MY SEMESTER ABROAD IN ST. PETERSBURG. UNIVERSITY Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, Russia

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1 UNIVERSITY Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, Russia International Management Eastern Europe, Fachbereich 1 MY SEMESTER ABROAD IN ST. PETERSBURG

2 2 Preparations The decision about where to go for my exchange semester was easy. First, because I wanted to have the opportunity to improve my Russian skills, but also because I visited once this city and knew that I wanted to come back one day. From our university in Germany we got all the necessary information to apply for the State Polytechnic University of St. Petersburg and for a scholarship of Promos, which I was lucky to be accepted. After the confirmation of the Russian University I began to look for the visa, which was the most complicated part in my particular case. My sister s wedding was postponed to the end of September, which meant for me, that I had to come back to Germany one month later after the beginning of the semester. And after all my research this was not possible, because the student visa does not allow to leave the country within the first ninety days. Desperate I started chatting with my coordinators in Russia and calling every possible visa center. A couple of weeks later I got the idea to apply for a normal tourist visa, which was for only one month, then fly back and apply in Germany for a student visa. But having a tourist visa meant at the same time not being able to live in the dormitory of the university. So, another problem was to find as nearest as possible an apartment to stay. I found one, which was quite far away from the dormitory, where all the other exchange students where. The University I have to admit that the organization was very chaotic, the original date of the beginning of the university was, couple of days before arriving, postponed. So, every student who already had their flight could not change it. The explanation was that all the professors were still in vacation and they could not tell us when they would be back. So, in my case I was not allowed to have a buddy, a student who is in touch with an exchange student, they pick you up at the airport, guide you through the university and help you with everything. And just because of my status as a tourist at the beginning, which was kind of annoying. I was lost and confused the first day we had a meeting. Almost three weeks passed before we got our first course.

3 3 Another prove that the organization was not working was the fact that we did not get our multi visa in time so that we could have get the chance to travel a little bit before the exams began. And to be honest this was the part I was waiting for. St. Petersburg is favorably located, Helsinki, Riga, Vilnius etc. a lot of great cities are close to the former Leningrad. But unfortunately I had to satisfy with a weekend trip to Moscow and two small cities in the surrounding of St. Petersburg. The Polytechnic University is very big and has a lot of buildings in the north east of the city. Every faculty has its own building and professors. The main building did look on pictures very impressive and beautiful. But unfortunately it was not the case when we were standing in front of it. The closer we got, the more we could see that it was very old with parts almost ruined. It was a shame, that the university does not do very much relating to the maintenance of their buildings. The SPbPU does not have a main cafeteria, there are a few smaller ones distributed. A strange and funny fact was that they do not serve people with outdoor clothing. You have to take the jacket and stuff off, before going to the queue. The Courses and Professors The University offered for exchange students of the economic department only Master courses, although the majority of us were still doing the Bachelor. The bad thing was that they changed the whole course program for our semester, so we could not exchange information with the students, who were in St. Petersburg a semester before. Each department had their own schedule, that is why it was complicated to select our own. You could combine just from two departments, which was complicated, because of time issues. No one could really helped us. Each coordinator was telling us something different. In addition to these lists there was another list from another department which had nearly the same courses but with different dates and professors. We could not mix the courses which was a shame. The majority of the professors were very nice, a few Russian professors could not speak English very fluently, but it was all right. While we were thinking that they like and help exchange students, we realized on the day of the exams that it was apparently not the case. A few professors told us completely different things from what they asked in the exam. One professor was on the oral exam aggravated by the length of the exam, so he started to give bad grades and even telling the students that they deserved worse.

4 4 Although of this, the contents of the courses I chose, were really interesting. There was one course I particularly enjoy most, Entrepreneurship, it was interesting, challenging, entertaining and combined with hard-work. This professor knew how to keep our attention, by making us interact during the course in different ways. The Dormitory Our University has quite a few dormitories, which were not supposed to be very clean and nice. But the dormitory we lived in was recently finished. So, we did not have any problems neither with cockroaches nor with damaged furniture. It was five minutes away from the Metro station Ploshad Muzhestva and with the metro just 10 minutes to the center. As soon as we got the confirmation of the university, we got a bed in the dormitory. So, no extra application was not necessary. It was very bright and clean, it was divided in small apartments. There were smaller ones for just four students and bigger ones for six students. Each apartment consists of two bedrooms (with three beds, a refrigerator, three wardrobe and three desks) and a bathroom with separated toilet. In every floor was a share kitchen. The disadvantage of the new dormitory was that we did not have any community rooms, where we could sit in groups. Another thing that I wondered was that no one could speak English not even from the dormitory management, a part from a few words. I did know that it was not very common in Russia to speak English, but I expected that at least in the university, where international students with no knowledge of the language live. It costs per month around 90 Euros per month, which was very cheap. It is an interesting experience to live in a dorm, you get to know the habits of your roommates and friends, and see that mentalities are indeed very different. To give an example, while everyone was

5 5 getting ready to sleep at night, the Asian students started to cook their dinner at midnight, we knew it not only because of the smell, but also because the very sensitive fire alarm gave the alarm in each room. Another hint was in the morning the dirty kitchen St. Petersburg and the Russian culture St. Petersburg is a very beautiful city. There is a lot to see and even more as a tourist. Bus and boat tours are offered almost everywhere. These kind of tours on the streets are more expensive than on the internet. Also the main street which is called the Nevskiy Prospect, is 4,5 km long and has a lot of shops, restaurants, cafés and museums, literally everything. We never got bored. Our Russian teacher offered a few times during the semester to guide us through the city and tell us about its history. It was very interesting and fascinating to get to know stories about the buildings. There are also persons who offer tours for free, they usually are from the city and want to get the chance to know new people and practice their foreign language skills. We did once such a tour and it was really great. It was a Russian couple who guide us through the scary part of the city, to abandoned buildings and told us their myths and haunted stories. In my opinion one can enjoy even more the city or rather the whole country if you are familiar with the Russian history. The history is spread through the whole city. Knowing the historical names and their background by seeing any statue or painting allows you to enjoy more of it. Relating to the Russian culture it is not very similar to the German, but I could see a few similarities to the Mexican one. There was a difference between the students at the university and people on the street. The majority of the Russian students were really open and searched the contact with the exchange students. The Russian people outside the

6 6 university seem to be really serious and uninterested, they do not smile on the street. In this case it just helps to stop compare and take it as it is. Conclusion Although my first part which consists of my preparations and start in Russia, which were very stressful and strange I do not regret it. The fact that it was the only chance to experience my sister s wedding in person was worth it. Also the chaotic organization of the university was not helpful. But nevertheless the second part was much better and I could enjoy more of it. I got the chance to know great people and have with them a very good time. I also could improve my English and Russian skills, which was very important. The only thing I regret was that I did not get the chance to travel around. It was an extraordinary experience, which I recommend as a must-do. A semester abroad gives the opportunity to gain a lot of experiences which under any normal circumstances you would not been able to do. Being totally independent and on your own, is a big and important step. To learn yourself better, for example how you handle things without asking none of your family members or close friends is very interesting and funny, because not always things go the right way. Personally it helped me to be stronger and to know what my priorities are.

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