2 weeks to go

Yes I am counting down maybe a little bit!!

I am super excited to be going home soon and seeing my family again. It’s been a challenging but highly rewarding year, and I feel like I fully deserve my summer holiday now!

It’s got to the point where I’m so tired and I’ve been in Russia for so long that I’m mixing my English and Cyrillic alphabets and writing nonsense words, I can’t speak properly in English, and when I’m really tired my Russian suffers too. Which, at the moment is quite frequently! Currently I’m experiencing the White Nights (Белые Ночи). Yes they are amazing and strange, but it means I’m not really getting a lot of sleep, even with an eye mask!

This picture was taken just before 12 am. The sun was only just ‘going down’. But it’s fully light like the middle of the day from about 2:30-3am.

So now we’re at the other extreme! When before in the winter it was dark all the time and you just wanted to sleep, now it’s light all the time, and you wish you could sleep but you can’t (if you’re sensitive to light like I am anyway).

But hey, I’ve almost made it through and completed my year, and that’s the main thing!

I’ve started translating a bit at church! Only for a short bit at the beginning, but it’s fun and scary and a great experience. Everyone’s really encouraging so that helps a lot 🙂

I also got sent a picture from right at the start of my time here in St Petersburg when I went to an Africa themed student party run by the church! It’s fun to look back – that was a really great evening, it made up for the fact that I wasn’t able to go home and be at my aunts wedding as a bridesmaid that day.

Time has gone by – I wouldn’t have said it’s flown exactly but it definitely has passed.

This coming week will be my last week of lessons. I have a couple of tests, but at the end of it I’ll get my certificate and that will be it! The week after that is completely free so I’ll probably be doing some more sight seeing with friends and meeting up with people before heading home to the UK.

It’s so warm and sunny here at the moment – I’ve not needed a coat in weeks! It’s such a good way to end the year.

That’s my update for now!

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3 Weeks 1.5 days to go.

Hello again! Sorry I’ve not written in AGES. I feel like I’m always starting my blog posts with that now! It’s been a bit manic here at my end due to various reasons, and I’ve honestly just not had the time to write! But I have a couple of posts in my drafts about some of the sight seeing I’ve been doing etc, and I’m hoping to have those up soon-ish, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, here’s a little update of everything I’ve been up to since my last post.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but I was quite ill earlier in April and had to take a course of antibiotics. I hate being ill when I’m away from home, who loves that? But fortunately my flatmates were lovely and took care of me, bringing me cups of tea. I Facetimed home to make up for being so far away, and to be honest I was just grateful that I had the space to be ill, if that makes sense. If I’d been in a home-stay, I think I’d have found it harder because my host mum might have fussed over me too much, and I personally don’t like that.

Moving on from that I moved house and I now live a lot further away from the city centre, which means my route to uni has changed and I’m no longer near any of the shops I liked, but it just means organising myself better and getting used to it. It’s only for a few more weeks (can’t believe my time here is almost over!!) and then I’ll be off home to England for the summer. My flatmates are Russian, and they are really lovely. We have little chats over dinner and stuff. I miss my old flatmates though! They are already home / off travelling.

The weather here has been soooo hot. Ok, so it’s only been 23-27 degrees Celsius, but with the humidity it’s felt more like 35-37. We’ve had sun everyday, and actually today is the first time we’ve not had sun in weeks. We’re set to have a thunderstorm and some rain, so that’ll keep things fresh for a bit. It’s weird not needing to take a coat with me wherever I go! Also, everything is green again. I know that for most people reading this, it won’t seem like such a big deal. But when you’ve been living in a land of snow and ice and temperatures as low as -24, you’ll appreciate how amazing it is to see green again and have a blue sky. So grateful for the weather right now.

I’m noticing that I’m feeling a lot more tired and finding it harder to concentrate than I do normally, which might be because it’s the end of term. I slept through my alarm the other day, something which never happens, and my lesson was embarrassing because i hadn’t had time to prepare all the new worlds and my teacher picked on me to explain pretty much every single one, and obviously I didn’t know what any of them meant.

I’m trying to keep my head up and get lots of sleep and water and to just keep going. I know I’ve already said it but I can’t really believe I’m going home soon. It feels like I’ve been here forever, so I guess it’ll only hit me when I’m on the plane! It will be nice to be home.

Anyway, here’s my update. I’m ok, mostly. Still going strong and just looking forward to seeing family again and having a break.

 

 

6.5 week count down.

Hello everyone,

Sorry I’ve not written in a while, life has been really crazy my end! These last few weeks have had a lot of things going on all at once and I’m definitely glad to be putting some of it in the past. It feels like my parents came to visit me years ago… though in reality it’s only been about 2 weeks. But hey it’s May already – and the weather keeps on improving here. We’ve had so much sunshine – everyone’s doing their best to be out in it and get the fresh air and vitamin D after such a long time of cold and snow. It’s got to the point where inside the buildings it’s too hot because the heating hasn’t turned off across the city yet. So we keep having to open all the windows at home to let some of the heat out.

So the highlights from the last couple of weeks in April – Monday 16th, or two weeks ago yesterday, I was putting out an electrical fire in our kitchen with a fire extinguisher – my first time ever using one or being in a situation like that. It was pretty scary and me and my flat mates were quite shaken up afterwards. Then a week later on Wednesday I came home feeling really green and nauseous, and it turned out I had caught a tummy bug, which led to me being bedridden for the next 4 days pretty much. I am now recovered (finally), but only after a rather traumatic trip to a Russian doctor and getting prescribed antibiotics and a few other things.

On Saturday (21st April) it was one of their 21st birthdays, and she hired out a boat trip on the Neva, which was so awesome at night. Fortunately I recovered enough to be able to go! Sadly, I only have a couple of weeks left before both of my flatmates will have left Russia, and then I’ll be leaving too in June. The time is slipping away fast, so we’re planning on doing some last minute sight seeing and shopping and things and just generally spending more time together. We like to eat out a lot, so we’ve written a list of our favourite restaurants to visit. Eating out in Russia is a lot cheaper than in the UK. A meal that would cost £10-15 in England costs only £5 here.

Oh, and this morning I submitted the last of my year abroad project this morning, so I have nothing to do for my university until I take my oral exam in September. It’s a good feeling to know that it’s all been sent off and I don’t need to worry about it anymore.

Tomorrow, I and some friends are planning on visiting a place called Pushkin, where we hope to visit Catherine the Great’s Palace, so I’ll try and insert some pictures here later once we’ve been. Apparently it’s really beautiful there. Last week I went to the Faberge Egg museum, which was full of these really fancy eggs and trinkets from the Romanov era. I also tried Armenian food for the first time, and it was delicious!

So that’s pretty much all I’m doing for the rest of my half term holiday, now my project’s all done and dusted. Sight-seeing, relaxing, sleeping, seeing friends and making the most of it. It’s going to be really exciting to see the parades and celebrations on the 9th May for Victory Day – it’s the second most celebrated national holiday in Russia after New Year. The weather is honestly so much better. Today it rained, but last week we pretty much had sun every day, with temperatures between 7-16 degrees c. It’s quite humid, so it feels a lot warmer than what the temperature says, and gets super sticky during the middle of the day.

EMN has finished until June, so I’m not sure what I’ll be doing on Friday nights… but I’m sure I’ll think of something to keep myself busy. I just can’t believe how little time I have left. Overall, I’m definitely enjoying my time here in Russia more than last term. Give or take the few incidents like the fire/getting sick a couple of times, my Russian has come on so much and I feel so much more ‘at home’ abroad than I ever did before. That to me is really encouraging, although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved to be coming home soon to see my family again and have a break from globe trotting. It’s a strange feeling – I’m enjoying it here, but I also can’t wait to be home to see family and friends and go back to Exeter again in September.

I’ll try and post again soon. I have a few ideas for some future posts that I’ll work on while I have all of this free time 😉

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Halfway!

Hello once again,

It’s April already and my parents have come and gone for their little trip out here to visit me. I miss them already, but it’s hard to be down for long when the sun is shining and the temperature in St Petersburg is so warm!!

5 days ago when my parents first arrived we were able to stand on the edge of the Neva, which was still covered in ice.

Me standing on the edge of the River Neva. It wasn’t safe enough to really walk out further onto the ice, but it was thick enough at the edge – at least 1.5-2 feet thick!

We went to Peterhoff again and the sea was frozen along the Gulf of Finland – people were walking on the sea, guys.

The Gulf of Finland from the Summer Palace in Peterhoff.

But now it’s all melted and the sun is out and the brown muddy grass patches are turning green. The city looks so different already – and all in the space of 5 days!

The River Neva 4 days later, pretty much completely free of ice.

That was the River Neva yesterday afternoon after we’d walked around the Church of the Savior on Blood and the Fields of Mars (a memorial garden for fallen heroes in the wars).

The Church of the Saviour on Spilt Blood – named this way because of the attempted (and ultimately successful) assassination of Alexander II just outside when it was being built, I believe.

Inside, all of the walls are completely covered with mosaic representations of all of the key Biblical figures and of scenes of the main stories from the life of Jesus. It was truly amazing – and my favourite tourist attraction so far.

After that we walked along Nevsky Prospekt and got presents for people. Nevsky is the Main Street in the middle St P. It’s like Oxford Street in London.

Back on Friday we climbed the Colonnade to the top of St Isaac’s Cathedral, which was so cool because you could see for miles, even though it wasn’t sunny that day.

St Isaac’s Cathedral.

At the top of the colonnade.

The Bronze Horseman – featuring Peter the Great (1st).

We also walked around the Bronze Horseman (above), featured in a famous poem by Pushkin, who, for those that don’t know, is a very very famous Russian poet.

After that we finished the day spending 5 hours walking around the Hermitage.

The State Hermitage / Winter Palace

The main square – Place Square

The peacock clock – believed to have been made by James Cox. It’s an automation and still in working order, although we weren’t able to go hear it as they only let it play every Wednesday at 7pm.

On Saturday we spent the entire day at Peterhoff Palace – the summer palace by the Gulf of Finland. It was sunny but really bitterly cold that day because of the wind. One of my friends from church came with us. None of the flowers were out yet and the fountains were still switched off so they wouldn’t freeze up over the winter, but lots of renovation work was going on so it should be really beautiful in a few weeks when everything’s in full bloom.

The Samson fountain – removed by the Germans when they took over Peterhoff during the Second World War and probably melted down. This is the newer copy made after the war. The other statues were buried in the grounds and never found by the Germans, so they are still the originals, or so I’ve been told.

Then on Sunday, we went to Hope Church and my parents got to meet all of my friends from church!!

After church we ate at my favourite restaurant, Ukrop (it means Dill in Russian – dill is the herb Russians put on everything they eat!). Then I showed them my uni and Smol’ny Cathedral.

Later that evening, we went and listened to a Russian Composers concert at the Music Hall – it was my parents’ wedding anniversary and I only managed to find the tickets last week. I was worried I wouldn’t find anything as events get booked up very quickly, so it was a real answer to prayer!

This concert was the last of 5 from a series called Musical Journey – the first 4 included music from France, Spain and Italy. This concert featured exclusively Russian music – by Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff.

This morning we walked down the road to Kazanskii Cathedral and heard a sung mass (I think!) and it was so interesting and the singing was so beautiful. These last few days have definitely been an unforgettable experience overall.

Now I’m sat on my bed catching up with year abroad work and uni work and missing my parents (they’re the best!), but feeling positive because the sun is shining and winter is over. I only have 2 months left here and I want to make them count!

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to study in such a beautiful city full of such interesting culture. Though this year has had its challenges, it’s definitely widened my view of the world and taught me a lot!

Long time no speak!

Hey everyone,

I can’t believe March is almost over already! Where is the time going?

Here in Russia, it’s not really spring yet. We still have snow and ice everywhere, and the temperature is anywhere between -12 to 0 degrees most days. To us, this feels like spring, because after -24 degrees Celsius I think anything would! I’ve talked to some of my Russian friends about the weather and they reckon it should start to get a bit warmer soon over the next few weeks. But you never really know here.

Last night, I stepped out of my comfort zone again and went to a different house group from my church – basically, the one I normally go to on Saturdays branched off from the main one, which meets on Thursday evenings. I was messaged earlier yesterday, never having been before, and told simply to ‘come’, with no information as to where it would be or when it would start. Fortunately, he got one of the other girls from my usual house group to meet me at the metro station at 18:30. We got there, and started the group off like a regular house group, with some worship songs and prayer time, and then suddenly all the guys got together and surprised us with a late International Woman’s Day party. International Woman’s Day (8th March) is a massive deal here in Russia – we had the day off uni and everything. This celebration was a little late, but it was really sweet. They made eloquent Russian speeches (these are long and very heartfelt!) and they had made us a meal and pudding and wouldn’t let us do anything to help etc. Even getting ourselves a drink wasn’t allowed – they insisted on doing everything! Then after that they gave us a little present in a bag. A mini-cactus and some chocolate. It’s one of the most bizarre but amazing experiences I’ve had so far since coming to Russia. I loved it – though I felt a little awkward and unsure of what to do at some points during the evening! After that on our way home to the metro we all had a little snowball fight and chatted. It was a good evening and I’m so glad I didn’t talk myself out of it and make my excuses!

I’m also glad they got me a cactus. It’s not the most usual flower to get someone on women’s day I don’t think, but they are really hard to kill and need little to no water… and judging by my success (or rather, lack of) with other plants in my room, this one might actually live. It’s not that I neglected them. I honestly don’t know what I did wrong. I watered them once a week like my mum told me, I kept them near the window so they had enough light. I made sure the room wasn’t too cold. Both of them ended up dying. What can I say? I tried!!

Uni this and last week has been a little easier. I feel like I’ve had a small break-through in my russian language acquisition… I understand so much more now, and I can say so much more. My russian is much more accurate generally in terms of declensions (don’t worry if you don’t know what those are – but if you do you’ll understand the struggle that is the case system).

EMN is good too – tonight we’ll be watching and discussing an English classic – the Princess Bride.

All in all, these last few weeks have been challenging but rewarding – I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere with russian this term. I even got round to picking my modules for this coming year in Exeter – I’m so excited to be doing modules on spanish in business and advanced spanish translation. I do miss Exeter a little bit, so I can’t wait for September, though I definitely don’t want to wish away my time here.

There you go, a short and (hopefully) sweet update on my life here in St Petersburg since the last time I posted; (I can’t remember when that was, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon a bit what with all of my work and things!).

More to come I’m sure! Until next time,

до скоро!

Student Survival Kit for Russia

Here it is, your check list of what to consider packing when coming on your year abroad in Russia.

  • Spices and stock pastes etc – especially if you like smoked paprika (they have the normal stuff but in my opinion it has no real flavour!), ground ginger and cumin.
  • Vitamin supplements (B12 and D). You can buy vitamin d here, but if you’re veggie like me you might want to bring a brand you know. (Though I’ve since discovered that Veganika sells D and B12, but not every city in Russia is guaranteed to have them and they could be more expensive here.)
  • decaf coffee – decaf isn’t really a thing here.
  • blue tack
  • prepaid currency cards – I’d recommend Caxton FX. You just load it with as much as you want, and then if it gets lost or stolen or anything you only have to deal with the money on that card and not your whole account, which is a lot harder and will cost you with all the phone calls you’d have to make abroad.
  • Photocopies of your passport, proof of insurance, migration card (you’ll have to get these done after you’ve entered the country), letter from your university/proof of accommodation (not crucial but would be useful).
  • Thick scarf, hat and gloves, especially if you’re coming in the winter season.
  • Thermal layers.
  • Lined paper. For some reason, refill pads are not a thing here. You can buy copy books, but most of the time the paper is squared and not lined. I’ve made do by buying printer paper and hole-punching it.
  • Any bank details/log-in details you might need to do online banking. You just never know if you’ll have a problem with your accounts or something.
  • Paracetamol, ibuprofen and any other pain killer or medication that you are used to taking/have to take. You can’t guarantee that they will sell it here. I have managed to buy Ibuprofen (Ибупрофен) here though… so that one is fine. IF YOU NEED EPI-PENS, MAKE SURE YOU BRING ENOUGH! There was a girl that had to have some specially brought in from Finland and it was a really complicated process…
  • If you’re a gym goer, bring a microfibre towel, and travel bottles for shampoo/conditioner/shower gel etc. and flip flops for the showers. Oh, and make sure you wear a separate set of trainers in the gym than in the street – you HAVE to change your shoes.
  • Bring slippers. Whenever you go to someone’s house/in your own home, you need to change out of your outdoor shoes. It makes more sense once you’ve lived through the winter here and the roads become dirty with black ice and black snow.
  • Bring gifts! If you’re staying with a host family, bring a fridge magnet, tea towel, box of biscuits in the shape of a telephone box/post box…. anything that is a little piece of something traditional from home. Your hosts will love it, although – be warned – it’s not the Russian way to show a ton of emotion when they receive a gift. They’ll appreciate it, but don’t expect them to go into raptures!

I would say that’s most of it. You can find pretty much any cosmetic/toiletry item in shops like ulibka radugi and skarlett (Улыбка Радуги, Скарлетт). For cruelty free stuff I tend to go to Veganika (Веганика), although those other two shops also sell CF stuff too sometimes. Most supermarkets will sell a large variety of food items. For clothes we have H&M, Bershka, Stradivarius, there’s even an M&S and Victoria’s Secret…. so in St P and Moscow and even in Novosibirsk I’d say you can find most things you need like that essentials-wise. For stationary stuff, book void is the best shop – Бук Войд.

 

Week 3

Привет ребята,

Sorry for the late update – I’ve been rather ill these last 3 days and not been up to doing anything more than some homework / revision and watching films or reading a book. Oh, and walking on a river…. more of that later!

I got hit with this cold/flu-ey thing on Wednesday and then it just got worse through Thursday (I think I had a high temperature) until by Friday and Saturday I stayed home all day and didn’t go out. Today feels like I might finally be getting rid of it, thank goodness, so I should still make it to church!

I think partly due to being ill and partly because I had little time to get work done last weekend in Moscow, my lessons this week weren’t so great. I kept getting basic stuff wrong and struggled to answer questions or follow the lesson at all. But I’m hoping that this coming week I’ll be a little more prepared now that I’ve had time at home to get some work done.

On Thursday, despite my high temperature, I went to see Black Panther in Russian (Чёрная Пантера) with some of my Russian house group friends, and I am proud to say I understood 85-90% of it and could even laugh at most of the jokes. (And make a few of my own afterwards). It’s definitely a positive!

Last night there was another student party but I started to feel worse again halfway through so I got a taxi home. Taxis here are so much cheaper than in England. A trip across the city which took about 30 mins probably only cost 235₽… (wait for it I’ll calculate what that is in GBP) £3! That was using Uber. The driver was very chatty, but unfortunately I wasn’t, however he seemed to make sense of what I was saying (my voice sounds a little bunged up with cold at the moment).

The weather seems to be getting warmer here now, and the days are so much longer! The sun comes up at 8am and stays up until at least 6:30-7pm, so we’re all not feeling quite so tired as last term. It was so hard not to just go to bed at 8pm every night because it got dark so early! We’ve actually had a fair bit of sun over the last few days despite the temperature reaching an all time low of -24 (Celsius) last week. This week is a lot warmer, the days start off at about -15 and get up to -7. You have to understand that for us this is like spring weather. After -24 you would think so too, trust me! Today for example, it is currently -16, but will get up to -9 by the afternoon. And the sun will be out so it’ll be pretty and crisp and fresh.

Yesterday I went to get a few bits and bobs from the shops (I was fed up of being inside all day) and I went and had a little walk on the river near where we live. Obviously I wouldn’t have done it if there hadn’t have been other people on it too… and I didn’t stay for long once I noticed the massive cracks in the ice down the middle…. but it was a cool experience nonetheless! Later when I passed over the bridge of that same river with my flat mate to try and go to the student party, the ice had melted and pools of water had gathered on top, so I guess I picked my moment well!!

The cold might be partly to do with why I got ill, as you can end up standing around outside waiting for buses a lot – my bus to uni is often late so I have waited for up to 20 minutes sometimes. And that’s in the morning when it’s coldest.

Overall though if you have a good enough coat you don’t feel it so badly and cope with it pretty well. And a scarf and hat too.

The snow on the streets has melted and all we have is black ice everywhere, most of it covered with sand so you don’t slip. It can be annoying when you get stuck behind a babushka walking really slowly…. or worse, behind two of them walking really slowly and nattering away about their health or the weather (two popular topics Russians like to complain about) – swaddled up in their massive fur coats. You just can’t get round them!

It does make me laugh though to see all of the emails about how my uni in England has closed due to “extreme weather conditions”… but I do understand that England isn’t equipped or used to dealing with so much snow and severely low temperatures of -4 😉

Anyway, here I think I’ll sign off – I still have an literature essay to write (in Russian – *gulps*) and a few other things to do before church today. I hope these posts are still interesting to you all 🙂 I’m going to do some other posts soon about what I recommend students bring with them to Russia etc – a kit checklist.

I hope you all have a good week!

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