Last year, I embarked on one of the most daunting trips of my life: Russia. I would be studying there for 3 months. Before I left, there were mixed reviews about life in Russia and what to expect. For example, you can pretty much guarantee that anywhere on the UK news, there will always be a story about Russia containing elements of classic Russian stereotypes – a dangerous country, alcoholics, hooligans and bears. I soon found out that this was far from the truth…
On 11th February 2018, I flew from London Heathrow Airport to St. Petersburg Pulkovo Airport. I arrived in snowy St. Petersburg full of nerves, yet excited at the same time. I’d never seen so much snow in one place! After making my way outside, I was taken to the flat where I would be living with a Russian host and two of my fellow university classmates. To my surprise, I would be living within walking distance from the famous Marinskii Theatre (literally a 5-minute walk!). After getting settled in at the flat, my classmates and I sat down with the host to learn a little about the area, how to get to university and her background. The host was such a lovely, kind and generous lady, who – throughout our entire stay – provided us with meals, snacks, lots of tea and general advice.
I won’t go into detail about the days that I spent in Russia, but I will say that the country itself and its citizens surprised me. Yes, it is totally different from the UK in terms of how it functions, thinks and its mindset, as well as its extreme weather conditions, culture and traditions. However, it is fascinating because of those differences (which I will explain in detail in a later blog post). It is such a beautiful country, full of historic architecture and traditions that make it unique from any other country. The stereotype of Russian people faded away so quickly when I was there. Yes, people can seem harsh at first (just like people from any other city e.g. London), but once you get to know them, they are friendly and can really help you! They are definitely not scary, alcoholics or hooligans as the UK media often portrays them to be.
Throughout my Russian adventure, I spent time not only in St. Petersburg, but in Moscow and Sochi too, where I met a diverse range of characters. This experience taught me not to believe in stereotypes and to experience it for myself before making a judgement. It made me grow as a person as I learnt more from first-hand experiences by embracing different cultures and other ways of thinking. If you are willing to adapt and be open to change, Russia will be such a positive experience for you, like it was for me. Yes, there were lows but there were also highs and it is these experiences that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I can definitely say with confidence that I will be returning soon!
до скорой встречи! x