Learning RUssian in Petrozavodsk
Why did I choose Petrozavodsk, Russia?
A good characteristic of Petrozavodsk is the easiness of practicing the language on your daily life. Unlike major cities like Moscow or St. Petersburg, you will not hear much English here. This expectation was the main reason I chose this city instead of other well-known cities in the “European Russia”. Some people, especially the young, know a little bit of English but they struggle as much with it as I struggle with Russian. Most fellow international students here are from various countries in Central Asia, the Caucasus, northern (mostly Finland) and Eastern Europe. Many of them also have a better time speaking Russian than English. Therefore, if I wanted to make friends, I had to speak Russian while going out with people which has definitely helped me improve my conversational skills and vocabulary of topics that I am interested in and are useful in your daily life (unlike the classic language text books that give you almost useless situations like “the animals at the zoo and the ranch”). I did not think that I would have been able to immerse myself as much in the Russian language if I went to St. Petersburg or Moscow, knowing myself, I would’ve been lazy and switch to English while not in class. Besides, in Petrozavodsk I study at a university and not a language center, which entitles me to a university student ID, and therefore I have access to special prices and free entry to museums!
Did anything surprise you? What?
There are many things that surprised me from Russia (seeing really old cars still working, extremely punctual time-tables that would make DC’s public transportation jealous, the white nights, etc.), but what surprised me the most was to see the reach of the Russian language in other parts of the world. Since I am studying in a university, I have had the opportunity to meet full time students. Many of my friends come from Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. I was surprised to learn from them that Russian is actually learned since they are little, and also that it is very important in their respective countries to know Russian in order to have a good job even back home. But not only they are in this situation, I was told that also many countries in the Caucasus learn Russian for the same reason. Before knowing all of this and being confronted with what Russia is, I have learned that it is a very influential nation. This includes not only hard power, but also culturally and linguistically, which are requirements to be influential. I do not know what the future of Russia and its influence will be, but in this moment it is a country that has its own weight in the Russian-speaking world.
What is the best day you have had on your trip?
My best day for now is the excursion to Kizhi Island. This island is an open-air museum that hosts many wooden churches, but none as spectacular as the Kizhi Pogost which includes the Church of Transfiguration and the Church of Intercession. They are made entirely of wood, and it is a UNESCO world heritage site. We had the opportunity to see many buildings and old Karelian houses. Not only did we get to see the buildings, but in every stop we made, there was a Karelian ready to explain to us different aspects of their lives (all in Russian of course) from how they still use woods for their villages, the way they weave their clothing, and we even had the opportunity to dance their traditional dances with them and play their games. The island is a natural beauty and one cannot help but be inspired by the scenery of the beautiful landscape and the old, rustic and yet beautiful structures that are still being preserved by the Karelians and the Russian government. In this place I had the opportunity to admire Russian and Karelian history through its buildings and cultural activities, as well as feel the beauty and magic of northern Russia.