How I survived Russia….an interactive online program!

29 Oct

Hello everyone! My Journey to Russia has come and gone. I returned in mid-May. While I was there I was able to work in only just a couple of blog posts here and there but to be honest it became quite a bit of work. This isn’t the best website to upload massive amounts of pictures on and nor was there the best wifi in the place I lived.  Also, I  just wasn’t too fond of being stuck in a tiny apartment for hours working on a blog while in a foreign land which  I should be out exploring. For example, the blog post with the Russian-Soviet museum took almost 4 hours to complete, not fun folks! But I did it for my family and anyone else who was interested in reading. I hope you enjoyed! I do wish I had posted more but that’s in the past,  I can only look forward to more amazing journeys to other parts of the world.

I will tell you exactly how I got around Russia in two words: “Russian-Accelerator”. More specifically,

It is a wonderful online interactive program which teaches you words by context and powerphrases which are sentences used in relation to the word which helps you to easily memorize when studying. It opens your mind up to so many different words, phrases, and verbs that by the time you’ve gone through just a few lessons you will be amazed by how many words you already know and how many sentences you can construct!  I know I was! No joke! This was exactly how I survived in Russia.

Here is a review I wrote for a wonderful website,it is a wonderful resource for westerners looking to embark on a journey to Russia (also Ukraine).  The review is about Russian-Accelerator and it goes into more detail of how it helped me and how it works.

Here is my review below.


Russian Accelerator Review

Russian is an incredibly difficult language to learn those who take on the challenge are very brave. I’m going to begin this ‘testimony’ by being blunt. First of all, if you’re going to buy that one book that claims to be the best resource for learning Russian, don’t. If you’re going to enroll in a Russian class in a community college, don’t. Finally, if you’re going to shell out money to hire a private tutor, don’t. Why? Because I did all three in a span of 2 years and could barely speak a sentence! All I retained was vocabulary and modifiers which I had absolutely no idea how to use!

To learn any language you need something interactive, a tutor may seem interactive but it’s not flexible enough and in my experience I was simply handed packets. This is not how you learn a language. I was nearly going to give up my studying the language until I heard about Russian Accelerator. I checked it out and that’s when everything changed.

I started the program and I did a trial which is available on the website. From this lesson alone I was able to retain so much more information than I ever had those past 2 years! I immediately purchased the rest of the program. Now to backtrack on my earlier statements about the tutor, the book, the class, these things are only useful as a buffer. This means they’re useful for reminding you of vocabulary, verbs, adverbs, modifiers, sentence structure etc. However, this only works if you already have a grasp of the language. Russian Accelerator gave me that grasp! It helped me make sense of the language in just 2 or 3 units, which there are 18 in total. It was the first time ever I felt confident and that I was actually learning, because I was!

The reason why I was so frantic to learn Russian was because I had a trip to St. Petersburg coming up via a study abroad program. I was going to be living there for a few months with a Russian family as well as studying at a university.

There is one particular unit in the program which focuses on asking directions. In one part of the city I had actually gotten lost. It was my first time out on my own without the “chaperons” or the other students. I was panicking but I utilized what I had learned from that unit and asked every person I could for directions and progressively made my way towards the subway I needed! I was so relieved! There were some American students there that didn’t speak a lick of Russian and I have no idea what they would have done in my situation, but I knew exactly what to do thanks to Russian-Accelerator.

The language classes I took in Russia were tailored to the American teaching style and they were, to put it bluntly, a joke. The only reason I learned anything useful was because I had a grasp of the language already. Not to say I didn’t learn anything, I had learned some more verbs, certain expressions or sayings but other than that I know I wouldn’t have learned a darn thing had I depended on that class to teach me. While quite a few students earned 2’s and 3’s on their exams I would earn 4’s and 5’s! All solely thanks to Russian-Accelerator!

So please, if you’re trying to learn Russian, try learning Russian with Russian-Accelerator first.

I urge you to put the book, the class, and the tutor on hold and just try this program. I will always be grateful for it and it was a real treasure for me to find! Now I know I’ll never let the Russian language escape from my brain! Russian Accelerator made sure of that. Honestly, it works and you will be satisfied!


That’s it! Again, to reiterate and to make it very simple…learning Russian? Get this program! Now!! Don’t wait!

Once again, it is

Here is the URL for the website which hosts the review.

I also wrote a lengthy article for about my stay in Russia complete with a couple of pictures, the link is provided below!

The website itself is a great. It has information about russian/ukrainian customs as well as providing travel tips, info on jobs, and even dating tips! It’s a great resource for us westerners who always seem to be fascinated by this mysterious place known as Eastern Europe… or more specifically, Russia, Ukraine. etc.

I invite you to come take a look! It is!

I hope everyone enjoyed my blog, the trip was wonderful and it was one of the most magical times of my life. Credit is given to my family for the support, specifically Mom and Dad, for with out them this trip would have never been possible, and credit is also given to Mark and Dasha and the rest of the staff of Russian Accelerator, for with out them I would have been a small fish in a shark tank!  Once again people, try it!

Thanks again, to everyone!

До свидания!


Spring in Russia! and quick excursion to Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery

9 Apr

Hello everyone! I know my semester has come to an end and I still have loaaads to put up. I still have Moscow and Hungary to talk about, and then soon I have Estonia and Finland to see! So I’m going to be extra busy! I promise I will get them completed soon! I’m working on the Moscow blog now! Please forgive me if the blogs don’t seem to have the same “spirit” as the others….


Anyway, here’s a look at Spring in Russia…




Now on to Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery…

This cemetary honors the civilians that died during the siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). The Nazis surrounded the city and wouldn’t let anything through, or anything out, this includes supplies and food. Thus, populations inhabiting the city are to fend for themselves until rescued.

Unfortunately, this is more so a place to see in the summer, as there are hundreds or perhaps thousands of red roses and green grass all along each flower bed but in the winter/spring its just simply snow. Still beautiful, however.

Eternal burning flame, took a few pictures to get it just right! At the very end you can see the statue “Rodina Mat” meaning Motherland, or I suppose “Mother Russia”




Those little beds are all supposed to filled with red roses all the way down to the statue in the center of the picture.
















Inside memorial building, a small “museum” with a few mementos from the war..

Heart breaking, this little girl documented the deaths of her famiy on these pieces of paper, she writes, “Uncle died on…” “Papa died on…” and so on.





Under the siege, there was a shortage of food so the bread had to be rationed. This is what people got.





Russian State Museum of the Political History of Russia and Hockey.

30 Mar

Hello everyone! Wow it has been a while since I updated, almost too long! I have a LOT in store for you.

Let us begin.

Here hangs a giant bronze cast of the Soviet Coat of Arms inside the Grazhdanski Metro (Citizen’s metro) which is the one I use to get to school.Almost everyday (if I don’t ride the bus) I see this, and at first I was surprised.

Don’t forget everyone you can click on these pictures to enlarge them just in case you were wondering why some were hard to see. These aren’t the actual picture sizes.


Here stands a statue of Maxim Gorky a famous soviet writer and influential figure in the arts during Soviet era, particularly founding of “Socialist Realism” an art form which was used to glorify the “worker’s state”.



Oh the irony. A hammer and sickle remains engraved into a building, above a high end shoe store, ecco.


Hammer and sickle I saw while driving to Pavlosk (we’ll get to that


Another one I saw while walking on Nevsky Prospekt


Revolutionary decoration inside a metro.



A bronze cast of the Order of Lenin medal in a metro,


Plaster dedicated to Grigory Romanov. He was a soviet politician with a career in the Red Army and was the main rival against Mikhail Gorbachev in a brief power struggle.


A bronze cast on the wall of one of the metros, Lenin addressing a crowd!


My visit to the Russian State Museum of the Political History of Russia! Most of its emphasis was towards the Soviet Union and the Communist era. The building itself was used as the main headquarters of Lenin and the Bolsheviks for a period of time.

There were many different USSRs with in its 74 year existence. The USSR under Stalin was very different than the one under Brezhnev, for example. Each new era the country went through significant changes each time, like a roller coaster ride.

Naturally, we’ll begin at the beginning, with the Revolution.

Lenin says: Welcome Comrades!


The Revolution

The office and desk Lenin worked at, a big red banner spouting party slogans overlooks the entire office.


I can’t quite make out all of it but it speaks of the workers state and central unity, something along those lines. Its hard to read.


Another desk…I don’t think that red bottle is vodka but maybe. I’m sure managing a revolution and then a new country was rather stressful…


but then again if it was vodka it seems rather contradicting to feature this

A balcony which Lenin spoke from to the masses outside.


Here is a painting in the style of “Socialist Realism” of Lenin addressing a crowd from that same balcony. A very good compliment of a rather dull previous picture, would’t you say? And darn that sunshine



The infamous work of Karl Marx “Das Kapital” (in russian) sits on a small shelf along with other socialist literature in Lenin’s office.


A portrait of Tsar Nicholas which was slashed with bayonets by revolutionary forces.


Uniform of a Revolutionary fighter (for the reds).


Mauser, used widely in Russia and Europe.




Propaganda from the White Army depicting the Red Army as devils and godless while the white side is pure and has God on their side, yes Tsarist forces were very “pure” indeed.


Poster for the Red Army, It features a man cutting away at serpents and it says “For a final victory the red army needs red commanders!”


During the revolution, the Bolsheviks tried to appeal to other nationalities with in the Russian Empire. In this case, the poster says “Kazak! Who are you with? With us or with them?” And it shows the reds standing on the left, a Kazak man in the middle, and the white army standing on the right consisting of fat people with top hats and money bags, the usual depiction of “capitalists” in Soviet propaganda. Later, Kazakhstan was eventually integrated into the USSR with all of its neighboring central asian countries, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan etc.


Medals earned in the Revolution


Uniform used by the White Forces (White Army) in civil war.


Imperial medals.


Be warned this next one is a bit gruesome, the death of Rasputin. It was said that he told the Tsar that he held the Russian Empire togethe, and that if he died it would fall. Surely enough, after a few Tsarist officials set a trap for him and killed him, the Russian Empire fell not too long after.


Revolutionary painting.  This painting was get an idea of the size you can just look at the bannister on the lower left corner of the photo. Can you spot Lenin in the painting?


There he is, waving to the masses!


On the lower right hand corner, looks like some Tsarist officers being taken prisoner. In the army, the soldiers considered themselves “proletariat” while the officers loyal to the Tsar were the “bourgeoisie”. There was mass mutinies against officers, many were shot when their regiments would switch sides to the revolutionaries. Some showed no mercy towards their officers in beating them up and ultimately killing them.


A picture of the new revolutionary government, Lenin is the bald one near the left and a much younger Stalin dressed in black stands behind him, apparently wiping his face or biting his nails, holding a scroll of paper with the other hand. This picture actually isn’t very hard to find online.


The new government, Lenin as the centerpiece. Trotsky is at the center right, next to Lenin. Stalin is the one in the very upper left hand corner.


The Stalin Era

A giant silk embroidery made for Stalin as a gift by a few different seemstresses. In the picture is Stalin on the right, and one of his closest associates (or henchmen) on the left, Lazar Kaganovich. They nicknamed him “Iron Lazar” It’s an entire map of the USSR greatly detailed, with a railway and trains featured underneath, and a golden statue of lenin all the way on the left. That golden statue is the same one that was featured near the top of this blog entry.


In full view


There’s a close up shot of the embroidery, where Moscow is located. It says “МОСКВА” which says “Moskva” aka Moscow.


Close up of the coat of arms


Close up of train down at the bottom.


It really is a beautiful piece of work, regardless of what it may represent.

Closer shot of Stalin and Kaganovich.



Standing in front of an official portrait of Stalin, protected with bars.One of the first painted after World War II I believe, when Stalin adapted the full on military look donning a Marshall’s uniform.



Prisoner clothing worn in the Gulag


A quilt made be a gulag prisoner


Things made and used by prisoner’s in the gulag, you can see the aforementioned quilt on the far right, a suitcase, some cups, and a chess board. Interestingly enough some people in the Gulag would still hold pictures of Stalin in their wallets or have some in their living quarters.


Average everyday kitchen in the USSR, Stalin era.


“The Poliburo” short for Political Bureau, which was one of the highest governing bodies that would deal with the major issues in the country and make important decisions. After Lenin’s death Stalin turned him into an icon, a spectacle, and used his image to advance his own agenda. It is quite obvious in this picture, inside a silhouette of Lenin’s head, Stalin is in the center surrounded by a few of his appointed loyal comrades. Completely absent are all the old members of the revolutionary government, most noticeably Trotsky, but also Kamenev, Zinoviev, Bukharin, Tomsky etc.


Uniform of NKVD personnel, the Secret Police, (NKVD was predecessor to the KGB) It went like this, first it was called The Cheka, then the GPU, then MGB, then NKVD, and finally under Khrushchev it became the KGB which was what everyone is familiar with, and it stuck like that until the end. In Russia Today its called the FSB.


Gun used to assassinate Sergei Kirov. He was a prominent party member and was gaining a lot of popularity and influence in Leningrad, this scared Stalin, so naturally, he had to go. However, it has never been proven if Stalin really ordered his assassination. A communist party member who was “jealous” had killed him, and that killer was tried and executed. That is the official story.


Propaganda of Stalin


A desk, portrait of Stalin, a bust of marx on the desk, and a small statue of Lenin on the right on top of a book shelf full of Marxist-Leninist literature.


Peasant woman in the collective farms, harvesting grain.


Mandate of the 19th Party Congress, the last congress attended by Stalin in 1952 before he died in 53.


Khrushchev era, Space Race, etc.

Credentials of Yuri Gagarin, first man in Space. I’m sure Cold War kids remember that day.


Gagarin’s uniform.


Sputnik (one of them) I don’t think this was the first one actually in space.


Khrushchev’s glasses and chess set.


His hat and his shirt. He was known for being a simple man, not dumb but with little culture and appreciation for such things as art, a philistine. Also quite rude, wouldn’t let people speak or would speak over them, never sought advice with his comrades. One of the many reasons they deposed him.


His military uniform.


“Our Nikita Sergeievich”  His full name was Nikita Sergeiyevich Khrushchev.



“Phrases and….Bases!” It’s a bit blury, but its saying that the US is spouting peace but then at the same time putting more bases near the USSR, such as in Turkey.


“Everything for the people!” A woman holds up a key to an apartment. More and more apartment buildings were being built under Khruschev, as you can see next to the woman are blue prints of the apartment blocks. It was called “Collective housing,” and the rent was just a tiny fraction of your income, to the point where it was widely referred to as “free”.  I suppose it was cheap enough to be free.


He is a painting featuring corn on the cob morphing into consumer goods. Khrushchev had the idea to replace grain with corn as the staple food crop and it would “solve all the problems” of the USSR. This failed miserably and Khrushchev had the govt ended up purchasing grain from Canada. Just another embarrassment to add to the list before his colleagues booted him out. A rather creative picture, though.


The Brezhnev Era


Leonid Illych Brezhnev. Was leader of the Soviet Union for 18 years, lead the USSR longer than any other leader besides Stalin. He became Khrushchev’s successor. He was trusted by Khrushchev as his apprentice and was promoted to prominent positions with in the govt, once he became a full member of the governing body, he partook in a plot to depose Khrushchev and he was voted in as the new General Secretary and reversed many of Khrushchev’s policies. Brezhnev was generally seen as a much better diplomat and statesman, at home and abroad. Tensions between USA and USSR were low under his rule, and he listened to and sought advice from his colleagues. Also as mentioned before, there was a period of growth in consumer goods seen under his rule. When asked, most people say they preferred the Brezhnev era in the USSR. However things weren’t fine and dandy, don’t get me wrong, but society in general became a lot more relaxed. Movies came out in which they could joke about customs of soviet life, and you couldn’t get in trouble for making a few jokes here and there, that is, if they weren’t criticizing socialism, but it was okay to maybe poke fun at some leaders. For instance there were many jokes about Brezhnev at the time and soviet customs.



“For the collective communist labor” or something like that…


The propaganda became even more impressive looking

Poster talking about producing for the country, coal, oil, and gas!


Brezhnev with Nixon, visiting the USA.


Soviet passport, it says “official passport” used by “higher ups” I believe. The citizen passports were red and simply said “passport” or “паспорт”


Some consumer goods, or food. Hard to really tell what it is.

A pair of Soviet Jeans, hard to really see. They were made to emulate the western jeans as they were all the rage in the USSR. The jeans were not very comfortable were low quality and failed to satisfy Soviet citizens and they still sought after the Western jeans in the black market.


Construction worker gear. Down below is a machine used to extract cow milk from udders.


Record albums, rock bands became more prominent.



A calculator.


“Stagnation” The Brezhnev era was also marked as Stagnation. Stagnation was economic as well as Social. Soviet life became “normalized” at the same time and it slowed down, nothing changed. Rather than fear people began to harbor cynicism towards the system they lived in, it became a joke.  The govt. never wanted to make any big changes because then people would want more, and more. They learned their lesson after the Praque Spring in Czechoslovakia. A lot of spending was also put into military and new and improved consumer goods were there of course but came in short supply, i.e. you had to be at the store early!


Brezhnev is also known for his major decision on sending Soviet troops to Afghanistan, which was referred to as “Brezhnev’s Vietnam”

AK-47 and military uniform used in Soviet Afghan War.


Close-up of medal. It consists of the soviet flag and the flag of the short lived Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (Socialist government).


School in the USSR

A typical classroom, a portrait of Lenin lingers over the school students as well as the teacher’s desk in the front, between the two windows.



A little blurred, but I think its emphasizing the importance of science (in socialist principles of course). This woman was watching me like a hawk in that entire classroom so I could never turn my flash on.


The agenda for the school children,

School children were called “Oktabrinok” which meant “October babies” and the next step was Pioneers.

I can translate some of it off the top of my head.

First says “October babies, to be pioneers!”

2nd “Love school, and our country” or something like that

3rd “Only those who love work…”

4th Truthful and brave, dexterous and skillful,

5th “To read and recite, to play and sing, Happy they will live”


Some instruments, toys, crafts,a stuffed animal penguin.


A poster emphasizing the important of the older children to help the younger children. Teenagers and high schoolers were called “Komsomol,” they came after Pioneers. After Komsomol you graduate into the Communist Party, if you want to do so, or if you qualify i.e. your family had to have a “proletariat” past or had taken part in the revolution, or you couldn’t be religious. If your family was aristocratic or involved in the church before the revolution you had a difficult time joining the party or moving up.

The poster itself says “Komsomols, help the children to study well and then rest well”


Different medals given to young children for achievements. It was very much like boy scouts.


Teacher’s desk









Not much emphasis was put on Perestroika in the museum. Gorbachev talked about Lenin’s vision being “blurred” by Stalin and all of his predecessors. This picture symbolizes the blurred version and the clearing up near Lenin’s eyes is supposed to be Perestroika. Lenin was still regarded as untouchable when it came to criticism in Soviet politics and not even Gorbachev condemned anything Lenin did and he used his image to pass on an agenda. One that ultimately failed miserably.


That is the end. There is much, much more to come. I have taken quite a few pictures the past month and have been to quite a few places. I have a lot of catching up to do!

Inside one of the Metro stations. Beautiful.


Ok the Hockey Game, it was fun. I mostly just took a bunch of videos but I do have a few pictures I could share.



Person waving a soviet navy flag which happens to be the same colors as the hockey team, so that’s a creative idea. couldn’t get a good picture of it I tried and tried.



The game was pretty fun. The highlight for me was when they played the Russian Anthem before the game started.

After the hockey game: At McDonald’s


Ok all! That’s pretty much all I have in regards to the hockey. I didn’t really take much pictures I just wanted to sit and watch the hockey game.

Soviet automobile gallery! I don’t know what it is about these cars they’re just so intriguing to me!

Next update coming soon! No more month long hiatuses!

See you next time!

Catherine’s Palace and other

18 Feb

Our excursion to Catherine’s Palace.

The next few pictures are outside of the palace.

We were required to wear shoe covers when we walked around the palace. Everyone had to wear them so no one looked goofy.








Golden domes in the back



Statue of Catherine II the Great, one of the few Czarinas of Russia. Also portraits.










One of the very many long hallways inside


One of the many golden clocks







A dining room


A much more extravagant dining room


Royal dining rooms aren’t complete with out gold chairs…


An amazing chess set.


Stuff left over from the Wehrmacht-German Army from WWII (or known as “Great Patriotic War in Russia) when they occupied Catherine’s Palace




A ball room, perhaps…





Below is a picture of numerous ceiling paintings and decorations







A bath house (outside the palace, can’t go in) I couldn’t get a good picture of it up close because its surrounded by these well trimmed hedges, so I’d have to get either really close or really far. There was a statue of her inside though, and then some checkered  floors, and then some hole with bannisters on the side of it,  presumably the bath.





Heading towards the exit


Emily and me



Aja and me standing out in the middle of a frozen pond outside the palace (I was a bit too distracted to pose for a picture)





Icicle curtains


Tour of a Soviet era apartment (Not the one I’m living in).


That’s all! I will be moving in to my host families apartment on tuesday and I’ll be sure to take pictures and video of it as well!

Excursions, random

11 Feb

Hello everyone! I apologize for the long wait, it has been such a busy week and reliable internet connection has been tough to come by around here. I have started classes, toured St. Petersburg, and visited the hermitage!!! I’ve also taken many interesting pictures along the way and a few from  my own random excursions through out St. Petersburg. Let’s have a look!

I received my student ID card (I wasn’t supposed to smile).



A relic of Russia’s communist past, hangs above a door at an old technical school which I don’t believe is being used anymore. You actually see quite a few of these hanging around on buildings, as well as statues (which we will see later).




St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University, in the day  time.

Or Sankt Peterburgski gosudarstvenski politechnicheski universetet


More Soviet era automobiles.










Standing in front of the boat, Aurora, with new Ushanka (I took the pin off shortly after).



Outside the Winter Palace/Hermitage.




Standing in front of Winter Palace/Hermitage. The Hermitage was gigantic and overwhelming, we saw all kinds of art and you can only take pictures if you pay. I was with a group and we had limited time but what I’m going to do is devote an entire day for the hermitage and take pictures, as much as I can. Its very beautiful inside an’ out.  We walked all around and saw a vast number of pieces even then we only looked at a fraction. I’m sure many have heard the tidbit about how it will take 9 years if you devoted just 3 seconds of viewing every piece of art. Inconceivable.



One of the entrances to the hermitage




Just before entering the actual exhibit…very beautiful architecture.




Subway, I thought the cyrillic spelling was interesting (No I didn’t eat there…but…)



I did arrive at Lenin Square for my own special excursion and was desperate for food so, shamefully, I’ll admit I did go here…

It was just outside of the Metro at Lenin Square.



And why did I go to Lenin Square exactly? The next few pictures will speak for themselves.





The Cathedral that Spilt Blood.










Soviet Cafe: An obvious tourist attraction, many Russians were still eating in there however. Everything inside was very old fashioned looking, hence, a Soviet cafe. It wasn’t like an outback steakhouse that was supposedly supposed to be Australian, yet they don’t make an effort to make it really australian themed.







Pipe outside my unversity



Old Soviet Piano, it says “Red October -Leningrad-” (St. Petersburg was called Leningrad during Soviet times and then changed back. It was also called Petrograd once before. It goes like this, I believe it was always st. petersburg, then changed to petrograd to sound less germanic, then to Leningrad, then back to St. Petersburg. Someone in my class actually asked which name my teacher prefers, and she said she would be okay if the surrounding area  (With all the mundane Soviet buildngs-where my university is) is called Leningrad, and then the downtown area as St. Petersburg. I thought that was a great answer.




If you don’t understand what she meant I will demonstrate it for you visually.

Here is St. Petersburg



Aaaaand here is Leningrad:



I think you get the picture.


Library founded by Catherine II the Great. A statue of her stands in the middle. The library actually stretched all around in a square, or 3/4’s of a square.








Catherine and me.



On a bench…part of what is behind me is the library, Catherine statue is then to my left. Very big. Couldn’t get a good picture of it because it was at night.



Some Russian locals

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I suppose that’s all for now!!!

More to come! We visted Catherine’s Palace. I also promise I will go back to the hermitage to get pictures, its 200 rubles (about 6 US dollars) to take pictures and for me its free to get in because I’m a student (They’ve been known to over charge westerners).

See you soon!!!


I have arrived in the Motherland!

3 Feb

I am here in Russia!!! I spent 2 days in London and then I arrived in Russia today (February 2nd) at around 4:30 pm or so.  I spent time talking to a Russian woman who was very angry that she had to put her purse inside the shelves on the plane. She seemed very cold and then all of a sudden opened up to me as I spoke to her more and more in Russian. I was told by someone that some may be extremely cold at first and then will warm up to you and be the nicest people, in this case, that was true.

Here is our plane above St. Petersburg. Looks like it will be a pleasant sunny day, doesn’t it?


However, once we went through the clouds, a different world had emerged!


Here are some Soviet style buildings (still from the plane, obviously)


I went through customs, and surprisingly, I wasn’t even spoken to. Quite different from the English customs agent who interrogated me quite intensely. After customs we went to St. Petersburg Polytechnic University. If you’re imagining a bustling college campus you’d be let down. The building itself is actually a soviet era construction and is basically a slab of concrete.

I am on the third floor, and for whatever reason (God knows) the elevator does not stop at the 3rd floor. Our program director suggested that we go to the 4th floor and then carry our stuff down. The rooms themselves have various remnants of its communist past as well. For instance, upon opening up the window, the handle ripped right out from the wood. Luckily my roommate had a screwdriver on him to fix it.


After James (my roommate) fixed it-luckily an easy fix, the hilarity did not stop here. Upon opening the window we discovered something.


There was a tear at the bottom of the screen and to fix it, someone patched it up with a Russian news paper. It looks like the window but that is the screen there, patched up with a newspaper, that can easily be moved if touched.

We had our orientation and some procedures and rules were gone over, and then myself and 2 other students went for a walk. We saw many of the soviet era cars (Which I will be sure to get more pictures of) but I’ve never seen any quite like this.

It appears whoever owned this car wanted to be different and was tired of looking the same as everyone else-owners of old soviet era automobiles, that is.


A ghostbusters logo with question marks surrounding the back side of the car. Now that’s unique.

Also here is this one!

My roommate James and I, in front of the Soviet ghostbusters car.


As we continued on our walk, we went to a 24 hour store. The picture below appears to be a wheelchair ramp. Russia is known for being notoriously difficult for the handicapped, a rusty, small slab of metal slanted at a 45 degree angle proves this claim. I later found out these are actually “luggage sliders” and not meant for wheelchairs. However, people (with assistance) will still try and use them as wheelchair ramps and have no other choice.


Here is a random sign posted. Something that would look so mundane to a local is just so fascinating to a foreigner


the “IMOP” building. The outside of my dorm. The outside looks a bit more modern but the inside is still very soviet esque.


Random picture.


Picture from the bus. The best one I could get.


Random stuff outside at night.


My dorm room.


Once we’re out and about I will definitely have amazing and interesting things to show you instead of just shoddy buildings, weird cars, and odd construction/design jobs.

As I sit here writing this, I still cannot believe I am in Russia. I find it absolutely amazing that I am finally in the country that I’ve been so obsessed about.  I know I have a long journey ahead of me full of excitement and discovery. I once again must thank my Mom and Dad for everything they did to make sure I went on this trip, which was exactly that, everything.

There is much more to come!!!


P.S. remember to click on the smaller pictures to enlarge them! Don’t know why those ones appeared smaller when I uploaded them, but just remember this!!! Thanks!!


9 Jan


Me and a World Upside Down. (I don’t think I’ll receive diplomatic immunity, Hah!)

Hello everyone, readers, friends, family etc.

My name is Charles! I created this blog to document my trip to Russia! I will be leaving the States on January 30th and I will stay until May 15th. I am going through a Study Abroad Institute called the American Institute for Foreign Studies (AIFS) and I’m so thankful for them for accepting me into their program and ultimately the assistance of my Mother and Father for whom with out this trip would have never been possible. This is a wonderful opportunity for me for I get to see a place that I spent days and nights studying its culture, reading literature, and studying the history. I have been fascinated with Russia since high school and after 8 years I am now finally able to set foot in a place I was only able to read about.

I will be staying in St. Petersburg and will attend the St. Petersburg Polytechnic University. The city itself is beautiful with breath taking architecture and plenty to do, museums, sight seeing, restaurants. There will be short vacations scattered through out the semester which will consist of a trip to Estonia, Finland, and the capital of Russia, Moscow.

Each and every day I spend here will be precious and I will take full advantage of my camera to capture every last moment I spend in this country to preserve great memories.

I almost failed to mention that I initially will land in the United Kingdom January 31st and will spend all of February 1st sightseeing in London! The next post I will make is when my trip has officially begun. I invite anyone who is interested in traveling, or Russia, to tag along and read my blog as I will try my best to update it as much as I possibly can (Keep in mind, I will be attending classes here as well i.e. its not exactly a vacation).

We will meet again January 30th, and then we will officially begin!

See you then!