When I decided to study abroad in Russia I was faced with a very difficult decision: where specifically in Russia should I study, Petersburg, Moscow, or Vladimir? I spent 2 weeks in Moscow last winter, but wasn’t sure if Moscow life would fit me day in and day out for an entire semester. I’m from a very small town and I was worried Moscow would be too big and Petersburg would be too European and have too many tourists. The day I needed to turn in my application for the RLASP, fully planning on spending the semester in Moscow, I changed my mind. I was speaking with my father that morning and had once again mentioned to him my intention of studying in Moscow. “Are you sure that would be a good fit for you?” he asked. I spent the next three hours pacing around my house trying to figure out what I should do. Finally, I sat down at my computer, selected Vladimir from the dropdown box, and hit submit before I had a chance to change my mind again. The next few weeks all I did was worry about whether I had made the right decision. However, when I finally arrived in Vladimir I quickly realized that I had made the right choice. Of course, different people have different personalities and not everyone would enjoy spending sixteen weeks in a city of around only 340,000 people. However, in my opinion there are many bonuses to studying in a smaller, quieter city like Vladimir.
The fact that Vladimir is not as famous a city as Moscow or Petersburg means that there are much fewer tourists here and therefore much fewer English speakers. In the time that I have been here I have heard less than 10 people speaking English and have not met any other Americans here. The program here is also much smaller than the programs in Moscow and Petersburg, for example this semester there are only two students (including myself), studying in Vladimir. Once again, this means fewer opportunities to speak English.
Vladimir is also an incredibly historical city. Before travelling here, I had no idea that Vladimir was once the capital of Russia and has one of the most famous churches in Russia located in the center of the city. In the pictures here you can see that Vladimir is a city filled with many churches. Everywhere you look in Vladimir there are golden cupolas. When the sun is shining and the sky is clear, they are simply a breathtaking sight. Two of the most famous churches located in Vladimir are the Assumption Cathedral and the Cathedral of St. Demetrius, which you can see in the second picture here.
Vladimir is also located less than an hour ride by bus from the city of Suzdal. Suzdal was also once the capital of Russia and to this day is one of the most well-preserved historical cities in all of Russia and a very popular tourist location. Vladimir is also located only an hour and a half by train from Moscow and an overnight train ride away from Petersburg. Therefore, if you want to get out of the small city atmosphere for a few days on the weekends, it is both cheap and quick to travel to a bigger city.
Maybe it’s just the fact that I grew up in a small town that makes Vladimir such a comfortable place for me to live, but I truly feel this is a wonderful location to immerse yourself in the Russian language and culture and experience what it is like to live in a more rural and less metropolitan area of Russia.
By: Catherine Tyson
Program: Russian Language & Area Studies, Vladimir, Russia
Term: Spring 2019