My decision to study abroad with SRAS began spring 2018 when I was looking at the credits I still needed for graduation with my Russian advisor. I only needed to take 6 credits of Russian language the following spring in order to complete my Russian degree. After seeing this I looked at my advisor and asked, “would it be possible to complete these credits abroad?” We then started laying out a plan for my spring 2019 semester abroad, and my advisor recommended that I look into programs with SRAS.
I chose to apply for the Russian as a Second Language program in St. Petersburg for two main reasons. First, this semester abroad is my first experience being in a foreign culture for more than a month at a time, and I wanted ease myself into Russian culture. I had heard that St. Petersburg is like “Russia for beginners,” and I felt like a more western city would be a good introduction. I hoped that this would limit the effects of culture shock.
The second reason that I chose RSL in St. Petersburg is that RSL seemed like the better option for me of SRAS’s two programs in St. Petersburg. The other program is Society, Business, and the Arts, and the main differences between RSL and SBA are that RSL students have more hours of individual Russian lessons, and SBA students take more electives. Now, for my degree I had to focus more on Russian language, so RSL is the better option, but for students studying business and economics the SBA program would be a better fit.
One of the benefits of studying abroad with SRAS is that they organized several excursions and activities for the students. These included museum trips, tickets to a ballet, a trip to Moscow, and social events with local students. A lot of the museums are places that I would have visited on my own anyway, but SRAS provides excellent local guides. All of these excursions help integrate students into the local culture and are a good opportunity to experience the city.
Throughout the semester the only issue that I had with SRAS was regarding communication. Specifically, some of the program information provided on the website was slightly misleading, and on multiple occasions I received different information from my SRAS coordinator and the university representative regarding the same question. For example, the program end date listed on the website seems arbitrary, it does not align with the end of the university semester, or even with the end of our Russian group classes. Furthermore, the university did not explain to our Russian instructors why all the American students were leaving a week before their class ended, and us students were left to awkwardly explain the situation to our professors.
Despite some frustrations with the university, studying abroad in St. Petersburg was a wonderful experience. This semester gave me the opportunity to learn more about Russia and Russian culture as well as the opportunity to learn more about my own culture and myself. I might be too type-A to live here permanently, but I look forward to the chance to come back and explore more of this fascinating country.
Ultimately I hope to pursue a career as a teacher of foreign languages, and I am sure that my experience in St. Petersburg will help me later in my career. Even if I don’t teach Russian, knowledge of multiple languages is beneficial in language instruction overall.