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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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!

Увидимся!

Update – last week of term.

Wow! Only 5 days left until I go home for Christmas! How the time has flown… ok so there were a few moments in the term where I felt like it was dragging out, but now that the end is here it feels like it went in the blink of an eye! And so much has happened in these last three months.

Going home is going to be good, but I’m not going to lie, I’ve been enjoying myself so much here recently that in a way I want to stay here a bit longer! So I may come back earlier than I originally intended in January, but it’s all up in the air and will be decided later.

I’ve bought most of my Christmas presents for people here, and I’m going to probably start packing on my last day here, Friday, because I won’t have any lessons. Then I’m going to go to English movie night one last time and say goodbye to people. I said goodbye to people at church too yesterday, mainly those from my house group.

I will miss them all!

But I need a break. I’ve worn myself out this week helping prepare for the party on Saturday, which, by the way, went so well!

I don’t have any really good pictures but here are the ones I do have. I and a friend had to roast some potatoes for the party, and we cut out so many snowflakes to hang up everywhere! Another friend baked millions of gingerbread cookies, and we played silly games like reenacting the Christmas story scene by scene in groups – we were all very creative; for the scene where An angel visits Mary, a guy stood on a chair and two guys stood behind him with a silvery white scarf and fluttered it like wings, and he then proceeded to get his phone out of his pocket and ring Mary to tell her about what was about to happen. You might have had to have been there to appreciate it, but I can assure you everyone was laughing at that point! We also sang the 12 days of Christmas song, which everyone found hilarious. We made a roast dinner for everyone to try (hence the roasted potatoes) and we even made sprouts for everyone and told them that they are traditionally eaten but also hated in England, but they all went so I think Russians like sprouts!

But hey, after all of that excitement, I had to sleep with a hoodie and a hat on last night to try and get my cold to go away – my window in my room lets in draughts so I end up getting quite cold in the night, and that combined with poor sleep and lots of extra activity just really tired me out. I need to make it through this week though because I have more tests! None of them actually count towards my degree but I want to do well to show that I’ve learned stuff and also so they’ll put me into a more advanced group next term. We don’t know if they’ll base that off our test results yet or if they’ll send us another aptitude test by email so it can’t hurt to get good marks.

I’m hoping to go to Ukrop (the chain of vegetarian restaurants) soon with a friend from my group to celebrate he end of term. She won’t be coming back to St P next year, she’s going to Germany for the other half of her year abroad, so sadly we’re going to be saying goodbye for good this Thursday. In fact, I’m the only one from my group returning to St P next year, so that’s going to be weird!

I’ve found housing for next term in a great location near all the shops I normally go to for food etc so I’m really happy about that, and the rent is cheaper so I’ll be saving some of my loan, which can be used for other things!

So yeah that’s me this week. I can’t wait to go home and have lots of hugs and catch up on the advent calendar and play my cello again! I just hope I can defeat this cold!!

In case I don’t post until the new year, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year everyone!

С рождество и с новом годом!

First Week.

So, it’s been basically a full week since I first set foot in Russia for the first time. I’ve posted a lot this week; I wanted to make sure that all of my first impressions and experiences were out there for those thinking about studying Russian or visiting Russia, so I’m doing it for you guys!

My first week has had ups and downs. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t felt homesick. I have. I still do. I miss my family and friends, and I’m still not sure how I’m going to make it through 9 months of life here… but it has to be done and I know that I’ll get used to it here eventually.

Today, for example, instead of staying cooped up in my room studying, I took up an offer from a friend through my new church here (Hope Church) and went to a place called Petergof in the suburbs of St Petersburg. It’s kind of a little town on the outskirts, but we went to this massive palace with huge gardens – might be called a Dacha, but I’m not sure about that yet! I spoke Russian all day long! It was intense but worth it for my speaking skills, because when I got home, a simple conversation with my host about how my day had gone was so much easier!

To meet the people I was going with, I had to take the metro for the first time since getting here. Fortunately my practice on the metro in Madrid this summer came in handy and it was all fine and I got to where I needed to be half an hour early!! It was funny because you have to go right down underground for a really long time here, it’s a good 5 minutes on the escalators to reach the station at the bottom! People are reading books and listening to music on their phones and reading the newspaper on the escalator like it’s completely normal. Which I guess it is, for them. For me it was a new experience!

I was told before I came to just say yes to everything. Every opportunity to speak Russian and experience the culture or way of life. I mentioned this tip in my post about how to make the most out of learning a language abroad… So I guess that’s what I’m doing. I’m taking my own advice, and by keeping busy, it helps me not think too much about everything I feel I’m missing out on at home and how homesick I’m feeling! I might go on about this a bit for the first few weeks while I’m here, but I’m just being real so that others getting ready for their year abroad are aware that it’s normal to feel this way. I’m missing my aunts wedding to be here, and I was meant to be a bridesmaid. I won’t be in any of the photos… and I’m from a really big, close family, so you can imagine how that feels. I also spent my 21st running around trying to buy food and a sim card in a strange, new and HUGE city, in Russian. I’m not complaining, it’s just that it’s not ideal exactly!

What also really helps me is knowing that I’m never alone, because God is here with me. I can talk to him at any time and he is always listening, no matter what! I’m so glad I made it to Hope Church on Sunday last week because I’ve already got friends helping me out and trying to connect me up to other people who can help me and look after me a bit in these first few months. It’s good to feel like you have people who are rooting for you when you feel cut off from what is familiar to you.

Anyway, I’m super tired – mentally and physically – from all the walking and Russian speaking I’ve done this week, so I think I’m going to keep this post shorter than the others this time. This weekend I don’t have many plans other than going to church and going shopping again for some more food and things. I may go to the Hermitage (art museum) tomorrow with a friend but that’s not been decided yet.

Time to get some sleep and recuperate! See you soon! 😉

Term 1 Year 2 – God and other things :)

Life has got crazy pretty quickly down here in Exe.

This year, sadly, I haven’t joined any clubs. Not break dance, not gymnastics, no orchestras. I have my reasons… primarily, the cost. Gymnastics is £90 for the year, which, long term, works out pretty cheap, but as an upfront cost at the start of term, when you haven’t really had a good solid summer job to earn tonnes of money, is pretty steep. Likewise with the orchestras… the price is huge up front – but also, my course is pretty full on this year. I mean, it was full on last year, but this year its 13 lectures/classes and they are adding TWO MORE for Russian. Which is great – but not great at the same time because it means two more hours that I have to get to everyday. Plus my timetable is so spread out it’s unreal. I might have one lecture in the morning, then two hours, then another one, then one or even three hours, then another one. There isn’t enough space in the library and around campus all the time for students to study so I tend to go home. By bike its quick and not so bad – but Exeter is hilly. Really, really hilly. So some days I’m cycling to campus 3 times. I’m hungry all the time… and, like last year, I have a small budget for food. Add to that the fact that I’m now a Deliveroo rider (on my bike) and basically I am hungry ALL THE TIME.

So yeah I have a second job – casually mentioned that^ – but this means time for me is scarce. I’m still trying to go to CU every once in a while but it’s not likely to be regular. I’m prioritising church and going to my community group every week and church on Sunday… but apart from that I have to spend all my time doing my work and reading before my next module lecture. Such is life in your second year. I was comparing hours/work with a friend of mine doing medicine the other day and we have the same amount of hours and work each week. I’m effectively doing the equivalent of a medicine degree but in languages. This is when learning Russian really bites you in the bum. Like, why Russian???

It means that I might find it harder to meet up with friends and things around all of my various commitments. Oh and I’ve signed up to do peer mentoring and I’m helping a friend with a Spanish module she’s taking on the side of her degree….. The list goes on!!

Basically, it’s so good that I’ve got God with me. Because if I didn’t have God on my side, I think I would be having multiple melt downs right now.

I’m learning not to worry. I’m learning that sometimes you have to say no. Even though people always want a piece of me and are inviting me to socials and training etc. I have to accept the fact that my degree and my sanity need to come first. I mean it’s flattering that people want me around, but this IS what I’m here for after all. (And why I’m so in debt!) It was interesting because I found an article (it’s on my wall on Facebook) about why uni at the moment is one of the most unhealthy places to get your degree – so many people are suffering from mental illnesses and have this warped mentality that uni is meant to be the best years of your life and if you aren’t enjoying it an  going out to all of these events etc. then you aren’t doing it right. It’s not true. Honestly.

Last year I was definitely a victim to this mentality surrounding uni and the moving away from all that is familiar thing. I thought I would be fine and that uni would be the best 4 years of my life. Then, slowly I realised that some of my flatmates were really difficult people to live with and be around, and actually that I was spreading myself too thin and this was stressing me out making my IBS flare up – so I was getting ill. I’m so glad that I’ve come out on the other side stronger for it and ready to tackle the year ahead with a smile on my face. I feel so free now that my eating disorder is gone and I’ve stopped believing a whole load of lies about myself that I’d been carrying for years. It’s amazing what happens when you start seeing things positively and speak blessings over yourself and not curses. All the rubbish falls away and you’re just left with happiness… sometimes I think I’m so happy now that people around me can’t handle it. Wow.

You will definitely grow at uni – There’s  no other option. Either you grow and make it through, or you don’t and you drop out. Probably because you weren’t ready to change. You have to be ready to adapt to this lifestyle. Some people are lucky and they pick a course which has 4 lectures a week but most people either don’t do enough work or kill themselves going after that 1st (as in the grade). You have to find balance. It’s this word which floats around and no one really knows what it means or how to get there – but that’s because it takes practice And practice is a day-by-day thing. A teacher of mine always used to say that practice makes progress, not perfect. I believe her. I will never be perfect. But I’m definitely further along in my progress towards a good k-life balance than I was before because of all of this time management I’ve had to do to keep organised and on top of things. Actually, I prefer the phrase keeping afloat. Sometimes it feels like you’re swimming in deadlines and work and only just keeping above water enough to breathe.

This is where God comes in – I try and have a little bit of quiet time to read my Word For You Today (UCB) and a bit of the Bible or listen to a good podcast (I have some Bethel ones) and this really helps ground me. A lot of people on social media are talking about meditation and its benefits for grounding you and helping you live stress free. So I guess this is my ‘meditation’, if you will. Talking to my best friend and looking at life from His perspective and trying to be more like Him. Trying to show love and kindness. Trying to be available for people even when you have so little time and it feels like too much.

It’s all good.

 

Anyways, that’s update for those interested 🙂

Red flowers Mum got me for my new room ❤

Looking back

I’m amazed that 9 weeks ago I had my first ever Russian lesson… And now look what I can say!

Я живу в эксетере – I live in exeter

Я студентка – I am a student

Я люблю русский язык – I love Russian

And a few other useful things, such as

Слон на крыше – the elephant is on the roof

Ёж в улицу – the hedgehog is in the street

Now we’re learning numbers and the Genitive case… it’s complicated. Especially the Genitive plural. Not even going to try and explain it! There are about a million different endings which I just cannot seem to remember! The genitive case deals with quantities of things. It’s like saying ‘one cow’ (nominative singular) then ‘two of cow’ (genitive singular), then you get to five and you have ‘five of cows’ – this is how we learned it in the lesson. Our teacher is ace. Our new favorite word is cow, which has replaced elephant (слон – “slon” – hence ‘the elephant is on the roof’^).

It’s almost Christmas already – I need the think about presents! No idea what to get my family now I’m a poor student!! Although I saw some awesome sales in town and in the student shop recently on site… I’ve got a few ideas cooking up.

I’m getting ready for my first gymnastics competition in Bath next weekend (5th December). A friend is letting me borrow her leotard. I’ve not worn one of those since I was 6!!! I am excited though! I’ve been practicing a lot so hopefully it’ll go well. I’ll be in the novice bit. A friend is competing on a higher level. My coach says I’ll be fine. At least he believes in me!!

Down here in Exeter it’s getting really cold. Before it was like spring… then overnight it just got all cold and windy – bitter wind. But in gales it was so strong! I was walking to orchestra with my cello and I kept getting blown about in the gusts.

oooh oooh exciting news!! I have an interview at the Ram pub – its this on-site pub for students in the forum – which is basically the centre of all activities. Hopefully this means I can hand my notice in at my job at the hotel – which has been proving a bit hard to handle on top of my studies.

I’ve been looking at getting another meat box like I did a few months back – when I get paid I want one!! But I’m not sure there’s enough room in the freezer for it. The lads in my flat are into weight lifting etc and they have so much meat and frozen stuff that there’s literally no room left. I manage to keep some cod fillets and frozen packets of blueberries and raspberries in there but not much else unfortunately. I might have to wait until after Christmas when they haven’t had a chance to re-order… that will be my moment to strike! So it’s fish and beans and peas for me for now!

I’ve been really tired out by work and working for the hotel… Getting home really late over the weekend means on Monday mornings I have to drag myself out of bed for the lectures I used to enjoy 😦 It’s not ideal really.

I am tempted to go out tomorrow night with the girls in my flat – they’ve invited me out and I feel like I need to humor them and go at least once! I’ve been bad at it really… It’s not my idea of a fun night but hey I think it will mean a lot to them if I were to go.

Bueno… hasta luego 🙂

 

Being Charis… And some Russian

Before I begin I want to give a little shout-out to my wonderful Dad – it’s his birthday today and I’m so sad not to be there right now ‘cos I’m sure I’d have given him a massive hug 🙂 

Resuming……

I’m a little eccentric. I think eccentric is the word? Ok – maybe quirky. That sounds about right! For example – I cycled the whole way to Aldi yesterday for a pumpkin. Yes. And then when I brought it into the kitchen and my flat mates saw it, they were like, “how are you going to carve it?” To which I replied, “carve it? No way I’m gonna make pumpkin purée out of it.” So there I was roasting this massive pumpkin. 

 

My autumn squash collection accumulating on top of my printer in my bedroom 😉

  

Pumpkin Pancakes – using only 3 ingredients!

 
But hey, after I puréed it – there was a little left over which wouldn’t fit the jars I have so I made pumpkin pancakes!! They turned out really well and tasted great, if a tiny bit bland… Working on flavour! I’ll make them again and post the ingredients etc in another post some time 🙂 
So… Life. It’s still happening I can tell you! Break dance is good, gymnastics is good. Russian is great. I’m finding my Spanish oral lessons a little too easy :/ this means I get quite bored in lessons…. The grammar and translation classes are good though. They challenge me a little more. If there’s no challenge it isn’t fun you see. But that’s just me for you. That’s mainly why I picked Russian. For the challenge. I can say a few things in Russian now:

Я говорю по-русски – I speak/am speaking in Russian.

Они говорит, что Марина живём в Лондоне – they say that Marina lives in London.

Но я знаю, что она живёт в Париже – But I know that she lives in Paris.

Слон на крыше – the elephant is on the roof (always useful!)

Banging out some prepositional case there 😉 basically, the reason Russian is so hard isn’t because of its alphabet. Yes, you have to learn that, but it’s the cases that get you. There are six. 

The Nominative Case

The Accusative Case

The Genitive Case

The Dative Case

The Instrumental Case

And the good old Prepositional Case. 

Personally I like the prepositional – it seems straight-forward enough. Very basically, if you have a в (“vuh” – meaning “in”) or a на (“nah”-meaning “on” (as in, on top of something)) you add an -e (“yeh”) on the end of nouns ending in a consonant. If the noun ends in -а, -й or -о, you take off the last letter and add -е.

It’s only if the noun ends in -я (“yah”) or -е (“yeh”) that you add an “и” (“ee”). 

I won’t explain what happens with the nouns ending in soft sign, but it’s seems kinda simple to me. Fancy learning now? (Bear with me – it’s good revision to try and explain it to someone else!)

I added a whole list of vocab to this amazing app called quizlet which lets you test yourself on vocab etc except predictive must have changed it up because some of my words went in wrong and it didn’t save as editable by my Russian class so they were all trying to figure out who Chorizo12 was on quizlet to try and sort it out! I didn’t admit it was me because I didn’t want the arrogant lad in my class to be annoying about it ( he later added a correct vocab list and called it “vocab list without the mistakes of chorizo12”). I admitted it to my teacher alone after class and she laughed but applauded me for putting so much time into making the list. Oops. 

Not going to lie…. I’m getting quite tired now. I’ve not been sleeping very well this week – not since a small incident with one of my flat mates. (Please forgive me not wanting to divulge too much!) it’s been dealt with but I still feel slight tension and it’s tough. In first year, you get who you get in your flat. There isn’t an easy way to change.

Last night I went to this place called Wagamamas with some of my break dance crew – I couldn’t really afford to buy much so I went for a smoothie (it was called raw and it had carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, apple, and orange and it was pretty good!). My friend Mia had beef ramen and my friend Hannah had dumplings. Matt had pad Thai and I don’t know what Jonny had but it looked good. I am getting better at going out with friends. We chatted and had a laugh. It was ace 🙂 before back home i was really bad at this.

This morning, though, my flat mate Josh said he walked by us break dancing in the forum last night on the way to a meeting and he saw me break dance in the cypher. (When you aren’t battling one-on-one and you’re breaking in the circle with friends it’s called a cypher). Awks – although at the same time I’m kinda boosted by it. He said I looked good! Feeling more confident now and it’s kind of a good thing I didn’t see him seeing me – if you get me. Otherwise I’d have messed up big time from the nerves 😛

But today is a rest day – I’ve strained something in my thigh from gymnastics on Monday so I’m not doing more training although I really want to. 

I’m going to my first community group today – it’s basically a Life Transformation Group or Development Group. I’ve been put in the Wednesday one for Grace Church and I’m going to try it out. My friend Josie goes so that’s a definite plus – at least I’ll actually know someone! 

So yeah… That’s it really. Oh no wait – I have another job interview at a place called the Magdalen Chapter Hotel AND they are going to let me have a stall at the Student Traders Christmas Fair for my business!! So excited 🙂 

But yeah now that is everything! I’ll be posting some more recipes soon! I can even post the pumpkin purée one 🙂 Aldi sells ’em cheap so it’s a good time of year to try it.