A crazy, wonderful adventure in St. Petersburg Past Review

By (Russian Studies & Political Science, Brandeis University) - abroad from 02/01/2013 to 05/24/2013 with

CIEE: St. Petersburg - Russian Language

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
All in all it was great, and I would definitely do it again. I had wanted to go to Russia for a long time, and it was so neat to finally be there. The program did a great job organizing excursions around St. Petersburg and outside the city, and I left feeling I knew the city.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I was placed in a group that was below my language level, and was unable to move up. Also, many of the people in my group were taking study abroad classes pass/fail, and didn't have much incentive to take the courses seriously.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The on-site CIEE staff in St. Petersburg were great. They were fun, knowledgeable people who ran the program well.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My living arrangement was fine, but I think living with host families is always iffy. But I do think living with host families are great for cultural immersion and living with host families forced us to speak Russian, whereas if we had all lived in dormitories, I think less Russian would have been spoken. My host family was nice, but it was always a little weird to be living in someone's apartment.

* Food:

I don't think this is a fair question for Russia, haha. Personally I like Russian food - beets, cabbage, pickled fish and vegetables - but I think a lot of people are not such big fans. Also, there aren't a lot of spices or diversity in Russian cuisine, which got tiresome after a few months, especially when we were used to cities in the U.S., where one can find food from all over the world.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

CIEE did a great job organizing fun cultural excursions, to notable places and museums in St. Petersburg as well as overnight excursions. One of my favorite weekends was when we all went to the festival celebrating Maslenitsa (Shrovetide - the end of winter), and there was a big festival in one of the parks in the city with vendors selling food and crafts. It was so much fun, and it felt like we were part of things.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I never had health issues, so I don't think I can really comment. I wouldn't have wanted to get sick though, because although there was a western clinic we were supposed to go to, it would have been a bit of a commute, and not something I would have wanted to do if I was sick.

* Safety:

I think St. Petersburg is like any big city, where you have to be cautious, especially when you don't speak the language well. I had my wallet stolen on the metro (a fairly common occurrence) and a scary taxi ride with a too-friendly taxi driver that I was very worried wouldn't end well (but thankfully it did). For the most part I felt safe though, and I would just advise students to take normal precautions, because bad things can happen, even though you think they won't happen to you.

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)


* 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

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? To try to speak the language as much as possible, even among American friends from the program.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* 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?
  • Being there for long enough to watch the seasons change
  • the excursions, especially the overnight ones
  • Becoming familiar with St. Petersburg
* What could be improved?
  • the language classes
  • group morale - some people were ready to go home half way through
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I think I was well prepared