Good-bye, St. Petersburg!
After a whole 12 weeks at Liden and Denz in St. Petersburg, it is finally time for me to say good-bye and go home. I’m grateful that I got to see the “White Nights” here in St. Petersburg and experience a Russian summer. My first time in Russia was in the fall semester so I had never seen how full of life Russia can be in the summer. My favorite thing about St. Petersburg turned out to be just the city itself. There are certainly many beautiful places like the Hermitage, summer gardens and St. Isaac’s Cathedral, but for me the city is so much more than just those places. My favorite thing to do in the city was to take long walks following the channels and explore new places. Especially along the major streets such as Nevskiy, there are often good street musicians which gives the whole city a more welcoming, inviting atmosphere. There is so much beauty in St. Petersburg – from the architecture, to the parks to the cathedrals – that simply walking along the streets is a very satisfying experience.
Because I had already been to Russia before, I felt like I knew more or less what I was getting into. And coming back with somewhat better language skills made my experience this time around a lot more pleasant in many ways. Although I have started understanding more around me in terms of language, this time around I realized more and more how little I know about Russian history and culture. World history taught me only the most basic outline of Russian history and the West has a long history of only partially understanding or completely misunderstanding Russian culture. As I got a chance to wander around the cathedrals, explore the museums and palaces, talk with Russians and listen to the anecdotes our teachers explained to us, I realized that I knew next to nothing about Russia. So it was helpful to be at Liden and Denz surrounded by good Russian teachers who explain Russian culture as well as grammar and other foreigners trying to understand Russia and Russian culture. Liden and Denz always has many students who are specializing in Russian language, culture, literature or politics as their major in university so you can find friends who have new perspectives on Russian culture who can also help you find resources if you want to learn more.
The thing I enjoyed most about being in a completely new culture where I don’t understand much is the fact that it gave me a new perspective on just how big and diverse the world is. They say the more you learn the more you realize how much you don’t know and that sums up my experience this summer. Thanks to our teachers and their carefully designed lessons, my Russian has improved a lot – I was in A2 when I started and I’m currently in B2 – but I am still aware that “fluency”, as well as cultural understanding, is still a far off goal.
So I definitely got what I was hoping for out of this summer – some improvement in Russian and a brand new experience. I would definitely recommend anyone who is thinking of coming to Liden and Denz as a student or intern to go for it. If you are going to be an intern, come with lots of energy and enthusiasm because you’ll definitely need it. Also, be ready to explore the city so you can share about it well.
While these three months have left me thoroughly exhausted, they also left me hoping to come back to Russia to improve my Russian and understanding of Russian culture fairly soon.