When you tell people you’re studying abroad in Russia, you tend to get responses along the lines of: ‘wow, aren’t you scared?’, ‘isn’t Russia all grey?’, ‘be careful out there’. Not all that confidence-inspiring. Well, the reality isn’t anywhere near as bleak as you might think, so let me show you the real side of student life in Russia’s Venice of the North.
With your studenchesky bilet, or student ID, you can get into quite a few museums around the city for free. You can even get into the State Hermitage/Winter Palace complex for free with your British student ID, which is well worth it. Did you know that if you spent 8 hours there every day, it’d take you nearly 15 years to see all of its art? Why not get a head start on your year abroad? There are other perks such as getting into the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, home to the famous Amber Room, for free every second Sunday of the month, so it’s worth remembering your student ID!
One of the main benefits of Russia is that the pound goes a long way. Back home you may be an impoverished student, but in Russia you’ll be rolling in the roubles. As such, you can afford to eat like a king and it’ll only set you back a few quid. The bizness lanch (yes, this is actually how they say it) is great for those on a budget, as you get 3 courses and a drink for just a couple of quid. Bargain. One of the most popular cuisines in Russia is Georgian food, which includes such delicious dishes as khinkali, a type of dumpling,and khachapuri, which is an eggy-cheesy bread boat of goodness. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
St. Petersburg is a great place to live if you want to see some more of the world, as you have easy access to Finland and the Baltics. You’re also close to Veliky Novgorod and Vyborg if you fancy exploring the real Russia beyond the cosmopolitan bubbles of Moscow and St. Petersburg. The high-speed Sapsan train will also get you from Piter (as the locals call it) to Moscow within 4 hours, so if the capital is calling, it’s not too far away. Whether you’re looking for a day trip or want to go further afield, you’ve got plenty of options.
Russian nightlife is certainly something to look forward to. Of course, the alcohol is cheaper, and shisha is readily available, so you’re already off to a good start. There are also several bars which are popular with foreign students, such as Poison and Killfish, and if you want to go clubbing, Tantsploschadka near the Church on the Spilled Blood is always a good place to go. Karaoke is also a big deal in Russia, so head on down to Dumskaya to belt out a few 90s classics to start your night right. In the summer, just watch out for the bridges opening if you live on one of the islands, so you don’t get stuck on the mainland!
Well, I guess I couldn’t neglect this topic, seeing as it’s the whole reason you’re there. At first, things were a little overwhelming, as Russian universities have this nightmare system of para, 90 minute lessons with no break (that being said, all my Master’s classes at Durham are 2 hours long). At first it’s hard to adapt to these longer classes and everything being taught in Russian, but after a week or so it feels like second nature and you don’t even notice the difference. Yeah, you might make some embarrassing mistakes (word of advice- watch your pronunciation of pisat’, to write…), but it’s all part of the learning process and it’s all good fun.
Hannah Klimas, Year Abroad Editor