I apologize for not posting anything sooner. The past few days have been a bit crazy but hopefully once we start school and figure out what classes we need to take, I would have more time to write.
I’ve been in Russia for 4 days now and all we have been doing is orientation. For the first two days, it did not really feel like I was in Russia because we were staying at a hotel and everyone was speaking English to us. I got the chance to meet most of the students on the program which was great because now I know who would be in my classes and who to look for in the hallway of the school. Two days ago we went to the school campus. The buildings are very pretty and interesting. One of the buildings that we are studying in is located behind a cathedral; however, that cathedral was never actually used as one because while it was getting building one of the workers that was working on the roof, feel off it and in Russian Orthodox tradition a place where someone has died can not be used a church, so they decided to finish building it and then the St. Petersburg State University took over the building and now they are using it as concert hall because it has great acoustics. Below is a picture of the cathedral and parts of the other buildings. Later, I would take more pictures of the university and upload them on here.
We start school tomorrow morning. I have no idea what classes I would be put into but I know they would all be in Russian. I am not really nervous about going to school though. I am definitely more nervous about living with a host family than going into a classroom and not know what the professor is saying.
My host family is really nice. I have not had the opportunity to meet my host mom yet because she is on a vacation somewhere in Southern Russian (if I understood correctly) and she would be back sometime next week. I met her niece who is living with her and she is really nice. She makes me breakfast every morning and dinner when I come back. They have two cats- one of them, the younger one, is very playful and nice and the older one- not so much. She seems to be a bit angry because apparently, she used to be the “host” of the house until two years ago when the younger one came. Hopefully she would warm up a bit soon.
The apartment that we are living in is very interesting. It is quite small compared to US standards but nevertheless, it feels homey and comfortable. It has two bedrooms and one of them they gave to me so I have my own room. The most interesting part of the whole apartment building to me; however, is the front door or the front doors. I have a really interesting set of keys. When you look at them, you might think that you are going into a castle. There are two separated doors that we need to go through to enter or exit the apartment. Both of the doors are metal and thus it will be really hard to break them down if someone tried to. The reason why they are made out of steel is because Russians are cautions about thieves and home burglaries. The area that I am living in is a one of the safe places around St. Petersburg but as in any big city, people tend to be more cautions and tend to protect their houses more. We live on the 10th floor (apartment buildings in Russia are very tall and very long because during the Soviet time, the government wanted to build comfortable and yet practical housing for all of the citizens; all of the buildings look almost or exactly the same and it is really easy to tell when one complex was build although it is really hard to tell them apart). Since we live that high up we need to use the elevator. When you get off it on your floor the first thing you see is a metal door that unless you have the key for it, you cannot open. Then when you walk in there is a hallway and from that hallway you can get to your apartment or the other apartments on that floor. I think there are 3 or 4 apartments on our floor. And then each apartment has another metal door and behind that door there is a “normal” wooden door that people do not keep locked because there is not point since you have that metal door in front of it. It took me a while to figure out how to lock and unlock all of those doors but now I think I am better at it. Hopefully by the time I leave here I would be able to lock and unlock them with no problem.
The apartment that I am living in, is not very close to the school but it seems like there is a good way transportation to there. I can always get on the metro and that would not take me more than half an hour. The metro here is very interesting I will do my best to take pictures of the different stations. One thing that is the most shocking and interesting about the metro is the fact that it is very deep because it travels all the way under the Neva River so it takes you about 5 minutes to get from the ground all the way down to the train but nevertheless the stations are very beautiful and interesting.
We’ve already seen the Hermitage and the Winter Palace. We had a guided tour around the most important parts of the Hermitage because if we wanted to see every single exhibit in that museum, it will take us one whole year to do so. The Hermitage was very interesting; however, I was very tired from waking around. I think I would go back sometime soon by myself because that way I would have more time to see the exhibits that I really liked.
Today (Sept. 9) we participated in a scavenger hung game around the city. The whole group was divided into 6 smaller groups of 10 people and each group had the same task- be the first group who collects the most items. Unfortunately, our group did not finish first but we were the second runner up, so that was not that bad. I got really tired though because we walked around a lot and St. Petersburg is a big city.
I realize that this post has been too long and I would my best in the future to not post so long posts.