Добро пожаловать в Россию!

Welcome to Russia! I’ve just finished up my first week here in Saint Petersburg, and it already feels like I have been here for a long time! There’s so much to take in, between the sights and sounds of the city itself and the major adjustment of taking classes in a foreign university. Despite any challenges, I have managed to settle in, and I couldn’t be happier to be here.

My program here with the School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS) has three lengths: 6, 8, and 10 weeks. As I am in the 6-week program, those doing the longer versions arrived a month before I did, so they’ve been able to help me adjust to the area. Saint Petersburg is an international city: in addition to Russian, of course, and English, I’ve also heard Korean, Chinese, German, Spanish, French, and more! The dining options correspond; within a few blocks of campus there’s everything from traditional Russian to shawarma to new age American cuisine, most all of it tasty.

It has been challenging attempting to adjust to the language difference. The obvious examples, like ordering food and attempting conversation, are indeed difficult and occasionally frustrating, but I find most off-putting the small things. For example, it is disorienting hearing bits of conversation on the street and not recognizing most of the words. I’ve been trying to follow the advice of others in my program: celebrate the small victories. One day at lunch, I successfully ordered food and answered a follow-up question, all without issue, and I felt a sense of accomplishment.

On the whole, the strangest adjustment has been the so-called ‘White Nights’. Saint Petersburg is close to the Arctic Circle, so the sun rises at around 3:30 in the morning and does not set until well past 10, and the sky never gets dark. It’s very easy to look outside, think it’s the late afternoon, and discover it’s already 10:30. Compounded with jet lag, this made the first week of sleep difficult.

Attached here is a picture I took of the Казанский кафедральный собор (Kazanskiy Kafedral’niy sobor, or simply the Kazan Cathedral), a large Orthodox church modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It’s the next block down from campus, right in the heart of Saint Petersburg! On the whole, my first week was rewarding and exhilarating, if also intimidating and challenging. I hope that the remainder of my time will be the same!