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Our students Lena and Joslin went to St.Petersburg in June to study Russian at one of our partner schools there. They will be back in May 2015, which means they will experience Russia and Russian winter in full! We asked them a few questions about their life there:

– Why have you decided to go to Russia for a year to study Russian?

We wanted to enhance our proficiency in Russian language as well as experience the local culture. Russian is a difficult language to pick up, even more so with limited opportunities for exposure and practice in Singapore. In order to have a good grasp of the language, we thought it was essential to stay here for a longer period of time.

– What was your first impression?

Saint Petersburg is a cultural city with beautiful infrastructure and scenery such as the cathedrals, museums and parks. It is an interesting blend of modernity alongside rustic charm.

– What was unusual/shocking?

We see cars here driving onto and parking on the pavement, which is not a common sight in Singapore. Next, most people here don’t speak English, even in the more touristy areas. Also, we observed that cashiers and sellers prefer to receive exact amounts and issue change in rounded figures during monetary transactions.

– Did you speak Russian before you came there? Do you need to speak Russian to “survive” there? Was it difficult in the beginning? Language barrier?

We were able to read, speak and understand basic Russian language prior to coming here. The signage on the streets and menu in restaurants are mostly in Russian so it would be better to at least understand the Russian alphabet and some simple Russian phrases. The language barrier was a challenge at the beginning when it came to communicating with locals who do not speak or understand English, but things have definitely improved now.

– Where do you stay? How did you find the apartment? Agent? Does agent speak English? =)

Considering that we planned to study here for a year, we decided to stay in an apartment instead of the student hostel. We searched for property agents based in St Petersburg online. As we sent our enquiries in English, only those who could understand English replied us.

– Where do you study Russian? How many people in the group? What are their nationalities?

We study Russian at the Russian Language and Cultural Institute (RLCI) of St Petersburg State University (SPbU). The number of students in the group fluctuates as many students come here to study for only a few weeks or months. For instance, the class size once came up to 23 students. Currently there are 12 of us in the group. Students here come from various countries such as Switzerland, Turkey, China, France, Spain, Korea, Japan etc.

– What does your weekday look like?

We have classes in the day and generally spend our evenings revising, doing homework or hanging out with our classmates.

– What do you do on the weekends? Do you like St. Pete? Compare to Singapore

We go sightseeing, shopping and also explore the city. This gives us the chance to practice what we have learnt in class. St Petersburg has 4 seasons so the presence of cooler temperatures are a nice alternative to tropical Singapore. The architecture here also has a more historical feel as compared to Singapore’s urban landscape.

– What and where do you eat? Is it expensive?

We usually buy groceries from the supermarket and prepare our meals in the apartment. Just like in most European countries, it is definitely more expensive to eat out as compared to cooking your own meals although there are good deals to be found if you know where to look.

– Are you prepared for winter? What do you think about the weather so far? How is shopping there? 

We have prepared winter wear and are looking forward to experiencing winter here in Russia. It will be a new and exciting experience for us. The misconception of Russia is that it is always cold or cool but summers here can be just as hot as in Singapore. The weather in St Petersburg can be unpredictable with temperature fluctuations so we usually check the weather forecast and dress accordingly.

It is generally easy to buy daily groceries with the abundance of Produkty (small grocery stores), supermarkets (equivalent to NTUC/Cold Storage) and also hypermarkets (equivalent to Giant). Shopping malls in the main shopping street Nevsky Prospekt (equivalent to Orchard Road) also have a variety of shops and entertainment facilities.

 – What are your plans for this year?

We plan to raise our proficiency in Russian language as well as explore and experience St Petersburg!


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