Russian major Julia Hablak '21 knew that studying as part of the Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program in St. Petersburg would mean an intensive 20 hours a week of mastering the language’s syntax and vocabulary.
“The classes were strict and our professors in the program wouldn’t let us get away with anything,” says Julia. “They made sure to actually teach us. If one student didn’t have verbs of motion mastered, this became the topic of the class until they did.”
But Julia didn’t travel halfway around the world just to improve her grammar.
“I wanted a better understanding of Russian culture—the Russian soul,” which she found by venturing off campus and into the city and surrounding areas.
“The city has a rich history, hundreds of museums, and countless beautiful buildings, gardens, and palaces, and is like a huge classroom in itself,” says Julia. “My friends and I attended film screenings and ballets, and much more. Art, culture, and literature are pivotal to Russian life and therefore these things are all made accessible to students. Our student IDs gave us discounted admission costs and discounted public transportation, including free admission to the famous Hermitage.”
A favorite trip outside the city was one she took with a friend to the selo (a rural village that contains a church) Tikhvin.
“We took an old Soviet train four hours away from the city, watched the snow fall out the window, read and talked,” she recalls. “In Tikhvin itself we visited orthodox churches and a monastery built in the 16th century. The magic of this trip will stick with me whenever I remember my time in Russia.”
Julia’s biggest piece of advice for students traveling abroad is to take initiative.
“Every city has more than meets the eye. If you do a little research, take advantage of your resources, and plan ahead, you can find some truly amazing places and things to do in your host country.”
Now that Julia is back on Bryn Mawr’s campus she finds that some of her fondest memories come back to her as she continues to study the Russian language, watch Russian films, and read Russian history and literature.
“This semester I am taking a Russian Fairy Tale class, and reading about Russian forest spirits and 19th century folk beliefs has a way of transporting me back to my adventures in rural Russia.”
Each year, about one third of the junior class studies abroad, usually for one semester, at one of more than fifty approved programs. Students may begin to think about study abroad in their first year and are welcome to visit the Study Abroad Resource Library in the Lower Level of Guild Hall and to begin to explore approved programs.