Morgyn Chandler is a Russian studies convert from Canada who recently studied in St. Petersburg.
SRAS: Introduce yourself to us; what is your background and what are your future plans?
Morgyn: Currently I am in my fourth year of my undergraduate degree, I will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in Russian and Russian History. Prior to beginning university I had no background in Russian, I was a theatre student! I took a Russian class in my first year and found that I really loved the language, and as soon as I got into that I started studying the literature and the history of Russia. I’m 23 now and I am planning to go into law school and then the Foreign Service. I hope to be posted in Russia if I do wind up going into consular affairs and I would love to live there for an extended period.
SRAS: St. Pete is definitely a good place to prepare for such plans. How did you first hear about SPGU and why did you decide to go there?
Morgyn: I heard about it just by looking on the Internet. I knew I wanted to study for a little while in Russia, and I was attracted by the history of St. Petersburg immensely. I found the SRAS website and after looking into the programs, decided that the RSL (Russian as a Second Language) program would be perfect to take in the summer. The program they offered at SPGU was perfect as it allowed me to study for as much or as little time as I wanted so that I could see the city and experience the culture as well as learn the language.
SRAS: What was your program like?
Morgyn: I enrolled for one month, attending school for 3-4 hours Monday through Friday. It was perfect because it gave me loads of time to explore the city and do other things. We had different professors every day and I was in a class of 4-6 people (it fluctuated depending on people arriving and leaving). Our classes were divided into grammar, reading, conversation and phonetics. In my class we didn’t get too much homework, but some of the profs were known for giving lots.
I definitely came back with much better comprehension of Russian and just taking the trip and traveling by myself was an incredible experience. Having no one to rely on but myself in order to do pretty much everything in the city gave my self-confidence a boost! My experiences also increased my resolve to prepare for an occupation that involves loads of traveling.
SRAS: What did you get at SPGU that you couldn’t have gotten by staying in America and taking courses?
Morgyn: Well, I live in Canada first of all, and the program I am involved in at the University of Victoria is great, but nothing beats being the country and being constantly surrounded by the language you want to learn. Just by virtue of being forced to speak it, I learned so much!
SRAS: Oops, sorry if we’ve offended your national pride. Speaking of nationalities, what kinds of students did you meet aboard?
Morgyn: To be honest I didn’t meet many Russians, mostly just casual acquaintances if I did, but I did meet heaps of French, Swiss, American and Canadian students. I made some really good friends and I keep in touch with most of them. Many of them were students at the same level as me, but a few were studying to be translators or were just really interested in the language and culture.
I lived in a dormitory and shared a room with a Russian roommate from a small city to the south of Petersburg. The dorm was quite new and very comfortable (though very small!).
SRAS: How about traveling? Did you see much of the area around St. Pete?
Morgyn: We went on a few tours around the city, to the Hermitage and the Russian museum, but the highlight was definitely taking a trip via Hydrofoil on the sea to Peterhof. It was an incredible trip made all the better by having a Russian guide (from SRAS) who knew all the secrets. She even got us in to see the Royal Bath houses which were closed to the public on that day!
SRAS: What advice would you offer a student thinking about taking courses at SPGU?
Morgyn: Definitely go for it! I have to say the first few days alone in Russia can be pretty scary, I knew a girl who left after only three days because she couldn’t handle the culture shock! Every day gets better and better though, and if you can stick the initial shock out you will have an amazing time.