Students Share St. Petersburg Study Abroad Experience

Submitted by on March 2, 2012

Emily Jedinak (L) and Katie McNeil

On Wednesday, February 15 Emily Jedinak ’12 and Katie McNeil ’12 shared a detailed account of their studies in St. Petersburg, Russia. From January to May 2011 Jedinak and McNeil braved the cold Russian climate and were immersed in Russian culture. Assisted by Fulbright Teaching Assistant of Russian Inna Pronicheva and Program Coordinator & Professor of Russian Language Elena Syssoeva, the two students shared their stories and photos. During the Russian Lunch Hour an audience of a dozen individuals were transported from a Connecticut classroom to life in Russia.

During the spring semester Jedinak and McNeil had the opportunity to attend St. Petersburg State University, which hosted approximately 60 American students. While at the University, Jedinak and McNeil were enrolled in two Russian language courses, courses in Russian arts and history, and a course in ethnic studies.

When first arriving in Russia the students had to adjust to the colder climate.  On an average January day temperatures ranged from -10 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. “After walking outside for a half hour you would get icicles on your eye lashes,” McNeil stated.  The streets were frequently covered with snow and ice but for the Russian residents this was just another January day.

Aside from attending the University and spending time with their host families, Jedinak and McNeil went on several excursions to different cities including Moscow, Novgorod, and the Pskov region.  In these cities they visited museums, cathedrals, and many residences of historical Russian leaders and political figures. Jedinak and McNeil visited several other famous landmarks including Peter the Great’s palace, Paul the First’s summer palace in Pavlovsk, The Moscow Kremlin, and Alexander Pushkin’s estate in the vicinity of Pskov.

In the spring, Jedinak and McNeil were also able to take part in Russian holiday festivities and celebrations such as Maslenitsa, Women’s Day and Victory Day.  Occurring in March, Maslenitsa week celebrates the arrival of spring and consists of a carnival where those attending dance, sing, and enjoy traditional Russian foods such as bliny, a dish similar to a French crepe.  One of the ceremonies at Maslenitsa is the ceremony of burning of the Maslenitsa doll. It is burned to welcome spring and to mark the end of the Russian winter.

International Women’s Day (celebrated on March 8), a day in celebration of women, is recognized as a national holiday in Russia. On this occasion it is tradition to buy flowers for the woman of the household. Professor Syssoeva informed the audience, “In Russian culture, when buying flowers it is important that there are an uneven number, an even amount of flowers is only purchased for the deceased.”

Jedinak and McNeil concluded their presentation by discussing their everyday experiences with Russian citizens.  During their stay Jedinak and McNeil agreed that the people of Russia were welcoming and hospitable towards American students.


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