I wanted to study Russian in the best possible environment. I started studying Russian at university for one year and one semester. But because there were so few people who wanted to study Russian, there was not even a conversation course. I continued studying on my own on the internet (chatting on Skype to practice speaking skills, and listening to Russian radio and music for listening skills).
After finishing my bachelor’s degree I planned to concentrate on languages for one year. I was in St. Petersburg at Liden & Denz last summer for seven weeks. A friend of mine was working there and he told me about this great opportunity.
Why did you choose Liden & Denz?
The internship at Liden & Denz offered me a great opportunity to study Russian intensively, combined with gaining working experience. Of course It's also a great deal cost wise since I don`t pay for the lessons.
I will get to see three different cities during my stay at Liden & Denz. I was in Moscow for four weeks, then eight weeks in St. Petersburg, and I will stay four more weeks in Riga. That is an amazing experience and I appreciate the Russian lessons which have helped me to progress a lot.
What was your favorite part about Russia?
Obviously I like Russia. There are many similarities to Western Europe but also a lot of differences. Some things work completely different here in Russia than in Switzerland.
Mostly I like to get to know all the people. The students from school are from all over the world, but I also got to know a lot of locals with whom I made friends. Being Swiss, Russia is also very affordable compared to my home country!
What made your experience abroad unique?
I met a lot of new friends from all over the world.
There are so many memories you collect by going abroad.
I liked my stay at Liden & Denz because between working and studying I always have something going on. I get to progress in my life and at the same time I have a great time in a foreign country.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The staff at Liden & Denz is very friendly and I really appreciate the casual working atmosphere working. There is always someone you can ask if you have any questions and it is also possible to do your work at home if friends or family visit you, which I really appreciate. In general you get to work very independently which is great.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
My day starts around 8:00 a.m. when I get up. Than I either study Russian on the internet or do homework for school. At 10 a.m., the lessons start. I like the atmosphere: it's very casual. We study in small classes so you get to ask a lot of questions and practice speaking. The teachers have a good education and are very passionate. The lessons go on till 1:45 p.m. Then I go for lunch with friends.
At 2:30 p.m. I am back at work. Usually I write a blog per day. I write bar or club reviews, student interviews, about history, culture, Russian language, sports, and so on. Some days I do social media marketing, meaning I try to engage people on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on, and provide content.
At around 5:30 p.m. I leave the office and either meet friends, go to the gym, or just go home and prepare my dinner and relax.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoyed meeting all the people here. The students at Liden & Denz of course, but also the locals. On the weekend there is always a lot going on in these huge cities. I experienced a lot of great parties and nights out. Of course I also enjoyed the cultural activities. There are so many things to see and do in these beautiful cities.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
In Moscow I lived in a shared flat from Liden & Denz. The apartment was quite close to the school so I could walk there within 15 minutes which was great. I lived together with other students from Liden & Denz who became good friends.
The apartment was very comfortable and had all the necessary amenities. It was in the centre of Moscow which was very nice. Here in St. Petersburg I rented an Airbnb flat only five minutes away from the school, which is great. I live right in the centre of this beautiful city. I can therefore mostly avoid the crowded metro.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
Russian is a difficult language, but you will make a lot of progress by actually living here in Russia. I think people have a lot of wrong pictures in their head when they think about Russia. There is absolutely nothing to worry about when coming to Russia. That doesn't mean you should not be prepared. I think you get more out of the experience the better you speak the language when you come here.
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
I am still doing my program here in St. Petersburg. But after the first eight weeks I already made a lot of progress concerning my Russian skills. Also, I made a lot of new friends and collected so many great memories. I got a lot of insides to the Russian culture, history, and the people who live here.
Would you recommend Liden & Denz to others? Why?
I would definitely recommend the program at Liden & Denz. It's a great possibility to study Russian and gain work experience at the same time in a professional environment.
Matthias Thöny is from a small village in Switzerland. After finishing high school in 2010, he went into military service for 14 months, and then worked for two years at UBS in Zurich as an intern. Matthias completed a Bachelor’s degree in business administration at the University of St. Gallen in 2016. He has traveled to many European countries, including the Baltic States, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Croatia, Poland, and Greece.