Russia Stole My Heart Past Review

By (International Relations, Randolph-Macon College) - abroad from 01/28/2015 to 05/17/2015 with

AIFS: St. Petersburg - Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I came back from Russia a completely different person. I gained self-confidence, became more mature, learned a new language, and solidified my aspirations to get involved with foreign policy after graduation.

Review Photos

AIFS: St. Petersburg - St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The Russian language class is challenging and extremely well structured with great professors that are willing to help. The electives aren't as challenging and I really wish they would have been more involved, especially the political science classes.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Kathryn and Matt, the program directors, were amazing and always willing to answer questions we had. They did an outstanding job of organizing all of our excursions and trips throughout the semester. They also helped us plan any independent trips we wanted to take.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Soviet block housing definitely isn't for the faint of heart but we learned to like our close quarters in IMOP :)

* Food:

We cooked most of our own food in our dorm rooms with the kitchenette but the food in the cafeteria wasn't bad either.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Integration into the local culture is all about what you put into it. I definitely made the effort to get out and see as much of St. Petersburg as I could in the few short months we had. I felt that I made a very good effort to get out and learn the language, meet Russians, and embrace Russian culture during my semester.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I never had any issues with healthcare in my host country but our program directors made it clear that they were willing to assist us with that if we needed help

* Safety:

St. Petersburg is a big city and I just made sure to be aware of my surroundings when I went out. As Americans in Russia during a particularly tumultuous time for bilateral relations, we were advised to steer clear of political protests and large crowds. I also recommend signing up for the STEP program with the US State Department so you can be alerted of any safety announcements for the area and so they know where you are in case something happens.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

The exchange rate for the US dollar to the Russian ruble was AMAZING during my time there so everything was relatively cheap. Towards the end of the program the ruble gained some strength so things were more expensive than they were at the beginning, but still pretty cheap.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $50-70
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Try to cook your own food as much as possible. Eating out can get expensive and you'll want to save your money for fun trips with your friends!


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

We were speaking Russian literally everyday. While it was overwhelming at the beginning, I quickly adapted and found myself so much more confident by the second month of the program with my language skills.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Find a friend and practice speaking, reading, writing, etc. The more you spend with the language, the better you're going to get. If that gets boring, there's always Russian music and movies you can watch!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The friends I made
  • Langauge classes
  • Excursions
* What could be improved?
  • Class rigor in electives
  • Housing
  • Food
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? What our dorms were going to look like. It was a bit of a shock when I got there!

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.