If you had told me 5 years ago that in 2013 I would be studying and interning in St Petersburg, Russia, I would have laughed out loud.
If you had told me 5 years ago that in 2013 I would be studying and interning in St Petersburg, Russia, I would have laughed out loud. If nothing else, I’ve certainly learnt to surprise myself over the past 3 years, including my tolerance for awful coffee and overheated public transport.
With that said, I learnt some interesting things about a culture little else known apart from their love of vodka, large guns and authentic fur. And although at times it was below freezing (inducing -15 degrees splitting headaches), the *surprising* warmth of the people thoroughly made up for it.
Since living in Russia as part of my year abroad, I’ve learnt a lot about myself—I can stomach excessive amounts of dill in one sitting, my obsession with cats is perfectly normal this side of Finland and the fact that I can, indeed, speak some of the language.
It’s incredibly rewarding even just being able to sit and watch a Russian sitcom with your host family and laugh at the right bits. Even if they are laughing at something really dark and violent—that’s just Russian humour. I even managed to have a chat with my host about Russian leaders without her kicking me out of her apartment. Although on several occasions my level of language was severely challenged (like the time when I had blood all over my face from a nose bleed—you learn how to explain that pretty quickly).
Would I go back?
Although ‘mastering the language’ is a goal high on everyone’s lists, just living in another country is incredibly eye opening. In my short time there I witnessed the G-20 Summit, the Sochi 2014 Olympic Flame Relay, the enforcement of a contentious law against homosexuality and the trial of the Artic 30.
Interning at The St Petersburg Times, I was on the pulse of what was happening in the city (something I’d recommend to anyone on their year abroad to get involved with). I acted as their fashion correspondent by covering fashion week in October and writing articles on vintage.
By signing myself up to something that I knew would challenge me, it kept me pushing myself throughout my very quick 4 months in St Petersburg.
Since returning to the UK, I’ve been asked if I’d ever go back to Russia—yes, in a heartbeat. But with the current political situation, winter Olympics and laws surrounding gay propaganda, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to visit until everything dies down; especially if you don’t speak Russian!
When visiting Moscow, it was funny witnessing bus after bus of tourists being shipped into Red Square and then struggling even to order a coffee. If you can learn a couple of words before you go, then I would more than recommend it.
In a few weeks, I will be jetting off for part two of my year abroad in Medellín, Colombia where I will be interning at the largest fashion promotion company in South America. It just goes to show that if you take a few risks, try something new and open your mind to what is out there, then there really is no end to what you can achieve!
Catch up on Alexandra Waring’s adventures on her blog here. Tell us about your year abroad experiences in the comments section below.
Image: Alexxx1979 / Flickr