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AIFS Study Abroad in Russia: Semester or Year

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

Awesome

I had a lot of fun on this trip, it was really organized, and administration was helpful. The whole experience was amazing. The best part was i got to meet my fiancé there :)

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Academics

    8

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Cultural Immersion

    8

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    7

Best experience of my life

First, I ought to start by describing the administration. They handle absolutely everything for the students and there is nothing to worry about upon arrival. They provide a Visa debit-type card with a monthly balance for food; a metro pass that allows for a large amount of subway, tram, and bus rides; and much more. They handle all of the visa and registration issues (of which there are many). It is difficult to study abroad in Russia without someone to do this because one must interact with Russian government officials, who overwhelmingly do not know English. As I didn't speak Russian prior to the program, it would have been very difficult to get my registration papers in order. I was very glad the AIFS administration took care of this. The city is the best part of the study abroad. Saint Petersburg is absolutely gorgeous. The architecture is baroque and neoclassical and there are canals running through the city. One does not need a car; with a small amount of walking one can get anywhere with the subway, trams, or buses. The churches are beautiful, as well as the many parks. Outside of Saint Petersburg one can see the former palaces from the times of the czars.

The program fee also includes a few overnight excursions. On the way there we stopped in London for a few days. We went to Moscow for several days, as well as Tallin, Estonia and Helsinki, Finland on another occasion. Regarding day trips, we went to the ancient city of Novgorod. We also had smaller excursions to ballet shows, museums, palaces, and operas. On my own initiative, I went and visited the old Swedish city of Vyborg on the Russian-Finnish frontier, as well as Riga, Latvia.

Overall studying abroad in Russia was the greatest experience of my life. I often look back at the many pictures I took and wish I could do it over again. There are some downsides though... Most Russians do not know English, and if they do, they are not very good at it. Thus, you need to make some effort to at least learn the basics of Russian. Also, some people had some culture shock for the first week or two and an open mind is necessary.

Additional advice: If you are already an advanced speaker of Russian, try to speak as little English as possible in order to improve your language skills even further. If you are an advanced speaker, you can request to sit in on classes with Russian students. Bring a good camera for the entire trip and a spare camera. Anywhere internet access via a USB receiver can be purchased for $15 a month. The dorms have jacks for ethernet cables, but you'll need to bring one yourself. The AC wall sockets run on a different voltage and you'll need an adapter.

Academics:
I had great teachers in the program and I really miss them. Every day I would learn countless words in the classroom, and then when classes were over I would go explore the city and learn countless more words from billboard advertisements, the radio, and interactions with the locals. My teachers in my language classes only spoke Russian to us, which was very helpful in learning the language. In the electives classes the teachers would speak in English (for those who are beginners at Russian), but they would also explain things in Russian for those advanced students. In addition, you can sit in on additional classes with all Russian and former Soviet Union students if you would like. I found this to be very beneficial.

Living Situation:
We had two options in the program: we could either stay in a dorm or in a homestay. I chose to stay in the dorm; the dorm quality was comparable to my home university and was comfortable. The only downside to the dorm was that I was able to rely on English too much. One advantage to the dorm was the diversity - there were students on our floor from all over the world, including Finland, Italy, Belgium, and Mexico. I didn't stay in a homestay so I can't speak much to them, but I know that the students who did choose such an option got to speak more Russian.

Cultural Immersion:
I learned countless things about Russian culture in my four months there, even from simple things like going to the grocery store and riding the subway. Contrary to what I expected, Russians in general are very friendly and are willing to help out with the language and culture.

Program Administration:
The administration was extremely helpful and always took care of the students. They can all communicate in Russian, and most are fully fluent. They were always available to help out students when needed.

Institution Affiliates:

World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation