Russian in Russia
October 19, 2005 9:47 AM   Subscribe

I would like to spend an academic year studying Russian in Russia.

I am currently a student with the OU in the UK, an institute I chose to study with because 1. I didn't feel ready to leave home and 2. I am not the most sociable person in the world and I knew I wouldn't feel comfortable doing the usual student-y things. I am very happy with the OU and can't really say enough good things about it, but I would like to do the "student thing" for awhile, preferably abroad.

Russia has always intrigued me and I would love to spend some time living and studying in St. Petersburg. Obviously there are a lot of language schools for people wanting to learn the language quickly while living locally, but many of them look very touristy and I'd like to stay longer than the 2-12 weeks offered by most of the schools. The school I've been looking at is the Centre of Russian Language & Culture, but I'm pretty open to all suggestions. I would be wanting to go for the academic year 2007-08 and I am currently trying to find a local Russian speaker to take lessons with. I hope I would have a reasonable grasp of the language before I went.

Any suggestions/stories/cautions from anyone who's studied in Russia (or studied away from their native country even) would be great. I'm quite realistic about what to expect from the experience (i.e. I don't think I'm going to be speaking Russian like a native after 10 months) and I'm not too concerned with there being any "official" qualifications at the end of the course - really, I just want to spend a year away from home learning and having fun.
posted by speranza to Education (5 answers total)
I am not sure how helpful it will be for you, but the Everyone Drunk But Me online strip details the experiences of a young woman who did what you are hoping to do. If not helpful, it is still enjoyable.
posted by thirteen at 10:17 AM on October 19, 2005

You might contact this guy; also, Alexei is a Russian and not a teacher but his English is excellent and I'll bet he can offer advice or contacts.
posted by languagehat at 11:06 AM on October 19, 2005

I studied in Moscow for a semester while an undergrad (Fall of '98). I had a great time, despite the bitter cold. I lived with a host family, which was great (much more convenient and comfortable than a dorm).

I don't have much specific advice, especially considering that I was there seven years ago (has it been that long?) If you don't speak Russian now, you should definitely start at least studying the cyrillic alphabet for reading street signs and metro stop names. Immersing yourself is the best way to learn a language.
posted by andrewraff at 1:42 PM on October 19, 2005

I don't have suggestions as to learning programs, except that folks at your consulate in St. Pete or the Moscow embassy may be able to help you - generally they've got information on resources for ex-patriots and can give you budget-appropriate suggestions. Feel free to contact the US counterparts too. And go to the various consulate parties - in the US consulate at St. Pete the marines invited locals, expats and consulate members over and it was a great time. Good way to get a little time away from Russia while there if you get homesick, too. Just be careful not to get so involved with the expat community that you forget to learn Russian :).

I've got a good friend in St. Pete who could show you around potentially. Make travel and cultural experiences a part of your trip. Meet Russians, visit Kaliningrad, Novgorod, maybe do the Trans-Siberian Railway or visit Sochi. Go to concerts, Russian rock is... something :).

As an American who lived in St. Pete for two summers, it took me a month to get over most of the culture shock, so be prepared for that as well, and don't think you're alone.
posted by lorrer at 2:42 PM on October 19, 2005

Maybe not a good idea for your first time there, but I have regretted only studying in a large Western city in Russia. I ended up only hanging out with other foreigners or Russians who liked to hang out with Americans- an odd set to begin with.

If I had it to do over, I would try to find a small own to live in, at least for the second time I was there. Big cities are big cities, and you don't get to know your neighbors.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:03 PM on October 19, 2005

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