Interview with Russian students on life in Russia #2

Interview with Russian students on life in Russia #2
16 July 2020

To learn out about life in Russia, why not talk to the people who know it best? So here is the second of our series Interview with Russian students. You can read the first interview with Maria here. This time, we talked to Natasha, who has lived her whole life in Saint Petersburg.

1 What do you study and at which university?

My name is Natasha. I am a student at Herzen State Pedagogical University (see photo). I study Cultural Anthropology, Swedish, Scandinavian Culture & History and Pedagogy.

2 What is it like to a student? Describe how the university system is like and how students spend their time? 

It’s very fun to be a Russian student sometimes, but it’s really hard. Everything depends on the university, but every student thinks that it’s difficult. Studying usually starts early, at 9 – 10 a.m. Usually, students get to the university by bus or subway. Every day you have lessons in different subjects. It can be lectures or field trips (practical lessons). On the lectures, students listen to the teacher or write important things in their notebooks. On the practical lessons, students make presentations or do exercises. Generally, you have 4 – 5 lessons per day. Students have half an hour between lessons to have lunch. All students have homework and it can be enormous.

Twice a year we have a session (сессия) when we must pass exams and this time is the hardest time in our studying. You forget about eating, sleeping, or meeting friends. You sit at home and drill everything you have learnt before. But of course, sometimes it’s very fun to study at university. When you have breaks you can drink coffee with your friends, gossip about teachers and talk about different subjects. There are a lot of university projects which you can take part in. So it isn’t too bad to be a Russian student, but sometimes you are ready to give up. I suppose that our university system isn’t perfect and maybe it should change a little. 

3 What are some things about university life here that may surprise foreigners?

One thing that isn’t a surprise for us but for foreigners it can be a shock. I want to tell you about Russian dormitory. Students, who have come from other cities, can live in dormitories. There are a lot of rooms on one floor, two or three kitchens for all students who live on this floor and maybe one shower. Sometimes it can be so that you have only one bathroom with showers for the whole dormitory. There can be three or six students in one room. I suppose that it’s impossible to live and study in such small rooms where you have only four beds, one refrigerator and one table. 

It’s probably unusual for foreign students to have fieldwork in places you haven’t chosen. There was a time when all our students had to go to Crimea for a month. Fortunately, I didn’t go there, but my friends told me: they had to dig up different things under very hot weather, they slept 5 hours per day and also worked with children. Conditions were awful, but they didn’t fly back home because they wanted to have good marks.

4 Do you have friends who do not live in Petersburg/Moscow? Tell us how similar or different it is for young people living in the provinces. 

I don’t have friends from provinces but I have visited a lot of small cities. I can say that students who live in such cities have fewer opportunities to get a good education and to find a good job. Every student from province wants to move to a big city. Due to this, we have so many students who live in dormitories. I get disappointed every time I think about this. I think that soon a lot of small towns will become empty. 

5 What is unique and interesting about life in your city? Include your own anecdotes if you like.

I live in a very beautiful city. It has a very interesting history and fascinating sights. I have developed a lot of tours for children in the city and at the same time, I have learnt a lot of new things about my city. There is a unique atmosphere in summer when “white nights” happens. A lot of people walk at night, sit at restaurants and watch bridges raising. Unfortunately, I don’t remember funny situations connected to Saint Petersburg, but I am really happy that I was born and live in this amazing city.

Note: all opinions in the “Interview with Russian students” series are expressed not by Liden & Denz, but by the person interviewed. 

Nick Nguyen

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