Studying Russian as experienced by Charlotte from Edinburgh

I am a third year student currently doing my year abroad at the St. Petersburg State University’s Russian Language and Culture Institute. There are five classes during the week, divided into Разговор, Разговор/Аудирование, Грамматика, Грамматика/Письмо, and Чтение and each 3 hours long (4 academic hours) with a break in the middle. Throughout the several months that I have been here, I have seen quite a few different teachers; although each has his or her own style and different focuses (some, for example, are more meticulous about correcting pronunciation; in other instances, some add grammar explanations in other languages to make sure everything is understood), each is unquestionably interesting and knowledgeable. I also enjoy when the teachers occasionally stray from the topic of the class to tell us stories of the Soviet times, or just all sorts of anecdotes from their lives in Russia.

Another thing I appreciate is that English is not necessarily the lingua franca at this institute. I am enjoying getting to know and communicating (or at least trying to) with students of other nationalities solely in Russian – although no doubt we make a terrible amount of mistakes, it’s a priceless feeling to be able to talk to someone with whom I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to without the knowledge of Russian. After all, as one of my teachers likes to say, на ошибках учатся! As many of the other international students here are also here for extended periods of time, it is a great opportunity to learn and improve together. It is also quite easy to move up or down a level if the classes are too easy or hard, so there is sure to be a right group for every person.

As for accommodation, I am staying with a host family at the moment. Their home is located one metro stop away from the university on the same island; rather than staying in the centre of the city, it allows me to see a more peaceful, residential side of life – as well as explore an area I probably wouldn’t have come to otherwise. Best of all is the host family, of course, who not only helped me get used to the city and showed me how to get around when I first arrived, but also greatly encourages me to continue improving every day and understand not just the language but the culture and people (or, as they said, “душа”) of Russia.

Although I had concerns before I left, both my experience at the university and with my host family has turned out better than I could have hoped, and the past few months have really flown by – I only wish I had more time here.

Charlotte, a Year Abroad student from the University of Edinburgh, is currently studying at the Russian Language and Culture Institute at SPSU.