First Couple of Days

Hey! Sorry, I haven’t had any internet connection for the past 2 days, but I thought I would try to update one post on the trip so far.

I am in St. Petersburg! Along with Vicky, David, Tadhg, and Christian (all from LC).

Вчера: YESTERDAY: 5 September 2012

The flight was pretty long, but that’s to be expected. The flight from Chicago to Munich was alright – David, Vika, and I all got to sit next to each other, which was nice and then we had a small layover in the Munich airport.

The funny part: On the flight from Munich to St. Petersburg I didn’t sit next to a Russian couple. I sat next to a Serbian couple. Surprise! Wooh. It’s always that last short flight that actually seems the longest of them all because you’re just ready to get off the plane.

We arrived and had an awesome (sarcasm) time going through the Pulkovo airport. The passport check lines were ridiculously long, and some German woman and her daughter tried to cut us, but that just didn’t happen. We had CIEE staff waiting on the other side for us and eventually headed to the hotel (Park Inn). I wish I could describe in great detail what we did that day, but honestly I’ve just been so tired. From what I remember we went to have dinner and then just went back up to our rooms. (Vicky is my roommate, huzzah!)

Сегодня: TODAY: 6 September 2012. 

Today was our first “real” day of orientation. Buffet style breakfast, orientation, lunch, bus tour of the city, dinner, buy a Russian cell phone, come to this neat little coffee shop and finally get the internet.

Our orientation today was mainly about health and safety concerns. Dos/dont’s. Do you want me to describe this? In a nutshell: don’t do anything stupid and don’t get in trouble with the police. If you feel sick – take care of yourself. Stay out of bad areas. Don’t get into gypsy cabs. Be straightforward. Learn the “metro face” as they call it (don’t smile and look kind of mean). Any questions, go ahead and ask.

The bus tour of the city was neat. We saw a lot of very beautiful landmarks and had the chance to stop by our school, St. Petersburg State University and go into the School of Political Science, which is where we will be studying. I will definitely add a picture to this post the next time I have my camera. After that, back to the hotel to eat and go buy a phone!

However, my strategy for calling America is to not buy an international calling card, but rather to put credits on Skype if I’m trying to call an actual phone. I’m not sure if that’s easier or not, but it seems like it will be, and cheaper.

Unfortunately it’s been difficult to find places with wifi since I’ve left the U.S., but now that we’re almost getting ready to move in with our host families and settle in, hopefully it will be easier to find coffee shops like the one I’m sitting in now.

Speaking of host families, they gave us a strip of paper with our family’s information. My mother’s name is Любовь: Lubov’ (Love), she has an adult son named Ilya, and apparently a cat (yay!). I’m living pretty far north of the school, so I think I’ll have quite a ways to travel to get to school, but I’m really, really looking forward to meeting her. I have no idea if the son lives at home, so I’m not sure how much of her family I will actually meet.

As for culture, shock, emotions, and adjustments, I have a bit of a hard time explaining how I feel being here. I’m definitely very excited, and I’m excited to move in with my host mother and start classes. I don’t think I’ve felt a major culture/language shock yet, because honestly, I have been part of our CIEE group of American students since I’ve arrived. I understand what Tatiana was talking about when she mentioned we’d have a harder time meeting Russians than the people who chose to study over in Vladivostok. Right now, being in this coffee shop is the first time I’ve been away from a large group of American students, but even now there are quite a few of our group who have also came here for the internet.

I’m not really very afraid of the language barrier right now, but again, we’ve been with this huge group the whole time, so I’m sure it will start to hit me when I go with my host mom and start to live independently of everyone here. I’ve gotten by so far with the few Russian people I’ve spoken to, so hopefully it will keep getting better.

I do feel stressed, of course it’s only natural, but I know everything will work out fine, and it’s my plan to audit Russian classes, find an internship, and learn the language. I think it’s a really good idea to come over here with good goals, even if your language skills aren’t perfect, because you’ll probably be more focused than the people who just want to go out all the time.

SO I realize this is really long, but a lot has been going on in the past 24 hours, so I hope this post is at least somewhat interesting. It’s really cool being here, completely surrounded by Russians and learning their language. It’s something not everyone is brave enough to do, and it takes some mental preparation to realize you’re flying halfway around the world to a foreign country, but being a Lewis & Clark student this semester is definitely an advantage since there are 5 of us and it’s comforting to see so many familiar faces. We are definitely a lucky group of students, and we all get along, so it’s a good support system to have.

Most of the people on the CIEE program are pretty nice, but I am really looking forward to meeting actual natives, since that’s what we came here for. I hope I will be able to post more regularly, and I will start my “travel books” as soon as I can without making posts as long as this!

Miss everyone in America and definitely miss America, but this is a great opportunity, and it’s always best to stay positive and patient.

Скучаю!

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