It is my last weekend in Saint Petersburg, then I do some traveling, before returning to America. Friday night, after classes, I was lucky to be invited to a Korean Barbecue event with my host family. There, I met some new Russian friends, and at the young hour of 00:06 AM we went out for a night on the town. It was an absolutely amazing time, and it wound up with all of us being on or around one of the larger canals here in the city, just as the sun was rising – around 3:30-4:00 in the morning. And as it rose, slowly painting everything in a warm glow of orange and pinks, I found myself thinking about my time here.
And thinking back, I have to say that my favorite part of the program was exploring the city. The university has some absolutely incredible teachers and I love working with them, as they are very generous, kind, and supporting. I have never studied Russian this intensely before, with the kind of support that I have had here. I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was when I first arrived, capable of fully understanding (some) lectures in Russian. My ability to handle day-to-day interactions has also greatly improved and I can now order food with confidence (ha-ha)! When I am at home with my host family, I’m able to converse with them about how my day went, what it was they have done, and so on.
I am of course, here to study – but working, thinking, writing in Russian all day at University can become a bit tiring at times and it’s important to give yourself some time to recuperate. Whether that means going to the Hermitage (which is free for students!) for a few hours, wandering around on your own, hanging out with friends in a café, or even just lying down for a bit at home, giving yourself some time to breathe is very important. I know that if I don’t allow myself to relax like this, I can suffer from burnout, arriving at classes barely able to focus.
Sometimes, it might feel like you’re ‘wasting’ time or not making the most of your experience by doing this – but looking back, some of my favorite moments have come from relaxing like this. Relaxing in a park is how I stumbled into meeting one of my Russian friends; visiting the Hermitage for the fourth time – and finding entirely new places and exhibits; seeing a small castle in a quaint sea-side village; watching the sun rise on Saint Petersburg…all these experiences happened because I was able to take a break, allow myself to relax, and just be in the moment. Finding the right balance between work and relaxation can be a tricky one – but I think I managed to find it here, and it truly has made this program an incredible experience.
By: Cole Kordus
Program: Advanced Russian Language & Area Studies Program, St. Petersburg, Russia
Term: Summer 2019