I occasionally get homesick while at Richmond and a big part of it is due to the lack of Chinese food in the city. I also rely very heavily on public transportation because I cannot drive. Since Richmond’s public transportation system is not so great, I often have to pretty walk from shuttle drop off locations. However, it is almost the end of my third week here and I feel perfectly at home. The public transportation system here is very efficient and I like commuting. I spent all of middle school and high school commuting to school by bus and by subway, so this is the life I am used to. People here also walk extremely fast, which I appreciate a lot, but I also cannot believe they are able to walk that fast on iced over sidewalks.
To give you an idea of how snowed-in and iced-over Saint Petersburg is:
I also just received my official student ID from Saint Petersburg State University. This is by far, the best ID (and best picture) I have ever received.
Speaking more about holidays, February 16th was the start of Chinese New Year. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any local events related to Chinese New Year, but my friends invited me out to eat Chinese food. Although, I have not seen many Chinese people in this city (aside from tourists, it’s pretty easy to tell if a person is a tourist), there are so many Chinese restaurants here. Although, quantity does not necessary mean quality, every place I have been to so far has been really good! I am sure there is a big Chinese population here, but I live in a touristy-but-not-really type of neighborhood, so I do not see a lot of people.
This past Sunday (February 18th) was the end of Maslenitsa (Мaсленица), also known as “Butter Week” (maslo/масло means butter/oil). The holiday is celebrated the week before Lent, so people have this week to enjoy themselves. This holiday is also celebrated to say goodbye to winter and welcome spring. People celebrate the entire week with different activities, including making and eating tons of blini (Russian crepes). The most interesting part of Maslenitsa to me is that blinis are supposed represent the sun, so they are welcoming the sun……by eating it?
Also, at the end of Maslenitsa, they burn a giant straw doll / scarecrow to commemorate the start of spring. Unfortunately, I was not able to stay so late and see the burning myself, but I did buy some dolls before I left.
I just talked a lot about food and holidays, but not so much about academics (this is indeed study abroad). Homestay life is really helping me out in speaking and a little in reading/writing (see below).
At school, what we do in our conversation/grammar classes are a little confusing right now. Because of an odd schedule mix up, the class we thought was grammar was actually conversation, and vice versa. One language class is significantly harder than the other, which makes it weird because we’re all in the same level for both classes. Otherwise, everything is going great in my elective classes. I am also got permission to audit a Master’s level class called International Security Regimes (taught in English) at the university itself and I went to the first lecture this week! The class has about twenty-something students and only about 1/3 to 1/4th of them are Russian. The rest of the students are exchange or international students, which I find really interesting. I took some political science / international studies classes at Richmond and really wanted to continue to pursue it, but I did not have the time. I have not been so good about planning my free time here so far, so this will be one of the things I will be looking forward to every week. I also will be volunteering at a site (all semester), but I will talk more details next time! Thanks for reading.
До свидания (goodbye).
Жюстин, not Джастин