episodes in Russian history: the capture of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century.

7. Kazan, Ivan the Terrible

While exploring Sviyazhsk, students had some time to “play.” Phillip Gray Clark (Kenyon College ’17) dressed as Ivan the Terrible.

Another highlight was the Temple of All Religions in the microdistrict, Staroye Arakchino. Idar Khanov, the artist of the Temple of All Religions explains the architectural structure, which incorporates an Orthodox church, a mosque, a synagogue, and other religious architecture was built with the intention to be an architectural symbol of all religions, a museum of religion of sorts, an international cultural center of spiritual unity. 

8. Kazan, Temple of All ReligionsAaron Kennett (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) in front of the Temple of All Religions.9. Aaron

Second Stop: Moscow!

The adventure continued as students took an overnight train from Kazan to the capital of Russia, Moscow! A semester studying abroad in Russia cannot be complete without a visit to Russia’s largest political, economic, cultural, and scientific epicenter. 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.

10. Moscow, Gray, red squareDan Berenberg (University of Vermont ’17), Alex Evanoff (University of California ’17), Phillip Gray Clark (Kenyon College ’17), Jean-Paul Gilbert (Oberlin College ’17)

The adventures of the second day began with Lenin’s Mausoleum, giving students a unique chance to visit Lenin’s Tomb and to experience the solemn ambience of the resting place of the man whose political theories inspired a nation, and whose impression on Russia’s history is still visible to this day. This visit was followed by a tour of the Moscow Kremlin, which included an excursion to the Armory Chamber, one of Moscow’s oldest museums, founded in 1808.

11. Moscow, IMG_20151106_115500

Students preparing a ‘jumping’ picture in front of the New Maiden Convent in Moscow. [L to R] Ian Edgley (University of Dayton ’17), Sarah Krasner (Scripps College ’17), Aaron Kennett (University of Maryland, Baltimore County ’17), Yiorgos Bosnakis (Virginia Commonwealth University ’15), Boryana Borisova (Illinois Wesleyan University ’17), Jean-Paul Gilbert (Oberlin College ’17), Chloe Follis (Bates College ’17), Mary-Bailey Frank (Georgetown University ’17), Erica Ditmore (Macalester College ’17).

12. Daga

On the final day in Moscow, students had the choice to visit either the Tretyakov State Gallery, the foremost depository of Russian fine art in the world, housing more than 170,000 works by Russian artists from early religious paintings to modern art, spanning a period of a thousand years, or to visit Museum of Contemporary History of Russia, which boasts an extensive collection of over 2 million exhibits documenting the country’s political development over the last 150 years.

13. Jeremy

14. Moscow, IMG_20151107_134004

 Students during a tour of the Kremlin grounds in Moscow, Russia.

Alternative Break: An Insider’s Look into Russia

Every semester, the CIEE Study Center in Petersburg offers its students the opportunity to travel to a small, provincial Russian town, and experience, through a week of volunteer activities, an unfiltered look into Russia. This semester, students were offered to travel to the far north and spend a week volunteering in Arkhangesk, or to travel just west of the Ural Mountains to the city of Kirov.

Alternative Break in Arkhangelsk

Immediately following the trip to Kazan and Moscow, a group of seven CIEE students boarded the 22-hour train that took them from Moscow to the Russian Arctic North (Pomorye), Arkhangelsk! Winter had already long ago begun to take its hold in Arkhangelsk, and students enjoyed a week of weather in the low teens.

15. AB, Arkhangelsk, WP_20151112_15_42_29_Pro

16. Angela, AB

During the following week, our students were constantly on-the-go with their days full of volunteering and integrating into the local community. Evenings were spent at discussion club meetings with their Russian peers, students of the Northern State Medical University.

17. AB, Arkhangelsk, bird feeder

Students making birdfeeders. [Left] Kendall Gildersleeve (University of Rochester ’17), Rut Hormann (Macalester College ’17), Jenna Hooper (Gustavus Adolphus College ’17), Maddie Hermann (Lewis & Clark College ’17). [Right] Jenna Hooper (Gustavus Adolphus College ’17)

One of the highlights of the next five days was a visit to a rural school, which enabled CIEE students to get a firsthand look at ‘village school’ life, and interact with the young students, who were very curious to meet foreign students studying in Russia. Other highlights included the construction of local birdfeeders, cleaning up a local school, and working in an animal shelter.

18. AB, Arkhangelsk animal shelter

Throughout the week of volunteering, students got 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. While volunteering in the rural school, students toured the local church, climbing to the top its bell tower, opening up a breath-taking view of the surrounding land, while the priest rang the evening bells.

19. AB, arkhangelsk, bell tower

Alternative Break in Kirov

Two of our adventurous, philanthropic students journeyed further east towards the Ural Mountains to the city of Kirov, where representatives from the international volunteer camp, SFERA awaited the CIEE students’ arrival.

20. Sightseeing on the first day in Kirov, near the Vyatka embankment (with local European Volunteer

Sightseeing on the first day in Kirov, near the Vyatka embankment with local European Volunteer Service Program volunteers and Sfera Coordinator, Svetlana Matantseva, and Maria Mikhaylova.

Throughout the week, the alternative break volunteers were engaged in a variety of activities. Students led a round table discussion discussing education in the U.S. with the linguistics department of the Vyatka State University of Humanities, visited the Physics and Math Lyceum, spending the day giving lectures, presentations, and interactive language classes with the middle school students, spending time at a local youth community center, and even taught English and shared about American and Mexican culture to a group of senior citizens participating in a community learning class.

21. AB, kirov, teaching

[Left] Amy Peshkova (University of California) Teaching a class at the Physics and Mathematics Lyceum in Kirov [Right] Amy Peshkova and Vivian Garcia (University of California) facilitating a master class at the Physics and Mathematics Lyceum.

22. IMG_8127CIEE Student Services Coordinator, Ira Vasilyeva, and students Vivian Garcia and Amy Peshkova with the senior citizens from the community learning class they lectured in.

23. amy

Students were thrilled to delve into the local culture with the help of local students who prepared a Russian culture extravaganza, as well as learn about Kirov’s famous Dymkovo toys, moulded painted clay figurines, usually depicting people and animals by participating in a master-class after touring the museum.


Volunteering at a Local St. Petersburg Animal Shelter

24. Animal ShelterMaddie Herman (Lewis & Clark College), Hannah Freyer (Colorado College), Yiorgos Bosnakis (Virginia Commonwealth University), Gulya Tlegenova (University of California), Angela Ipock (Middle Tennessee State University ’17), Rut Horrmann (Macalester College).

Our students never cease to surprise us at their initiative to improve the world around them through even the smallest deeds. Despite their days being full of classes, homework, excursions, and exploration, many of our students have still found time to spend their weekends volunteering at a local animal shelter. The animal shelter houses three shelters in one place, giving students many dogs to give lots of love to!

25. gulyad

CIEE Board of Directors Visit St. Petersburg

This October was a very special month for the St. Petersburg Study Center, as we had the opportunity to host the CIEE Board of Directors. This inspiring group of exemplary leaders with a special interest in higher education and international education ensure that every study abroad program meets the highest standards for academic quality, intercultural exchange, and student safety, and guarantees CIEE’s leading position in the field of international education through continual development and innovation.

26. BOD, WP_20151101_15_26_06_Pro

The weekend was highlighted by a tour of the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center; class visits to two of the Russian Area Studies Program course electives taught in English: Presidential Elections and Ethnic Studies; lunch with students; and visits to some of St. Petersburg’s most exciting places of interest such as the State Hermitage Museum, Yusupov’s Palace, and the Faberge Museum, as well as a magical evening watching the ballet, A Midsummer’s Night Dream at the Mariinsky Theater.

27. Members of CIEE’s Board of Directors during dinner with CIEE students and their host families. Pictured left: Andrew Westenkow (University of Utah); pictured right: Cora Neumann (University of Pennsylvania).


Iskrenne Vashi (Sincerely yours),

Liz & the CIEE team


Liz McBean, Student Services Assistant

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Anton Antonov, Program Manager

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Irina Makoveeva, Center Director



Fall 2015, Issue I

Header (newsletter)

As the nights and evenings grow longer, and the chill of fall permeates the air, the excitement of living in St. Petersburg and studying Russian language and culture in Russia, keeps our students excited and looking forward to the adventures and new knowledge each day brings. These first two months have been rich with excursions, visits to museums, interesting courses, volunteering opportunities, and exploration. 


Fall at Smolny! The walk across the Smolny complex to the Department of Political Science, where the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center is located. (Pictured by: Tanveer Karim (University of Rochester))

CIEE students all share a passion for Russian language and culture, complemented by wanderlust and a sense of adventure. A semester in St. Petersburg provides students with the perfect platform to put this curiosity to use, and the fall provides students with an idealistic outdoor landscape to plunge into. Our students have been doing just this! One weekend, a few students took their hand at mushroom picking, a favorite Russian pastime during the September months, and ventured beyond the St. Petersburg city walls, exploring its outskirts by elektrichka (commuter train). After a full day of collecting mushrooms and picking wild blueberries, students returned to their host families sharing their treasures. Sautéing the fruit of their wandering proved just as delicious, as their day spent in the Russian countryside.

2.Madeline Hermann

3. mushroom picking

Hannah Freyer (Colorado College), Madeline Hermann (Lewis & Clark College), and Madeleine Lebovic (Tufts University) [pictured left to right] during their day of mushroom picking.

Exploring St. Petersburg through Excursions

This semester began with a flourish of activities designed to assist students in becoming acquainted with the Northern Capital, St. Petersburg. Students visited the summer palace of Peter the Great, enjoying the intricate and unique fountains of Peterhof; students toured Catherine’s Palace, viewing in person the celebrated amber room; students followed in the footsteps of Raskolnikov, the main character in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, Crime and Punishment, during the Crime and Punishment walking tour; and have enjoyed a guided tour through one of the world’s largest and oldest museums, the State Hermitage.  Among our usual long list of excursions, students also have had the opportunity to put their creative powers to the test during a matryoshka doll painting master-class. Students learned the Russian fairy tale, “The Gigantic Turnip,” and the significance of the different components of these Russian nesting dolls.

4. matreshki, master-class

CIEE Russian nesting dolls from the Matryoshka nesting doll master-class.

Not only have our students demonstrated their creative prowess in the arts and their intellectual curiosity in and outside of the classroom, our students have also demonstrated their culinary expertise during Russian and Georgian cooking classes this semester! During the Russian cooking class (pictured below), under the guidance of a professional chef, students learned to prepare borscht, kotlety po-adzharski (breaded meat patties), and a potato-based side dish. 

5. Russian Cooking Class


Life with a Russian Host Family

Every study abroad student is familiar with the typical anxiety related to meeting their host family for the first time. Experiencing life in a Russian family, with all of its perks and challenges plays a pivotal part in students’ semesters in St. Petersburg. 

6. hostfamilies

Students meet their host families for the first time at the end of the orientation sessions.

Living with a host family encourages language growth across many spectrums, and provides students with another look into everyday Russian life. 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.

7. Ian


Academic Highlights

The Russian Language Program of the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center offers a wide array of electives taught by highly-experienced professors of St. Petersburg State University who have many years of experience teaching Russian and American students in Russia and abroad. Specially-designed advanced elective courses enable students to study various topics such as such as Russian literature of the 19th century, or comparative cultural studies of the United States and Russia in the sphere of cultural, social, and political issues. 


Irina Sergeevna Brodt, a senior lecturer of Russian language and Ph.D. candidate of philology has been teaching the most complex and advanced topics in Russian grammar for nearly three decades, and during the fall semester, teaches students of the most advanced Russian language group, morphology.  1. Dan

Agitation for Happiness; the Mass Culture of the Soviet Period in Tales, Poems, Songs, and Movies

Professor Leonid Vladimirovich Loshenkov, one of CIEE’s most experienced professors, is teaching a course on Soviet mass culture and socialist realism. This course provides students with a unique and in-depth exploration of the Soviet Union. The course explores the idea of Soviet mass culture, analyzing the “old genres” such as adventure novels, stories, movie melodramas, ballads, together with the infusion of the new. Topics such as Soviet avant-garde art, Soviet Empire style, and socialist realism are investigated.

3. katya


The CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center continues the tradition of uniting students who seek additional Russian language support through individual tutoring sessions with SPSU language instructors. Tatyana Korepanova is one of our highly-qualified Russian language professors, who boasts to both American and other foreign students over 20 years of experience in one-on-one and group teaching of Russian as a Foreign Language. For the past three years, Tatyana Korepanova has been working with CIEE students through additional individual tutoring sessions.


8. Tutoring

Tatyana Yurevna during a tutoring session with Erika Larson (Northeastern University ’17) and Julia Tam (University of California ’17).

9. joe

Cinema Club

What can be better on a brisk, fall evening than to spend it in the company of CIEE and Russian friends, watching and discussing a Russian film during the bi-weekly cinema club meetings? Center director and Russian cinema expert, Dr. Irina Makoveeva, familiarizes students with the films chosen, providing necessary context, and facilitating meaningful discussions after the film’s viewing.

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CIEE Center Director, Irina Makoveeva introducing a film during one of this semester’s Cinema Club meetings.

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Immersion with Russian Peers 

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CIEE and Russian students at the Sobesedniki conversation partners mixer.

An important component of student experience while studying with CIEE in St. Petersburg is student immersion with Russian peers. Eager to learn Russian and experience Russian culture, becoming friends with their Russian counterpoints not only gives students an insider’s look at life in Russia, helps them to traverse their home abroad,  but also anchors students into their lives in St. Petersburg. 

For these reasons and more, the CIEE Russian Language Partner Program, “Sobesedniki” has become a significant element of students’ semester abroad. After an initial meeting at the Sobesedniki mixer, Russian and American students are paired together.

Following the mixer, CIEE students and their Russian sobesedniki are invited to various events like board game nights at a local anti-café, trivia “Pub Quiz” nights, pick-up volleyball and soccer games, and even karaoke nights at the CIEE administrative office on the Moika Embankment.  

During the mixer, Russian and American students rotate around the room in a fashion similar to speed-dating (for friends!). Nastya Kostina, a junior at St. Petersburg State University can often be found in the halls of Smolny near the CIEE Study Center, as her classes in the Department of Political Science are located in the same building. Nastya has been a sobesdenik for already two years:

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CIEE students and Sobesedniki at Board Game Night (left) and Karaoke Night (right).


Volunteering in the Local Community

Becoming a part of the local community in many different capacities is vital to any study abroad experience. Our students prove how rewarding this challenge can be, by taking advantage of the manyu opportunities to volunteer in the city. A few of the highlight volunteer opportunities offered by CIEE in St. Petersburg include volunteering for St. Petersburg professional hockey team, SKA; translating for Russia’s oldest film studio, Lenfilm; teaching English at one of the country’s top higher education institutions, St. Petersburg State University; assisting in various tasks and projects at one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, the Hermitage; the Red Cross; and others.

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Gulnur Tlegenova (University of California), Dan Berenberg (University of Vermont), Alexandra Stois (Kenyon College), Hannah Freyer (Colorado College), Jenna Hooper (Gustavus Adolphus College).

CIEE students have been exploring the cultural capital of Russia through visits to the ballet at the renown Mikhailovsky Theater. Students have had the opportunity to choose between viewing Le Corsaire, Swan Lake, and the Wayward Daughter. Moreover, winners of the semesterly scavenger hunt viewed the opera, Iolanta.

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[Left to Right] Matt Stewart (Colorado College), Madeline Hermann (Lewis & Clark College), Kendall Gildersleeve (University of Rochester), Madeleine Lebovic (Tufts University), Isabel Hughes (University of New Hampshire-Main Campus), and Center Director, Irina Makoveeva at the ballet.

Student Reflections

Plunging head first into their lives in St. Petersburg, students have actively gotten involved in the local life through various activities:



CIEE Staff Team-building Weekend in the Republic of Karelia

CIEE prides itself on their dedicated, passionate, and knowledgeable staff who ceaselessly strive to provide students with a meaningful and transformative learning experience in Russia. It is no doubt that a successful study center like the St. Petersburg study center runs like a well-oiled machine, however, every so often, even the best teams need to add a little oil to their wheels. The CIEE St. Petersburg team set off to do just that during a weekend of team-building activities in the Republic of Karelia. The Republic of Karelia, located in the northwest corner of Russia is famous for its abundant natural wonders, such as its 60,000 lakes. Staff spent the weekend working through collaborative tasks designed to perfect their skills working together as a team, and still managed to hike around the Karelian woods, explore the marble quarries and skerries in Ruskeala, cliff jump and zip-line across the Ruskealan marble quarry, and visit a wood-carving museum of local artist, Kronid Gogolev. 

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CIEE St. Petersburg staff exploring a marble quarry in Ruskeala between team-building activities [Left] (Back) Administrative Assistant, Nika Afanasyeva; Student Services Assistant, Liz McBean; Housing Coordinator, Svetlana Mantsvetova; Student Services Coordinator, Ira Vasilyeva (Front) Program Manager, Anton Antonov; Excursions Coordinator, Julia Semibratova; Program Coordinator, Katya Rubtsova; Program Officer, Anton Stepanov; Center Director, Irina Makoveeva.



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CIEE staff and partners with Program Coordinator, Katya Rubtsova, pictured center, during a surprise party organized in recognition of her contribution to CIEE programs in St. Petersburg.



Iskrenne Vashi (Sincerely yours),

Liz & the CIEE team


Liz McBean, Student Services Assistant

Anton Stepanov, Program Officer

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Anton Antonov, Program Manager

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Irina Makoveeva, Center Director



September 2015, Russia Alumni Bulletin, Issue II


September marks CIEE’s Alumni Career Month. We believe the most fitting way to celebrate this month is to recognize our alumni who consistently inspire us with their careers and successes. Their lives serve as a testament that CIEE alumni do change the world.

The CIEE study center in St. Petersburg, year after year unites students whose background, aspirations, and career goals are different, yet united through a shared interest in Russia. What each alumnus and alumna takes from their experience is individual, however what is common for all is the uniqueness of their experience, and the significant influence their experience in Russia has on their lives and futures. And on the eve of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the CIEE study center in St. Petersburg, Russia, we would like to share as many stories of our alumni as possible. We will start with the first five, but this is only the beginning.


Finding Home in New Places

Most of our students who visited St. Petersburg in the Soviet era, remember the infamous Obshezhitiye №6, Dormitory №6. Living integrated with fellow American and Russian students, in the 1970s and 80s, CIEE students found their home in Dormitory №6. Intrigued by the stories which highlighted this notorious place alumni called home while in Leningrad, we got to researching the story of Dormitory №6; something we are sure will interest our Leningrad alumni, as well as our recent alumni.

Dormitory №6, located near the Birzhevoy Bridge (known as Stroiteley Bridge from 1922 through 1989), was originally the revenue house of merchant Fedor Ivanovich Kirikov, built in the early 19th century. It became the student dormitories of St. Petersburg State University in the 20th century. After their demolishment in 2006 through 2008, the building on Zoologichesky pereulok 2-4 was rebuilt and renovated into an affluent apartment complex, preserving its unique historical façade.



Then and now! Dormitory №6 circa 1985 and the newly renovated luxury apartments circa 2015.

We’d love to hear more about Obshezhitiye №6; send us your fondest memories, interesting stories, and pictures of Dormitory №6!

Today, the majority of CIEE students live with a Russian family, promoting language learning across all settings during the study abroad experience. Over the years, the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center has accumulated a database of over 100 Russian families located throughout the city, many of whom have hosted students upwards 10 years. Leningrad alumni who lived in the student dormitories had the unique opportunity to improve their language by living integrated with Russian and other foreign students; today’s students have the unique opportunity to improve their language by living integrated with a Russian family. As CIEE alumna, Ella Berishev of the Russian Area Studies program, spring 2014 expressed:

“I enjoyed my host family because they helped me improve my Russian language skills. My host mother had a really helpful technique that made a world of difference for me, whenever I couldn't think of a word in Russian I would normally just change the subject or say never mind. However, she would prompt me to continue the conversation by finding a synonym or describing what I was trying to convey. Towards the end of my time in Russia I felt as though my language had improved so much that I didn't feel the need to find synonyms anymore.”


The Faces of CIEE


Laura Janda

CIEE Summer Russian Language Program, 1979


Then and now! Left: summer 1979.

Professor of Russian at the University of Tromso in Tromso, Norway, Dr. Janda’s penchant for Russian language and culture began with her undergraduate studies at Princeton University. Graduating with a bachelor’s in Slavic Languages, she continued her academic career with CIEE, studying in Leningrad during the summer of 1979, before continuing on to complete her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles. Professor Janda’s decision to study abroad engendered a lifelong career and passion for Russian language and academia. Professor Janda teaches Czech, Old Church Slavonic, all levels of Russian, specialized courses such as the Structure of Russian, Quantitative Methods in linguistics, and Slavic Linguistics, and has explored the intricacies of Russian grammar in multiple books and articles dealing in depth with grammar complexities such as aspect and the case system.

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“I had never been to Europe before, and traveling to the Soviet Union in those days was quite exotic, a bit like going on an extended camping trip, since you had to take everything you would need (toilet paper, soap, etc.) with you. Soviet realia was fairly harsh. There seemed to be almost no men over the age of fifty in sight anywhere, and the few I did see were missing limbs. Because there were no wheelchairs, these men propelled themselves on homemade skateboards. In place of men, crews of women labored on road and building construction. And they had lots of work to do because the USSR was gearing up to host the 1980 Olympics, which the US ended up boycotting. It seemed that the whole country was na remont – closed for repairs. Everything in Leningrad was very grey, to the point that I remember how all the colors almost stung my eyes when I got off the plane in Paris for our post-program debriefing.

There were some linguistic experiences that four years of diligent language study did not prepare me for. Not many people were eager to talk to foreigners. One of the first people who approached me was a young man who abruptly demanded “Devushka, skol`ko? (girl, how much?)” I took this to mean that he had mistaken me for a prostitute and fled in horror. Later I discovered that fartsovshiki (illegal money changers) commonly asked people they suspected of being foreign for the time of day. If they struggled with the Russian numerals and had a nice-looking wrist-watch, then they were probably foreigners and could be talked into selling currency. My aristocratic instructors in the US had taught me to say gospodin (sir) and gospozha (ma’am) and kotory chas (a more literary way to ask for the time)? instead of tovarishi (comrades) and skol`ko vremeni (what time is it?)?, so I was unprepared to parse that man’s question as an elliptical request for me to look at my watch.

In the face of all the challenges, I was continually struck by the quiet dignity of most people and occasional random acts of kindness. I was once standing in a bus, staring out the window and thinking to myself when I suddenly became aware of a great commotion around me. My fellow passengers were yelling at one man, calling him a “blind old goat (slepoy stary kozel)”. They were also pointing at me and saying that it wasn’t my fault. I gradually realized that the man was there to check tickets, but I had failed to notice him. The whole bus was ganging up on the controller, attacking him in my defense. Of course I actually had a ticket, and once I figured out what was going on I produced it and everyone quieted down. Another time I went to use the bathroom after eating lunch at the cafeteria we shared with local workers and forgot my notebook, which had all my notes from class, in the stall. When I realized what had happened, I dashed back and got in line to retrieve my notebook and found that while it had been used in place of toilet paper (which was never available anywhere), the workers had taken care to use only the sheets that had not been written on, so all my notes were saved. Small miracles like this happened daily, and my admiration for the people behind them grew accordingly.

Yes, I learned a lot of Russian that summer, and even more about how to manage unexpected challenges. I went on to complete a PhD in Slavic Linguistics at UCLA in 1984, and have since held academic positions at the University of Rochester, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and UiT The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø. I’ve written piles of books and articles, and been invited to speak in many places in Russia, Europe, the US, and even Asia. CIEE was my first big adventure in what turned out to be a long series that seems far from over yet.”


Nick Miyares

CIEE, Summer Russian Language Program 2011


Then and now! Left: Nick Miyares in St. Petersburg, summer 2011. Right: Pictured in GUM, in Moscow, summer 2015.

How has your experience with CIEE in Russia influenced your life?

“After graduating from Columbia University in 2012 (with a bachelor’s in Political Science and Russian Language & Culture), I was presented with the opportunity to work in Russia for an American law firm with a branch in Moscow (an opportunity which I swiftly took). The decision to make such a move - uprooting my life in the States and spending, ultimately, the next three years in Russia - would probably not have been made with such ease had I not had the opportunity to get a sneak preview of Russia through CIEE. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in St. Petersburg and, after returning to the States for my fourth and final year at university, wanted to get to know Russia more intimately. Ultimately, I would spend the next three years - until August 2015 - working in Moscow. I’m now moving to London for a Master’s program in Economics, focusing on Eurasia and Russia and looking forward to returning to Russia for a bit after completing the program in 2017.

There are about three things that come immediately to mind when I think about what I gained from my CIEE experience. First, I learned a lot about Russia. Although it had been the focus of my academics for my first three years at university, it was with CIEE in the summer of 2011 that I visited Russia for the first time. In the States, many of us are left with the impression that Russia is a country that is drastically different from our own; that it embodies the “east” whereas we the “west". After my summer in St. Petersburg, it became very clear to me that while Russia has many of its own issues and idiosyncrasies, we ultimately have much more in common than what we are led to believe. Second, I was able to significantly improve my Russian language skills. Everywhere I went I spoke Russian and the CIEE leaders on the ground, as well as the professors at Smolny, do a great job at enforcing the Russian-only rule. And lastly, I built lasting friendships with other students in the program. In the last year alone, I went with a fellow CIEE-er on an 8-day tour of Uzbekistan; with another to Budapest; and just recently visited another who is working for the U.S. government in Washington, D.C.”


Benjamin Rifkin

CIEE, Russian Language Program, Spring 1981



Then and now! Left: 1981, Benjamin Rifkin on the Red Square, Moscow.

Benjamin Rifkin embarked on his international education experience with CIEE Russia in the spring of 1981, when St. Petersburg was still known as Leningrad. After graduating from Yale University with a BA and MA in Russians Studies, Dr. Rifkin returned to the Soviet Union to work for a Soviet publishing house, followed by work for the NBC News Moscow Bureau, which led him back to the U.S. to complete a doctoral program in Russian literature at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Professor Rifkin’s international education experience not only launched his interest in Russian language and culture, marking the start of a long and illustrious career in academia, but also marked an important stage of personal growth: 

“My semester on study abroad with CIEE was absolutely a profoundly transformative experience for me.  Not only did I enhance my command of Russian (which I completely expected and was very motivated to do), and not only did my time in Leningrad enhance my understanding of Russian culture (which again I completely expected and was very motivated to do), but it taught me so much more that I did not expect.  Due to my semester abroad, I realized what it meant to me to be an American.  I experienced tremendous personal growth during my time in Leningrad. I will forever be grateful to CIEE for organizing, sponsoring, and directing the study abroad experience that so changed my life.”

Since the 1990s, Dr. Rifkin has held various academic positions – professor, department chair, and director of the Russian language program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, director of the Middlebury Russian School, president of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages, president of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages, board member of the American Council of Teachers of Russian –  that have helped to advocate and advance Russian language learning in the U.S., an achievement for which he was recently recognized when awarded the Lillian Stroebe medal at the 100th anniversary of the founding of Middlebury’s first language school.

Throughout his illustrious career, Professor Rifkin has published a number of textbooks, web-based learning modules for advanced-level listening comprehension in Russian, and more than two dozen articles in scholarly journals on Russian film, applied linguistics, second language education, and foreign language education. He has given numerous presentations at scholarly conferences, and guest lectures at universities across the country and around the world."



Paul Spitzer

CIEE, Spring 1977


Then and now! [Left] Paul Spitzer playing the balalaika-contrabass (1977). [Right] Paul Spitzer in front of the Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan, Russia (2014).

Paul Spitzer’s experience studying with CIEE in Leningrad marked the start of a lifelong adventure and eventful career illustrating the CIEE motto, “the world is our classroom.” After studying with CIEE, Paul graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in Russian Language, completed his masters at The School of International Training, and embarked upon an extensive career in teaching English language as a second language. Paul has worked in Finland, the U.S., Russia, and Georgia; his most recent endeavors have brought him to the Republic of Tatarstan, where he advanced the English program as an English Language Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the Kazan Federal University. This has led him to his current posting in Tbilsi, Georgia as the coordinator of the academic writing program of the dual-diploma program with San Diego State University and three technical universities in Georgia.

Paul Spitzer’s passion for international education began during an AFS Intercultural Exchange Program to Finland during his last year of high school, expanded to Leningrad in the spring of 1977, and continued throughout his career. Promoting international education throughout all generations, Paul has contributed greatly to a local international exchange organization called the Friendship Force, which was one of the first organizations to host Soviets on a citizens-diplomacy level. His involvement with TFF can be traced back to the early 80s, where he managed to translate into English the protocol agreement for President and Mrs. Carter to take with them to Moscow. Throughout the years, Paul has periodically incorporated his Russian, whether it has been volunteering as an interpreter-tour guide, working as a Russian-speaker case worker at a Jewish Family Services organization, or organizing the TFF clubs in the countries of the former Soviet Union. 


Ella Berishev

CIEE, Russian Area Studies Program, Spring 2014



[Left] Ella Berishev standing outside St. Petersburg State University’s Department of Political Science which houses the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center (spring 2014). [Right] Student ID (spring 2014). 

Opportunities to study abroad helped Ella Berishev, an international relations and affairs major, pursue her interest in U.S. – Russia relations. Ella spent the spring semester of her junior year in college, participating in an intensive exploration of Russia, as a student of the CIEE Russian Area Studies program.

“CIEE had a nice array of classes that complemented my studies of U.S.-Russian relations. Taking classes like Russian politics, and ethnic studies (in Russia) accentuated my degree and gave me a better understanding of the country than I could have received in the U.S. I believe it really made a difference that the professors were locals, they often shared stories of their own Russian experiences while simultaneously answering any questions or concerns we had from what we hear in our media.”

Ella is in her element working in Washington DC as a training assistant for the Diplomacy at High Threats Posts Course of the U.S. State Department which trains diplomats going to places the State Department has deems “high threat posts.” Having graduated in spring 2015 from Western Washington University with a degree in international relations and affairs, and a focus on U.S. – Russia relations, Ella has already taken a significant first step into her unfolding career.


In addition to advancing the start of her career, Ella’s experience in St. Petersburg shifted her paradigm of thinking, opening her eyes to new perspectives, and adding depth to her understanding of the U.S. and Russia.

“Going to St. Petersburg made me critically think about how the western media portrays Russia. While I feel that I'm fairly open-minded, I know I can get caught in the stereotypical tropes that are often portrayed online and in the news. However living in Russia for 4 months and spending the majority of that time talking to locals, helped me realize that there is more to the story, and that Russia is not the backward country it once was.”



Russia boasts one of CIEE’s longest withstanding study centers. Founded in 1967, CIEE Russia is nearing its 50th anniversary of having its doors open to curious students who venture to Russia with a vigor for learning in and outside of the classroom, who pursue deeper insights, and who seek new ways of looking at the U.S., Russia, and the world at large. Following their experience in Russia, alumni have chosen to build careers rooted in Russian language and Russia, have chosen to build careers accentuated by their specialized knowledge of Russia, and have established careers in other fields, preserving their proclivity for Russia as a passion pursued in their spare time. Regardless of what path our alumni have chosen and choose, it is undeniable, the lasting effect one semester with CIEE in Russia has in shaping the lives of its alumni.


Best wishes from your CIEE family


The CIEE St. Petersburg team on their teambuilding trip to Karelia (Spring 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.

3. Lecture by Ekaterina Taratuta

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



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