When I first shared that I planned to study abroad in Russia, I received many questions and comments along the lines of: Why would you choose Russia? Why not Spain or Italy or someplace nice like that? Isn’t it cold and scary over there?
Despite the disheartening nature of questions and comments like these, I was never bothered or deterred by them. Many of us are only familiar with the Russia of Hollywood, Internet memes, those two whole paragraphs about it in our history class textbooks, the news, and residual fears from generations past. I wanted to know the Russia outside of all these misconstrued perceptions, and I was not disappointed with what I discovered.
Without a doubt, Russia is a country rich in history and culture with hundreds of museums, monuments, cathedrals, and palaces, but you can read all about that in any tourist blog. Don’t get me wrong, I was, and always will be, wonderstruck by the majesty of all these beautiful sights, many of which hold histories lengthier than the United States has been a sovereign state. However, I did not spend a semester in Russia for the sole purpose of marveling at these places you can see hundreds of photos of on the Internet today.
What I discovered in Russia is a world bigger than my own, and as a result, my view of the world around me expanded. I met many wonderful people and had many wonderful experiences that I am not likely to forget. When faced with challenges I otherwise would not face at home, I learned that I am more resourceful and open to new experiences than I ever believed myself to be.
Furthermore, after having been able to see the world from a similar point of view, I find myself feeling more understanding of the challenges foreign students at my home university may face. Last of all, I now often find myself laughing about strange little things we do in the United States that I had never noticed, thinking about things I may have taken for granted before here at home, and missing things I took for granted in Russia.
I will never regret my decision to study abroad in Russia, and AIFS helped me get there by making the process easy and convenient. The staff in St. Petersburg are very knowledgeable and always willing to help. You will never feel like you have been abandoned by the program once you arrive.
If you want to study abroad in Russia, don’t let ill-informed comments discourage you. Discover Russia for yourself. If you are already planning to go, remember to face the challenges you are presented with openly. Spend time soaking in all the little things you are not likely to experience again back home and most importantly, enjoy your experience.
This post was contributed by Carissa Oschner, who studied abroad with AIFS in St. Petersburg, Russia.