After a few crazy days of traveling and orientation at a hotel I am finally settled into my home for the next few months! Since I have unfortunately not been able to blog over the last few days, here is an update:
Day 1: My Flight to Russia
10/10 would recommend Finnair. While long flights are never particularly enjoyable, this one was better than most due to a spacious window seat, great movie selection, delicious food, and free wine. Unfortunately the connecting flight was the opposite. My short time in Finland at the beautiful Helsinki airport made me want to visit even more, while my connecting flight made me appreciate American planes.
Day 2-4: Welcome to St. Petes
Foggy, dreary, cold, and snowy was my first impression of the city, yet even in this gloomy state it is beyond beautiful. Orientation included long, practical seminars on the academics, excursions, and everything we should know in order to navigate the city. While it was a ton of information to take in and at times quite boring, the buffet for every meal certainly made up for it. Trying the food for the first time was interesting to say the least. It included a lot of taste testing which sometimes ended quite unfortunately. Bad: Cream cheese and cottage cheese are wayyyy different here and not in a good way. There is also far too much sour cream, like it is basically eaten with everything. Good: So many potatoes. Amazingly delicious potatoes. I love the potatoes. There are desserts by the truck load and eating them after your meal is practically mandatory. Oh darn. Another perk of orientation was making friends. While all of them are American thus far, I think I found a solid group that will enhance my experience. Speaking of experience, we discovered that good vodka is $3 (crazy right?!?!) and toasted with a shirtless, very Putin-looking ,old Russian man. The real highlight though was the introductory city bus tour that we took and despite the dreary weather I have already fallen in love with the beauty of the city. While very European it is also distinctively Russian. All expectations that I had have been exceeded. I love it more than I ever expected I would, in fact if the weather didn’t make me feel like I was slowly freezing to death I would consider living here.
Day 5: Finding Home
Two days ago I arrived at my home for the next few months, which is dorm-stlye living in the very center of the city. While I have my own bedroom it is basically the size of a shoebox and I am sharing showers and a bathroom, as well as a kitchen. The location and freedom make it more than worth it though! While others are obligated to socialize with their host family for a while after class, I am able to explore the city to my liking. This is quite easy to do when the metro and the famous Main Street are a short block away. As they say: location, location, location.
Day 6: Adjusting to Life in Russia
Living here thus far has been exciting and fun, but it has also of course been a challenge. Being immersed in the language, especially in a country where very little English is spoken and no one has the patience to deal with your lack of understanding, makes you realize how little of the language you actually know. It is terrifying at times, but also an interesting challenge that has already forced me to grow in my language skills. Adjusting to the social habits of Russians has been interesting as well, but I will delve deeper into that in a later post.