Justin Wilder and Haley Bailey spent 8 weeks this summer studying in St.Petersburg, Russia, on a program offered through ISU’s partner, School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS). Below, Justin and Haley share their memories of the trip.
Justin Wilder (open major):
I had the fortune to be able to spend my summer in a distant land, one where everyone drinks vodka and bears roam the street. Okay, so those were stereotypes that I realized were completely wrong when I arrived in Russia. I didn’t even see a bear the whole summer. Don’t worry though the trip was still an experience I won’t ever forget and it is one I would recommend to anyone looking to experience a new culture and adventure. At first it was intimidating being in a country where I didn’t speak the language (I knew a little Russian but not enough to talk to a native about much more then who I was and why I was in Russia). Quickly I found out how friendly Russians are and how patient they would be when I tried to ask for directions or to order food. Nothing was more satisfying than at the end of the trip being able to order food and not having to just point at the menu.
While the struggle for ordering food was daily so was the wonder and excitement of seeing the beautiful city of Saint Petersburg. The history of the city is everywhere and the architecture is so incredible it’s hard to not just stand in the streets and stare but I would advise against that, the stereotype of Russians being crazy drivers certainly has some truth to it. Watching the bridges of the city raise at night is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, no pictures do it justice. The same goes for the absolutely stunning interior of the Hermitage, a palace turned into one of the world’s biggest museum. It has artwork from different centuries and just about every famous artist including Da Vinci and Claude Monet. It also houses ancient artifacts and incredible statues.
I didn’t just go to amazing restaurants and incredible museums, I also did the study part of studying abroad. There were daily classes that helped improve my Russian beyond anything I had expected and my professor did a great job also teaching the cultures, traditions and superstitions that make Russians who they are. I loved going to class even though it was hard, it pushed me but after class I was able to go and use my new vocabulary or phrase. The immersion made me truly care about learning every word I could, never knowing when I would need to ask for directions or tell someone the elevator was broken.
I could talk about my experience all day but really what I suggest is to go and have an experience for yourself. There is an incredible amount of self-building that happens when you see the world and nothing can quite compare to it. You’ll come back smarter, more confident and with some crazy stories that will make everyone you talk to jealous.
Haley Bailey (Political Science / Criminal Justice major; German and Russian Studies minor):
My study abroad in Russia this summer was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I went for the 8 week program, and was in Russia from May 28th until July 25th. I stayed in the dorms on the Saint Petersburg State University of Economics campus. My Russian language class was about 4 hours a day Monday – Thursday. On the weekends or sometimes even after classes we did plenty of activities from watching movies in Russian to touring many-many museums and even other cities outside of St. Petersburg. Most of us also took full advantage of our free time and explored extra places on our own. One of my favorite things during the trip was when some of us went to the ballet Swan Lake. We were also able to participate in ballroom dancing: we got to dress up like Russian royalty and do some dances. The whole trip was pretty packed between classes, tours, and extra activities but at the same time we had extra time to relax or explore the city on our own.
I highly recommend taking the opportunity to study abroad or just travel abroad if you get the chance to. I’ve now been to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Russia and I have absolutely loved every experience. My study abroad was amazing. Yes, I toughed out 4 and a half hours of Russian class 4 days a week this summer but when I think about Russia, nothing negative comes to my mind (besides the couple spiders that I had found in my room). First of all, Saint Petersbug, the city where the main program was, was beautiful. It had huge old buildings to walk by on a daily basis and they were just amazing. When I arrived I was just in amazement because I love seeing those kinds of things. Anybody I personally had a conversation with was nice and I had good cultural based conversations whether it was educating them more on stuff I know about me or my culture or if I was asking them a billion questions just to understand their perspective on certain topics or their culture. It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to travel to more places in the future.