On SRAS programs in St. Petersburg, students stay in the dormitory on the UNECON campus, in the heart of historical St. Petersburg. The following student reviews of the dorms are meant to help you prepare for your time abroad.
Living Conditions in the St. Petersburg Dormitories
Sarah Gendron (Fall, 2019): My housing experience was great. I was happy to have a single room with a private bathroom and shower, and was pleased to realize I could keep the room as warm as I wanted. The water was usually warm, but there were times throughout the semester that it just would not heat up, and the water pressure was also quite weak. The showers were very small and cramped, but this is still preferable to having a community bathroom. The kitchens were good. There were two fridges, a stove, and a microwave. We had issues with a student stealing food and drinks, so students should keep in mind as that, unfortunately, is possible. The Internet was iffy. Sometimes it was great, but for an entire month I had horrible connection and had to leave the dorm to do work. That was frustrating, but the other three months it was good if not slower than what I was used to. I think students should also be aware that the house cleaners and dorm staff are allowed to enter your room without you being there, and there are cameras in the public areas of the dorm like the hallways and kitchens. My bed was decent, but others had issues with the springs and found them uncomfortable.
Joseph Ernst (Summer, 2019): My housing experience was excellent. The in-room bathroom was extremely comfortable and convenient, and the kitchen was spacious enough to hold the groceries of everyone on the floor. The Internet could be a bit slow at times, but was for the most part reliable. The beds are not terribly big, but never hampered my slumbering experience. I was very happy with the condition of the dorms and felt like they were very well cleaned and maintained.
Natasha Harwood (Spring, 2019): I seem to remember promising myself after my first year at the university that I would never live in a dormitory again, but now I find myself back in the dorms—this time in St. Petersburg. Of course, my strongest memories of living in the dorms in the US involve living with a stranger in an 8 ft by 10 ft box, cooking pasta in an electric kettle, and that long walk to and from the showers every morning. But that was all in the US, so what I really want to know is: “How will living in a Russian dorm compare to my experience in the US?”
I’ll start with what initially surprised me about the dorms. When I looked at pictures online of the UNECON dorms I did not realize that the single rooms in the 7th dormitory, where SRAS students are housed, have their own private bathrooms attached. The private bathrooms are by far my favorite part of the dorms because, aside from the shared kitchen, the dorm rooms are more like apartments than what I was accustomed to in the US. Speaking of the bathrooms, a less positive surprise that I experienced in the dorms was the lack of hot water. Not to say that there is never any hot water, but rarely is the water hot when you first turn the shower on. Generally in the morning when everyone in the building is showering the wait time is only 10-20 minutes for hot water, but if you try to shower at an odd time in the day the wait time for hot water can be up to an hour!
Though the water may not always be hot, the rooms certainly are. Seriously, the building is very well heated so you don’t have to worry about being cold even on the chilliest winter nights. All in all I would say that the dorms in St. Petersburg are far nicer than what I experienced in the US, but there are still a few issues that I have.
Location of the St. Petersburg Dormitories
Sarah Gendron (Fall, 2019): The location of the housing could not have been better. It’s truly the perfect location. Nevsky Prospect is less than a ten minute walk away, and the immediate area of the dorm contains many cafes, restaurants, bars, and grocery stores. Perekrestok is the most popular choice for groceries for students, but many people also went shopping at Dixi. The dormitory is also located right next to the most popular bars/club streets in the city.
Joseph Ernst (Summer, 2019): The location of the housing was very convenient, especially as it was close to two seperate metro stations, a 2 minute walk from class, and very close to two supermarkets. Cafes, bars, and many good restaurants are all located within a 5 minute walk of campus. Nothing in the city was really too far from the university, not only because of the close metros but also because popular places like Rubenstein Street and Senyaya Square where just a few minutes’ walk away.
Eating Facilities at/near the St. Petersburg Dormitories
Sarah Gendron (Fall, 2019): I either ate my meals in the kitchen or went out to restaurants or cafes. Options are limited with only a stove and microwave and my lack of cooking skills, so I mostly made frozen pelmeni repeatedly throughout the week. I was a big fan of the cafe Bushe for sandwiches, soups, and coffee. There are many close food options, and Stolovaya, City Grille, and the shawarma places were also popular options. There are no on-campus cafeterias or anything, but cheap food is easily accessible.
Joseph Ernst (Summer, 2019): I generally cooked breakfast and lunch in the kitchen. The kitchen was cleaned often, though you must take care to wash your own dishes! My friends and I would like to either explore new restaurants in the area for dinner, or stick to the stolovayas which were nearby. There are not any ovens in the kitchens, which is a downside, but a plus for me was the french press and hot pad water heater for coffee and tea.
Natasha Harwood (Spring, 2019): There are no ovens in the kitchens, which really limits the variety of foods that I can make as I am primarily a baker, and at home I used my oven every day. Also, the one thing I would say that is better about dorms in the US is the fact that even if they don’t have complete kitchens there will be one or more dining halls on campus. While there are plenty of cafes and even a couple of cafeteria-style eateries within walking distance of the dorm here, it’s not the same as a dining hall on campus.
Sarah Gendron (Fall, 2019): The kitchen was the social area. There was really nowhere else for people to hang out, so gathering in the kitchen was a necessity. Housing did for sure make it easier to meet others.
Joseph Ernst (Summer, 2019): The community areas on each floor were great for meeting new people. I lived on the fourth floor, but many people would hang out in the second floor community area and it was more than spacious enough to hold all of us!
Joseph Ernst (Summer, 2019): Having laundry on each floor was a life saver. Everything you need for basic living was available! I also think that the program directors did a very good job of providing local resources for buying additional items like fans, fumigators, and the like. It was really nice that the linens would be changed every week (if you remembered to set them outside of your room in the morning), and felt like the entirety of the dorm was kept fresh and clean!
Sarah Gendron (Fall, 2019): I frequently used the laundry room, but students need to be warned that the dryers absolutely do not dry clothes efficiently. There are drying racks in every laundry room, so if you want your clothes to dry you’re going to have to use them.
Natasha Harwood (Spring, 2019): Here are just a couple tips I would recommend for if you are planning on living in the dorms at UNECON or anywhere abroad:
1. Pack a lightweight, but warm blanket. In case the mattress in your room has loose springs or is just a little too firm, the comforter can be used to provide a layer of cushion between you and the mattress and then you can use your own blanket to stay warm at night.
2. Bring something small that can give your room a personal touch. This can be a photo, maybe a postcard from home, a stuffed animal, or, like I did, a dream catcher that my mom gave me before I left for Russia.
3. Finally, don’t worry too much about the dorm rooms, at the end of the day you didn’t come to Russia to spend all of your time in a dormitory!