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Travel Experience:The students reach the top of Sacred Mountain near Irkutsk.
Siberian Adventures
Sample Itinerary for a 32-day trip

By Renee Stillings,
Program Director, SRAS
Commentary by David Galloway,
Professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges

This tour was arranged for a group of 17 students and 3 professors from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, of Geneva, NY. The mixed group included environmental studies and Russian studies majors as well as three faculty members. Non-Russian speakers were paired with Russian speakers for the homestays so that the two groups of students were able to learn from one another.

The trip was made possible through a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Grant, which is administered through the U.S. Department of Education.

Below is the itinerary that SRAS helped them arrange. The accompanying comments were provided by the faculty who helped lead the group. We think this example goes a long way to showing that a successful trip is not only the result of careful planning in advance, but also of making sure you have someone locally "on the ground" to take care of the inevitable problems that arise when traveling with a large group. 

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Departure from New York

There was plenty of opportunity for us to suggest changes (during the pre-departure organization and information) and there was a genuine effort to incorporate those changes whenever possible.  Every time a student asked me a question and I relayed it to Renee, I received a clear and helpful answer within a couple of days.


Arrival in Moscow 11:10
Tour of Moscow center
Lunch (Uzbek buffet)
Flight to Irkutsk
 The group at Irkutsk State Linguistic University


Arrival Irkutsk – 11:30am
Transfer to host families

Coordinator/Contact in Irkutsk:
   Katya Nizamova

Quite simply, Katya Nizamova is incredible.
She always knew what was happening, and if things weren't going right, she could fix them. She made the trip work, on every level. Having someone like that was invaluable.


Russian Courses
   (32 ac hours total)
Siberia Today
   (8 ac hours total)
Daily Lunches
Frequent Excursions
(see below)

I really liked the variety of kinds of homes the students were placed in, since it gave them a  chance at least to hear about a range of living conditions. Having the dorm rooms in which to store our extra luggage was very helpful, and the dorm was fine for a short stay.

12 cont

Excursions included:
Regional Museum, Trip to Lake Baikal – Listvyanka, Limnological Museum, Wooden Architecture Museum, Decembrist Museum, City Museum, Minerological Museum, Geographical Institute, private meeting with local environmental expert.

 Decembrist Museum, Irkutsk


Arrive Ulan Ude. Breakfast, Ethnological Museum, Lunch, Visit to Buddhist temple (Datsan), Traditional Buryat Dinner, Performance by Youth Theatre in Ulan-Ude.  The play we saw in Ulan-Ude was fantastic.  Great for Russian learners, too.


Visit to Old Believers' Village (excursion through the village, performance of traditional songs
and skits with cultural explanations, traditional Siberian lunch);
Departure on night train to Irkutsk

Pictured right - One of the
American students on the tour (seated center) is dressed as an Old Believer bride as part of the performance!

 One of the students dressed as an Old Believer bride.


7:00 - Arrive Irkutsk

12:00 - Transfer to Olkhon Island
Nikita’s is sublime... His breakfasts are to die for. Some people got tired of omul’, but his
staff can cook! So how can you really complain?  It makes me wistful even now….


Environment classes (16 ac hours total), meetings with locals, ST project, assignments from Russian language teachers

The Environmental Studies course would have been excellent had Arkadii’s English been better; as it was, it was very good. The project Arkadii designed was wonderfully interdisciplinary, and the students generally enjoyed it a lot.  They also loved him, but they (and we) had great difficulty following his lectures.


8:00 - Depart to Irkutsk
14:00 – meeting with GBT coordinator
17:00 – Departure to Bolshoe Goloustnoe

20:00 arrive BG – organizational meeting, introduction to families

The only "group" banya event was on Olkhon, when we took the plunge into Baikal and had the banya  on the shore for warming up in. In BG, we all just used the banyas at our home stays. The students grew very fond of this approach to getting clean after a day of trail building.


Begin Great Baikal Trail Project
Village history and introduction
Hike to Sacred Mountain
Story of its legend told with view from top
Picnic by Goloustnoe River
Safety instructions for trail building

Hiking sacred mountain


Trail building to Sacred Mountain. This was always on the top of the list, before
and after the trip. Students just thought it was so cool to do, and they were incredibly inspired by the GBT folks,  some of whom are their age or even younger. It was hot, exhausting, draining, and ultimately amazingly fulfilling.


Making traditional birch bark boxes; Traditional Russian singing by women's group

(Birch bark box building) didn't happen due to communication problems (lack of telephone service). We carved wooden spoons instead, which was fun but didn't seem quite so "folk  craft-y."  What I liked best from the activity was watching Volodya interact with and encourage the young 
local boys who wandered in and tried their hands at carving.


Hike to Dry Lake (maybe with local children)
Picnic with traditionally made fish (omul) on sticks
Collecting garbage on the way back with children

We didn’t hike with them, but visited them at school and did some pickup soccer. That was fun.


Trail building to Sacred Mountain  Building a trail at Lake Baikal


Meeting with local children, talking about ecology.
Acquiring skills for preparing wool and knitting with Dora Alekseevna.

(The knitting demonstration was) very neat. Dora Alekseevna is a darling and it was a great session, especially starting from the piles of raw wool!  I think many didn’t manage to do much, but it was neat to do.


Acquiring skills for preparing wool and knitting
Meeting with local people
Big last dinner in Faina's house

Good, but there were too many of us for the kind of hands-on teaching we needed. I think the best part of it was the chance to meet Faina’s mother. The
big final dinner at Faina's was actually a big final picnic by the river.


8:00 am. Departure to Irkutsk. Stay in dormitory.  Leaving Bolshoe Guloystonoe


Early morning flight home

Given the wide variety of backgrounds, what they got out of it differed from student to student.  For some, it was a chance to use their Russian, for others it was a chance to think about familiar issues in an unfamiliar context, for all it was a chance to experience another culture and to gain a new perspective on their own culture. Even those who had been to Russia before were struck by how this trip broadened their sense of the country and culture.


 SRAS Resources
for Teachers
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 History and
Town of Irkutsk

Click for more about the historic town of Irkutsk.

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your Group Tour
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