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Semester abroad at Saint-Petersburg State University (School of International Relations), Russia

Eva Lackovičová

10865773_895204940492644_43689928074300204_oI spent my winter semester 2014/2015 at the Saint Petersburg State University, School of International Relations. First of all, I do not regret that I chose the city and university for my semester abroad as it was truly an incredible experience! Many people were surprised that I decided to go there and some could not understand why. We generally have the idea that everything good is in the west and not on the other side, in the east. However, I felt especially well in Petersburg. I did not suffer a huge culture shock; well, apart from having to deal with excessive bureaucracy and standing in long queues basically for everything. But one could probably experience this anywhere.

My first impression of the school was amazing. The faculty is situated in buildings of a former monastery and right next to it there is an amazing church, which is a tourist sight as well. The only problem was that the girl at the international office did not speak much English, so it was always better to have some Russian speaking person with you. Or maybe you can speak Russian? ;) The international department was kind of messy and the person in charge of it changed perhaps three times during my stay. But the Russian students said it was not normal and usually they work pretty well. However, the school was great. Of course not every course I took was the most interesting and incredible one I have ever taken. But most of them were and I have learned a lot. For example, the course on Russia and Globalization is super interesting and you learn to understand Russia a lot. The course Colour Revolutions was the best I took and probably also the most demanding. Since I didn’t have deep knowledge about developments in Georgia, Azerbaijan and other countries, it seemed very interesting to me. Don’t worry, the exams at the end are not too difficult and most of the professors are very kind and helpful. The language course was also a benefit. I strongly recommend to everybody to take it because life is just much easier in Piter if you know Russian. ;)

Above all, I found the people around me really nice and helpful. You can also meet angry and mean ones but I wouldn’t put all the Russians into one basket by claiming they are rude to foreigners and such. I think such types of people can be found anywhere. Most of the time, I had good experience with the Russians and their culture. Also living in the dorms was fun! OK, don’t expect luxurious flats. I was actually shocked when I arrived but I survived. You will meet many international students as all the Russians live in another dorm. Some of the rooms were prettier than others, so I wish you get the good ones. ;) But I think in the end it’s totally fine and you will have a lot of fun there.

1380213_10204041888581075_4972381390138067357_nAnd the city… The city is so worth visiting! It is probably the greatest city I have visited. It is really amazing to have the chance to live there and not only visit it for a few days. At first, I was surprised by how large it is. Compared to Prague it’s huge! But then I got used to traveling to school for one and half an hour or, well, depending on the transport, which does not have any timetable you can check, so it can take who knows how long. Be prepared. However, buses and metro work quite fine there.

DSC08272I can’t tell how many churches, museums, galleries and parks I visited, how many pictures I took. The city breaths culture and you can find anything there. And of course, I can’t forget the mix of cultures and cuisines. Russian food has become really close to my heart. But you will encounter also Georgian, Azeri and other nation’s specialities, which are totally worth trying. Sure it is something you won’t find at home. There are so many nice places to visit, theatres, restaurants and cafes, that you won’t get bored for sure. Time flew so fast there! I wish to go back there again as I still have places I want to see.

I truly hope you will enjoy your stay in Piter as much as I did, and even more! ;)