Nothing is more rewarding to the SRAS consultants than positive comments and feedback from our students. Below is what some of our former students have had to say about their experience and SRAS.
We have also provided full interviews with some recent SRAS students.
COMMENTS FROM STUDENTS,
RESEARCHERS, AND TRAVELERS
First of all, I hope this note finds you well! It is hard to believe that it's been almost two years since I participated in the Crossroads of Empires program in Warsaw; it feels like only yesterday that I was packing my bags and getting ready to go.
I wanted to write to you and let you know that that program has had a substantial and tangible impact on my career path and choices since then, and that I am constantly looking back at that summer in Warsaw as the time and place where I discovered my passion for what I am studying now. As someone whose life has been shaped by studying abroad in many different ways, having participated in four study abroad programs during my time as an undergraduate, and being the son of someone that has devoted most of his professional life to fostering and promoting overseas study, I often find myself reflecting on the impact that study abroad has had on me. Of all of the experiences that I've had, it is this program, with its incredible scope of topics, speakers and experts that has truly been the most impactful. I came into the program as someone who was passionate about the history of Europe, but who did not have much enthusiasm for (or knowledge of) current events. It was my experience in Crossroads of Empires that bridged that gap from the past to the present for me, and which sparked my interest in contemporary European affairs.
After that summer in Warsaw, I continued to follow the developments in Poland (particularly Poland's relationship with Russia, the buildup of NATO forces on Poland's Eastern border, and the Polish-German relationship, which was the focus of my final project), and began to realize, after several experiments in other career endeavors, that this was what I was truly passionate about. Coming to this realization, I applied for, and was accepted to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, where I am currently pursuing a Master's degree in Public Administration. This summer, I will be interning at a political organization in Munich, Germany, assisting the organization's international affairs department with a publication on the current state of Intra-EU and transatlantic relations. Following my graduation, I hope to start a career in this field.
In closing, I just wanted to thank you and SRAS for putting on such a great program. At a time in my life when I was at a crossroads regarding where my career might take me, this course showed me a path that truly inspired me, and I haven't looked back since. Ben DeYoung
B. DeYoung - Summer 2015 (Warsaw)
Note: the Crossroads of Empires program has since been expanded into the Security and Society Program.
"I just want to start off by saying that Vladivostok definitely captured my heart within the first week! I love it here. Arrival and orientation went well, and as far as attention by the staff goes, they and their volunteers are very dedicated. Housing is comfortable, albeit a little inconvenient when it comes to undrinkable water. My class schedule is finally set after a few moves within groups. This city grows more interesting by the day.”
L. Mendoza - Spring 2017 (Vladivostok)
"My semester back home so far has been incredibly influenced by my semester abroad with SRAS and I find myself talking about it almost daily. Since many of my classes touch on the region (Europe after Socialism, Central Asian Politics), I'm able to add comments and insights unavailable to me before. We recently examined an online communal apartment museum for my anthropology class and my own memories proved particularly helpful. My contributions to our Russian club have also been greatly enriched. Yesterday, we hosted a lecture on the influence of the KGB on the rock scene during perestroika and my Tsoi project immediately came to mind. Thank you for everything you did to facilitate this experience and going out of your way to ensure our success.”
E. Finn - Spring 2016 (St. Petersburg)
"The program here is wonderful. All of my teachers have been extremely helpful and I have made friends both here in the dorms and with others who live in the city and find that I often have many opportunities to practice Russian outside of the classroom. The university also has a speaking club which is comprised of both Russian and foreign students solely for the purpose of speaking practice in Russian. Already I feel that my Russian has improved immensely,especially my listening and speaking. [Our on-site coordinator] is great and is always keeping us up to date on opportunities here at the university and around the city.”
J. Willburn - Fall 2015/Spring 2016 (Vladivostok)
"I had such a fantastic experience this year. The writing and translating projects, and feedback, have been extremely helpful and rewarding. I'm so much more confident and experienced as a translator. My Russian also improved so much, the classes were great, and I really loved being in Bishkek. I feel sure that I'll spend more time there.”
S. Rehm - Fall 2014/Spring 2015 (Bishkek)
"For the past couple months I have been trying to reflect and draw as much as I can from the program in St. Petersburg. The SRAS Art and Museum Studies program has definitely had a positive impact on me as a student. It has brought so much insight and renewal to my studies here in Ohio. Recent world events and ongoing issues also have caused me to continue to reflect on my time in Russia.”
S. Roldan - Summer 2014 (St. Petersburg)
"I’ve studied in Irkutsk and St. Petersburg with SRAS, but [Bishkek] is, by far, my favorite because of the intense focus on speaking skills. I spend about three hours, 4 times a week speaking one-on-one. It's such a unique opportunity! The people are also especially friendly here. My homestay is fantastic, the coordinator is a never-ending wealth of help, and the food of Central Asia is delicious.”
C. Hughes - Fall 2011 (Irkutsk), Spring 2012 (St. Petersburg), Spring 2014 (Bishkek)
"Thank you very much for all of your help and guidance over the past few months. The SRAS staff have been extremely kind and supportive, and I could not have asked for a better study abroad experience or student blogging experience. I never miss an opportunity to mention SRAS to fellow students at IU who are considering traveling to the former Soviet Union, and hope to see more Hoosiers choose SRAS over some of the far more bland and boring options available to them for overseas study.”
A. Wilson - Summer 2013 (Kiev)
"I just wanted to thank you for a most wonderful and productive experience in St. Pete!! I've participated in my fair share of study abroad programs (4 of em!) and working with ya'll was by far the easiest and most pleasant of them all. I know that this year was especially trying on the paperwork side of it, but Renee - I can't thank you enough for how available you were and willing to work with us. I had a wonderful time this summer and ya'll made my experience incredibly easy and rewarding and I really appreciate it! I've got nothing but great things to say about SRAS and I know that lots of others feel the same!"
M. Furman – Summer 2013 (St. Petersburg)
"The SRAS program in Ukraine offers incredible, individualized language instruction. This was by far the best language experience I've ever had! Just ask, and you will receive."
P. Hunter – Fall 2012 (Kiev)
"The excursions included with the Siberian Studies program were wonderful - very informative and educational, always fun. We went to many museums and visited many beautiful places, like the largest island in Lake Baikal."
J. Long – Fall 2012 (Irkutsk)
"SRAS was extraordinarily helpful. Due to my initially weak Russian skills, I had a tough time in the beginning, but survived regardless! The local staff were friendly and responsive. Living with a host family was the most rewarding part of the summer. Olga and Vadim were delightful, always hospitable, and at times, truly felt like parents."
T. Zajicek – Summer 2012 (Vladivostok)
"The guest lectures in the Russian Far East course were spectacular! It was the most informative part of my trip as well as academically engaging."
J. Blaisdell – Spring 2012 (Vladivostok)
"I wanted to find a program that combined my love of Russia and my passion for environmental studies. Because of my interest in environmental issues, Lake Baikal had always been a site of interest to me. There are two study abroad programs in the Baikal region: Middlebury and SRAS. I chose SRAS because they had internship and research components and Siberian focused course options. Studying abroad in Siberia gives you the opportunity to see a completely different side of Russia and the Russian people. Just think, few people at home even know that Siberia is anything but a wintery tundra!"
I. Korsgard – Academic Year 2011-2012 (Irkutsk)
"SRAS is extremely helpful organizing VISAS, airplane pick ups and everything else associated with getting settled. They will help any problem in a timely manner. There was an issue with housing at the beginning but that seemed to be out of their hands, and they did their best to get us a great apartment last minute."
A. Spurlock – Academic Year 2011-2012 (St. Petersburg)
"Siberia has been fantastic! I have enjoyed all of the excursions, the linguistic university, and all that life requires in Irkutsk. My Russian skills have blossomed. I am very glad that I chose to endure the non-English city first. It has been frustrating and beneficial."
C. Hughes – Fall 2011 (Irkutsk), Spring 2012 (St. Petersburg)
"Thank you so much for all your help. I really enjoyed my time in Russia and am extremely sad that I cannot return next term. My experience with SRAS was fantastic and my Russian improved substantially."
E. George – Fall 2011 (Moscow)
"I feel very well supported here by the staff and it's great to have that peace of mind. I'm very excited about this academic year, and I feel like I'm gaining much more knowledge not only in Russian language but in Russian politics, culture, economics, and so on than I ever expected."
- S. Myers, Fall 2011 (Moscow)
"The classes we are taking are really great! The quality of our classes is good, and our teachers are nice and professional. They are great about responding to what we want to learn and what will be most useful to us in the future, which is awesome. The support staff at our university is also really great. They found out that we are working on theses at our home university in Seattle and have set up meetings for us with their professors who are helping us do research. We were also put in contact with their head librarian and are able to use their library facilities as we need. This has been really valuable and helpful, and I feel the university is really going above and beyond for us."
- A. Thorsteinson, Summer 2011 (Vladivostok)
"I am very glad to have had the opportunity to work on this project, and I have definitely learned a lot from the experience. Not only did I learn from the very act of translating these texts, but perhaps even more from your corrections and suggestions. You really helped me see the consistent weaknesses in my translations, and that is invaluable knowledge to my development as a translator."
- E. Damiana, Summer 2011 (St. Petersburg)
"I love it here! The city is so beautiful and historical! There is so much to take in with only 6 weeks here. And my class is also great! The teachers are very nice and help anytime I need it. Thanks so much for all your hard work! I feel so lucky that I don't have near a hassle as many other students who didn't go through this program. It was a great choice!"
- V. Lindley, Summer 2011 (St. Petersburg)
"I love Kyrgyzstan! I am very sad that my time here is almost at an end - it has flown by. The SRAS and London School services have made this an incredibly worthwhile experience."
- C. Holsapple, Summer 2011 (Bishkek)
"The in-country SRAS support has been great. Sergei and Masha (local coordinators) are always on call and I've definitely felt they are looking out for us and are available if we have questions or need help."
- C. Jebens, Spring 2011 (St. Petersburg)
"Pass it on to whom it may concern that you guys are awesome. I had the time of my life on the Russia trip and I was totally amazed by how many tours and activities we got for how much we paid. I was also surprised by how well organized and put-together everything was. I know part of that was because of our super amazing professor, but a lot of it was SRAS as well. Organizing anything that involves a bunch of college students, a budget and Russia sounds like a nightmare, so I was certainly impressed. It really was just awesome. So thanks a ton!"
- K. Brady, Summer 2010 (student on SRAS-assisted professor-led tour)
"This program has, in many ways, changed my life and I’m thrilled that I studied in Irkutsk through SRAS. The experiences that I had during my semester supported an incredible amount of professional, personal, and linguistic growth! The receipt of the SRAS research grant made a huge difference in positively shaping my experience by forcing/allowing me to contact various people/ organizations, conduct interviews, expand my knowledge of Russian and Irkutsk as a city. Many students envision Irkutsk as the bus ride between the dorm and university-- I avoided this false perspective with the help of the grant, which motivated me to expand my views and knowledge. While I could have, of course, done this with out the grant, it was none the less a huge motivating factor and the funds allowed me to have more complete travel and research experiences (traveling to nearby villages to conduct interviews, printing and running a survey, etc). I am happy to say I have received a Fulbright grant to return to Irkutsk and continue to conduct ecology-related research next year and I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to make connections and fall in love with the city and its people this semester."
- S. Beckham Hooff, Spring 2010 (Irkutsk, recipient of SRAS Research Grant)
"I was incredibly impressed with Russia, and had a fantastic time! Russia was very different from what I expected but that is always good in my book: if it were what I expected then I wouldn't learn anything, right?
I was also really impressed with the guides you set us up with. All of them were incredibly knowledgeable, extraordinarily friendly and some had enough character to be story-worthy for my whole life. Example: Galina in Moscow, who showed us the Kremlin armory. She really likes cats and gave us a book she wrote about cats in Russian. She was awesome! And the woman who lead us with the painting in the Hermitage, that was incredible! (Even though I was a terrible artist)
Anyway, all told it was a great experience. I was one of the Montana students who hadn't studied any Russian so I was a bit nervous, but I got by just fine!
Thanks for everything."
- J. Miller, Summer 2010 (student on SRAS-assisted professor-led tour)
"I'm really pleased with my classes – I feel like I was slotted into the right level group, all my profs are wonderful and I feel like I'm learning quite a bit. I've been impressed with the in-country support, although thankfully so far I haven't had any extreme situations so my experience has been fairly casual so far. I'm staying with a host family and couldn't ask for better people - I feel part of the family and they've been very patient and helpful. I would definitely recommend the program to others, and in fact have done so already."
- T. Jones, Summer 2010 (St. Petersburg)
"I enjoyed the initial walk-a-bout - Josh's knowledge of all things overt and occult in Russian politics is fascinating. I very much appreciated my experience with both SRAS and MGU, and mean for this review to reflect positively on their efforts. Thank you."
- J. Reed, Fall 2009, Summer 2010 (Moscow)
"[My Russian language instructor] was amazing in all aspects. She did a superb job of making class enjoyable, educational, fun, and relaxed. I looked forward to it every day. She was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about helping us speak and learn the language better. I had an amazing experience and learned and did so many things. It was definitely an amazing growth experience for me. I just want to thank SRAS for a great opportunity and the trip of a lifetime! I learned and saw so much and I will never, ever forget my four months in Moscow. Thanks again!"
- B. Para, Fall 2009 (Moscow)
"You and your staff are unbelievably helpful and dedicated."
- D. Morrissette, Summer 2009 (Moscow)
"Hey Renee, Just wanted to give you the promised update that I made it, all is well, the program seems wonderful. My dorm is very nice (only lacking internet... thus the delay in sending you this) and my room and roommate are wonderful. So thank you for all your support. Everything went as well as could possibly be expected. Until next time... "
-L. Robertson, Spring 2010 (Nizhny Novgorod)
"I love this program. You all are so amazing and attentive... probably more even than you need to be... I know we are like herding cats ... Lisa is AMAZING!! She is always available and willing to help anyone in the SRAS program and she really makes you feel supported - which is hard to do in this crazy city ... . I love this program, I'm going to recommend that my department at school suggest it to other students every year. Thank you for everything!!"
-N. Szablya, Summer 2009 (Moscow)
"I really enjoyed my programme - a very hard-working young teacher who did a great deal to meet my language and content needs - good home placement as well ..."
-S. Capaldo, Summer 2009 (Moscow)
"I have loved it here, and plan to give rave reviews to Wesleyan students and the study abroad office when I return!"
-E. Trammell, Spring 2009 (Irkutsk)
"Renee, You are really fabulous. You have been incredibly attentive and helpful, and I feel extremely confident and comfortable working with you. (That is important when one is planning a trip to Russia.) I will definitely recommend your services to anyone I know planning a trip to St. Petersburg. Thanks again."
-J. Siegel, Summer 2009
"Hi Lisa, I had a really fantastic time in Nizhny. Anna's "teaching through culture" method really made the classes fun and interesting. Lesson times seemed to pass really quickly, plus I feel like a lot sank in even in the short time I was there. Despite my initial concerns, the separate flat worked very well. After classes in the afternoon I went home with Anna and had dinner at her place before going home. There was defintely no shortage of the conversational practice that was one of my main reasons for going to Russia. And I think that especially if I had been staying for several months having my own space would been a real blessing.
"I also spent a lot of time with Anna's mother who works at the art museums in Nizhny and took me on a tour – a real treat. All in all, the trip was full of wonderful experiences: Looking for herbs in the oak forest and being eaten alive by the HUGE Russian mosquitos and getting a lesson in Gorodets-style painting on wood in the local tourist office.
"Thanks to you and Renee the logistics of the trip also went off very smoothly. My train tickets were waiting for me in Germany and I was met at the station in Nizhny as requested. They may seem like small things but I know from travelling in Russia before how valuable those services are and how much more pleasant they make the experience!"
-T. Baikie, Summer 2009 (Nizhny Novgorod)
"Everything is going excellent here. My classes are great, and everything with my research is going along very well so far ... Anyway, a big thank you for arranging everything for me here."
"I'm back home in New Jersey, making my transition back to American life after what was, thanks to SRAS, a phenomenal year in Russia. As I promised, I will be sending lots of photos and other info about my year as soon I have everything organized."
-D. Marcus, 2008-2009 academic year (Khabarovsk)
"It was great! I'm very glad I went, it was a ton of fun as well as being academically useful. My language skills definitely grew dramatically - I'm even surprised how much my accent improved."
-W. White, Summer 2008 (St. Petersburg - "The Arts in Russia")
"I want to take the opportunity and say thanks for all your effort and hard work you put in getting me over there. I had a fabulous time. There were alot of awesome sites. I enjoyed the historical and cultural parts Nizhny offered. The international affairs dept of LUNN and the teacher were great, very professional and overall nice people ...
"Like the Orientation Guide says, There will be moments of enjoyment, frustration, and bewilderment. It's all part of the experience, so enjoy it. I can pretty much attest to that. I experienced all those while abroad and it adds to the whole of being an incredible experience. I've been learning foreign langauges and cultures now for a long time. This was my first attempt to actually experience a foreign language and culture. Trips like these for students with international interests can be a crossroads of sort. You try one and either you like it or you don't, and you don't wish to continue said endeavours. I can honestly say that this experience has whetted my appetite for continued education and experiences."
-P. Marth, Summer 2008 (Nizhny Novgorod)
"Just got in yesterday; LOVE it! ... Met with Sergei this morning; he is an extraordinary resource you have, very knowledgeable, and really helped us a great deal."
-F. Easterly, Fall 2008 (St. Petersburg)
"Everything in Russia is an adventure. It's nice to get to the point of being at a comfort level with the language where I can feel like a part of the community, really enjoy films, TV, and socilazing with Russians beyond the basic conversations like "when did you get here and how long are you staying" or "what are the different holidays in your country?" My Russian roommate and I just chat all the time, cutting each other off, interupting, laughing. At times, I forget that I am even speaking Russian. Sometimes I even speak Russian in my sleep. I can't even remember all of the Starbucks beverages, but I know all of the names of the vegetables in the market, even the strange ones I don't eat and whose names I don't even know in English. I do feel ackward writing in English, feeling spelling mistakes, broken grammar, etc. Oh well. Yes, quite the adventure here in Russia."
- C. Mannen, Summer, Fall 2008 (St. Petersburg)
"Dear Renee, ... I came back from Russia/Belgium last week. I wanted to tell you how happy I was of the services you provided. I have already recommended you to one of my colleague and wil be happy to do so with other colleagues if they ask me."
-O. Markides, Summer 2008 (Moscow)
"Thank you for all your help in making this trip possible. I will recommend SRAS to all my other classmates that still need to study abroad. You were so nice and so easy to work with. Thank you again."
-A. Schoonover, Summer 2008 (Moscow)
"I've written glowing reviews of the Russian program to the head of my department back home and really recommended that more adventerous students consider Bishkek since it is SO much cheaper and it seems on the streets nobody speaks English - so my Russian has dramatically improved in just a month."
-D. Kedziora, Summer 2008 (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)
"Things are going very well for me. My arrival and these first few days went by very smoothly. I am very happy I chose your organization to come to Russia."
-O. Markides, Summer 2008 (Moscow)
"Renee, thank you so much for your time, your cooperation and your dedication to this program. I am sure this isn't your first year and it very well shows. Your hastiness and your personal dedication to each student is truly rare."
-J. Broehl, Summer 2008 (St. Petersburg)
"Just an email to say thanks so much for all your help with Bishkek. I'm here now and having an absolutely wonderful time."
-R. Mullarkey, Spring 2008 (Bishkek)
"I just wanted to let you know that our trip to St. Petersburg last weekend was fantastic! Sergei, your representative there was awesome and really showed us the best weekend we could have asked for."
-K. Farris, Spring 2008 (Moscow)
"I had an excellent time in Russia studying there over the Fall '07 semester. Thank you very much for assisting me through the experience. It was so great that I'd like to go ahead and do it again! I'm interested in doing an SRAS internship this summer ... You have taken so much time and energy to make sure every student's questions are answered and that every single thing goes smoothly, and I don't think any other study abroad organization, even directly affiliated through an American college, could ever show such individual care and consideration. It's really something!
-S. Gray, Fall 2007 (Moscow)
"I must say, being in this country is a whole different experience when you see it in person versus when you read about it. I have learned a lot after being here just a month though I know there is still much to learn about the Russian character. I also like that being in Nizhny, Russian is always necessary to use because foreigners aren't as abundant as I saw in Moscow."
Update in Fall 2008:
"I'm currently pursuing graduate studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. This time I am working on my MA in Linguistics with hopes of returning to Russia next summer. Or at least I'm hoping to land either another study abroad opportunity or internship in Russia!
"Yes, I'd be more than willing to be in contact with any students planning to study in Nizhny. Let's just say that experience remains vivid in my memory, and I frequently have dreams about being there! Sometimes they even haunt me! Not so much in a bad way, it's just that I experienced a more intense feeling of culture shock coming back to the US than when I first arrived in Russia. It took me nearly a year and a half to get over it!"
-N. Jackson, Fall 2008 (Nizhny Novgorod)
"I also would like to thank you for a wonderful experience. I've had a great time ... my host family has been terrific, and my Russian has even improved. I can get by fine in just about any situation, even though I make a lot of mistakes, and I've even gotten to the point where I can watch TV or a movie and follow it pretty well -- I watched "Ïèòåð - FM" the other night and really enjoyed it. Great film, if you haven't seen it."
-D. James, Spring 2007 (St. Petersburg)
"I want to thank you for your help getting me to Moscow. I have my dream job right now, and I don't think it would have happened had it not been for the opportunity and flexibility that you and SRAS provided me. Thank you very much."
-I. Woodward, Winter 2006 (Moscow)
"You have been soo helpful in this study abroad process and I want to thank you. Also, your guidance in the NSEP process is the reason why my campus representative (who used to be on the regional scholarship committee for NSEP) has strong confidence in my ability to win this scholarship. On several occasions he has noted that my guidance from you has put me in a great position to win this award. It all started out as a pure desire to study in Russia and it is turning into an experience that may be a determining factor in my professional career."
-K. Martin (Moscow)
"Thanks so much for all your help. ... I have since switched over into the translation department and have found that I was given perhaps the coolest rukovoditel [advisor] imaginable for my dissertation. He heads up the trans lab, plays jazz guitar (I myself am a saxophonist)...etc...in short, I am exactly where I would want to be if I could be anywhere here!"
-M. Price, Fall 2006 (St. Petersburg, MA program)
"This was an experience that changed my view on life and on Russia. With the help of SRAS I was able to achieve my dream of traveling there but also to do many things on my own and make my experience the best possible one for me. If you truly want to learn Russian at a speaking level seriously look at the Irkutsk program as it will immerse you in a way Moscow and St. Petersburg cannot. Upon my return my Russian professor could not believe the progress I made in only 2 1/2 months. Thank you SRAS for all of your help in making this the excursion of a lifetime."
T. Yaroch, Summer 2006 (Irkutsk)
"Hi Renee, Siberia was absolutely amazing and I am going to apply for the Spring semester of RSL in Irkutsk. I realized while I was there how much I want to become fluent and right now I'm about halfway there ... Thanks for everything SRAS did for us. We all had an incredible time!"
-Katie. Summer 2006 (Irkutsk and Lake Baikal)
"I had a great 7 weeks in Bishkek, and was very satisfied with the experience. It's great that SRAS has a program in Bishkek, as it is currently the only American program to offer study in Kyrgyzstan. I hope more students will be attracted to Kyrgyzstan to study Russian, it's a beautiful country and Bishkek is a pleasant, laid-back city."
-C. Drew, Summer 2006 (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)
"I really enjoyed the instructors at InJaz (ISLU), especially the materials they used, which I was able to find and purchase for use with my own students. ... all in all it was a good experience. Irkutsk is definitely off the beaten path, and I spoke Russian so much that by the time I got to Sheremetyevo and actually saw Americans and talked to them while waiting to check in for my flight, I had difficulty speaking English. It was great!"
-R. Stauffer, Summer 2006 (Irkutsk)
" ... Again, thanks so much for everything! This trip has been amazing!"
-A. Andrews, Summer 2006 (Moscow)
"Things are going great. Better than great, actually. Tynara has been an excellent teacher (and guide--I wouldn't have been able to visit half of the places I've gone to without her). This trip has given me the information I needed to finish designing my research for my dissertation. And I have had lots of adventures: kyrgyz-anth.tripod.com (blog)"
-S. Wheeler, Summer 2006 (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)
"Renee ... thanks for setting this whole deal up. It has been remarkably smooth considering that it is a pretty complex operation. I'm pretty impressed."
-R. McIntyre, Summer 2006 (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)
"Dear Renee and Natalia ... I've never lived such a long days in foreign country, so Russia will be my second home country. I've met many people and some guys complaind and said they dislike this country. But I don't think so. I like Russia, and if I can, I would like to assist development of this country by business. As I expected when I was in Japan, Russia has big potential not only in the meaning of economy, but also people itself. I learned not only Russian language, but also life in Moscow. I hope this experience will help my carrer. I would like to say to you Thank you so much for everything! And I also hope success of your business and life."
-T. Oizumi, Spring 2006 (Moscow)
"Renee ... I have been pleased with the service from SRAS and all your expert help. I can say I experienced many valuable discoveries, and will return to America with a new frame of mind - and a few new tricks up my sleeve. I must collaborate with SRAS again in the near future, and look forward to doing so. Thank you for the being the individual instrumental to my introduction to study in the Russian Federation. It has been a great pleasure, and an exciting journey. "
-J. Jackson, 2005-2006 academic year (St. Petersburg)
"I really want to thank you for the great program. I had the time of my life in Russia and can't wait to go again."
-J. Chan, Fall 2005 (St. Petersburg)
"I want to thank you again for your cooperation, while I was having issues with my university. Your prompt responses and flexibility to meet the needs of my university were greatly appreciated. Thank you again."
-J. Stejskal, Fall 2005 (Irkutsk)
"Renee, I would like to tell you that I had an incredible six weeks in Moscow and would like to thank you very much for helping to facilitate my stay. Further, I would like to thank Natalia and Josh for being so kind to me while I was in the hospital. I am happy to fill out the survey for you and I may contact you later in the year about next summer. Thanks again, Evan"
-E. Sparling, Summer 2005 (Moscow)
"Hi Renee ... Mikhail was VERY helpful, we really appreciated his assistance with enrollment. Thank you again for all your help, you were wonderful at maintaining encouragement, support, and counsel. I think you do a wonderful job and hope to keep hearing from you from time to time about yourself."
-L. Robertson, Fall 2005 (Moscow)
"Hi Renee, I am finally home. Thanks again for helping arrange a fantastic, really productive summer! The special courses were everything I'd hoped for and then some."
-E. Mark, Summer 2005 (Vladivostok)
"Dear Renee, Hello and welcome once more from Peter. I am almost done with my stay here (unfortunately). I have been having a wonderful time and would love to recommend the SRAS program for you. The people at the university are amazing and have planned some really amazing excursions for us. Thanks, Becky"
-B. Bavinger, Summer 2005 (St. Petersburg)
Internship with Doctors of the World
I am very much enjoying the internship. I am working in an office with only Russian speakers, and although most of my work involves translating Russian into English and searching English sites in the Internet, I am getting to use my Russian more than I would otherwise. The group I am working with really are very friendly and are making work here very enjoyable. The greatest thing I am getting out of the internship is however more on the art front. I have always been hugely interested in art and this internship has given me an opportunity to gain an understanding of how a press-office works. The translating and researching has expanded my knowledge of art (especially Russian art) and attending the opening of galleries and seeing how they are put together has pushed me in the direction of the art world as a career path.
I wouldn't recommend it to someone who wanted complete immersion in Russia nor someone who was primarily interested in using it as a step into museum PR work, it would be better, unless they were fluent Russian speakers, to do that in America and England. For me, however, it has definately given me a chance to speak more Russian, and the translating has meant my vocabulary expands daily, and it also has whet my appetitie for a career in art, preferably Russian art.
-Alex V., Fall 2004 (St. Petersburg)
Internship with Russian Museum
"Hi, Renee! Everything is great here! White nights are starting...school is ending:) I suppose I have a paper that could be published, but I'm afraid! I wrote a paper about Putin's "Democracy" this year. If you want, I suppose I can try to get the nerve to send it to you:) I want to tell you how much I appreciate you. This is nothing new- I have reminded you again and again how much you help me, but now there is even more that points out how lucky I am to have found you and SRAS in general. All of the other foreign students in my program complain so much about paperwork (and various other bureaucratic things) that they don't understand or didn't expect. Dealing with the bureacracy has turned several of them off from even continuing this program! At first, they were confused about why I couldn't empathize with them, but now when they complain about something and I am silent, they just look at me with contempt and say, "SRAS". I didn't even realize how helpful it was that you prepared me so well for everything I would encounter here in terms of registration, etc.! Thank goodness for you, Renee!"
-A. Nave, Fall 2004 (St. Petersburg - MA program)
"Renee, I just wanted to drop you one last email saying everything has worked out PERFECTLY, I got a great family and I start classes tomorrow. Everying is going much better than I expected. I just wanted to say thanks for this great opportunity and experience."
-P. Lyon, Summer 2005 (Irkutsk)
The internship in St Petersburg was great. Linguistically not only was I challenged with the work environment, but I also had to translate a number of important documents for Fort Ross. Also I had the responsibility of making phone calls to foreign firms on behalf of my boss. I've used the internship as a reference point in my current job hunt, and I already have two promissing offers. All in all it was a great experience, and I can't wait to visit Russia again. Thank you for helping me find this internship!
P.S. I am mostly interviewing for positions in finance, because that is my main focus in economics. However, this internship benifitted me, because I spoke with many CEO's and CFO's over the phone. I got first hand experience dealing with top level individuals and dicussing the financial benefits of outsourcing. It taught me how to get over the intimidation of calling these people. After a week I thought it was kinda fun calling CEO's in Germany, Sweden, and Finland all in one day!
-Mike S., Summer 2005 (St. Petersburg)
Internship with Fort Ross (Software)
I appreciate the follow up. The program in its entirety was an excellent experience and provided an awesome opportunity to gain additional insight into Russian business and culture. The employees with which I worked were extremely nice and seemed to be as excited to interact and learn about my culture as I was to learn about theirs. Likewise, the job itself was challenging and forced me to apply a substantial amount of the information I have learned in university. I appreciate your help in finding this internship it was an eye opening experience and unlike anything I have experienced in the past. I apologize for not contacting you earlier, but it seems that the moment I return to school the world stands still. Currently, I am planning another exchange, this time in Prague, and maybe an internship if I am lucky. I hope that everything is going well in Boston and Russia of course. It's great to know that the resources you provide are available, and I hope that you are successful in attracting many more students to experience this important and dynamic region of the world.
-Matt K., Summer 2005 (St. Petersburg)
Intership with ROST Realty Group
"Renee, I would like to sincerely thank you for getting that letter out to my (hopefully) future university. I really appreciate your speedy response. They have accepted your document and now it is just a waiting game for me. You have been exceptionally helpful since I started working with you. It's all much appreciated. I will recommend SRAS to others and put in a good word for you as well. Bolshoye SPASIBO, Katia =)
-K. Borowski, Summer 2004 (St. Petersburg)
"Hi Renee ... I just wanted to say that I had a wonderful time this summer over in Moscow. I think you do a great job putting all this together and hope you don't decide to give it up any time soon!"
From Post-Experience evaluation: "I feel like SRAS is an organization that cares about their clients. I don't know how many times I emailed Renee before my trip and had a response to my question, no matter how insignificant it was, within a couple hours. I never felt like I was on my own. There was always someone there to answer a question or lead me in the right direction when I needed it. I found that very helpful and would feel confident recommending this organization to anyone who is looking to go to Russia."
-D. Bunkelman, Summer 2004 (Moscow)
My internship was a great experience. The people I worked with tried to make sure that I got to do what I wanted to, so that I could get what I wanted out of the internship. The main thing I wanted from the internship was to be able to put it on my resume and get a letter of recommendation from my boss, evaluating my work. I am currently applying to a university to study translation, and I was hoping those two things might help me get accepted. I can let you know whether it helped next month - that's when I'll find out if I've gotten accepted!
The only difficulty I had was that internships are not a widespread part of Russian culture, so everyone seemed to think I was insane for working for free. The people I was working with at the fortress were really nice, but at first it still seemed like they thought I was weird. But in the end, I didn't feel like that anymore. The good thing is that if you send another student there to do an internsip this year, they will not have the same problem, because now those people know about internships. I would definitely recommend sending someone else there to do an internship.
Thanks for finding that internship for me!
- Amy B., Summer 2004 (St. Petersburg)
Internship with Museum of the History of St. Petersburg, Peter and Paul Fortress
To all future interns in Russia,
I would like to share my experience. For 10 weeks I interned at the Tretyakov State Gallery, in the PR department, in downtown Moscow while studying at Moscow State University. I truly only have good things to say about the decision to work while living abroad. Perhaps I was fortunate to have an extremely nice atmosphere to work in along with very caring and attentive people to help me learn and offer guidance.
My "boss" let me know on the very first day that she would speak to me only in Russian. But that was ok, because her coworker's daughter, a cute 12 year old girl, was always in the office ready to translate into English with her surprisingly advanced language skills. So I was plumetted into translations for museum publications, mostly dictionary based because my Russian skills were far from translation-worthy, that ended up teaching me much more about the language than many of the courses that I attended. I was exposed to the specific museum vocabulary that is relevant to my area of study: Art History. And using my Russian in a working environment was incomparably satisfactory, it gave relevance to many hours of abstract language studying without a concrete place to apply it.
The flexibility of my hours rewarded me with an excuse to go downtown and master the metro system and allowed me time to meander through areas of the city off the beaten tourist track. I spent some time alone in Moscow, not just with the wonderful group of American friends I had made. But it was a part of my trip that contributed to the most memorable experiences, an opportunity I do not think other students took advantage of due to a lack of motivation to get downtown and the lack of confidence to wander, which I soon learned was very safe and exciting, full of discoveries. Thanks to my internship, I broke out of a self-induced "safe zone" of the University to explore. Lastly, I was exposed to regular Russian people. The kind that stare at foreigners in the market place. During the intership, I developed a fondness for the extremely nice and welcoming characteristic of Russian people. I learned a lot about the social culture as well from hearing the PR's staff talk about their weekend dacha trips and their hassles with the market stalls and the traffic. Even such simple things at their reaction to the weather helped me to define a more global image of the nation, filling in the spots that I knew I would miss by only being in Russia for 10 weeks.
Alice W., Summer, 2004 (Moscow)
Internship with the Tretyakov Gallery
"Hello Renee, I hope you are doing well. I just came back from Russia on Sunday, and now back to work but still with my mind in Russia. It has been a great month, I can not really think of any negative point, the people I met, the places I've visited, the language course, etc.
"I would like to thank you for your support, I must admit that you made everything easier, even with short notice requests. The same applies to Oxana and Svetlana from St Petersburg, they were very nice to me all the time, and I really appreciated knowing that I could count on them if any problem arised.
"Well Renee, thanks again. I congratulate you for your work. You should know that among the people that I've met in the course, comparing the companies that helped us with papers, etc, your company was definlty the most professional, cheaper, offering services that others do not offer, etc."
-J. Goya (Spain), Fall 2004 (St. Petersburg)
I have really enjoyed my internship thus far. I have been copy-editing thus far, but scaled the heights to become the temporary sports editor last week while the editor was on holiday.
Working in a newsroom, and seeing the paper before those on the street, means that I can easily keep up to date with Russian news (and world events) and also provides a good CV point. All good. The only (dis)advantage is that I speak no Russian two afternoons a week. However, I perversely consider this a blessing. Temporary respite.
-Simon V., Fall 2004 (St. Petersburg)
Internship with St. Petersburg Times
Hi Renee, I just wanted to thank you for everything that you did to help my trip go smoothly. So far, everything has been great and I meet Svetlana tomorrow for a city tour. Anyway, I definitely won't hesitate to book with SRAS again. Thanks!
-M. Chandler, Summer 2004 (St. Petersburg)
Renee, I have made it safely back to the States and other than getting over some jetlag I'm doing well. I just wanted to thank you very much for all of your help with this trip to Russia-it was great to have you to get in touch with at any time to resolve any question that came up. Thanks again!
-C. Smirnoff, Summer 2004 (St. Petersburg)
Renee, So I came back to France at last, leaving Siberia and Russia with regret. Though I stayed there just 1 month, I could see many interesting things and meet nice people. I just want to thank you to help me organize this trip, because all went for the best during my stay, and Siberia really was a great discovery for me. As I can't live in Russia for now, I just think about my next trip there, whether in Siberia in winter time or in the Don valley to see what remains of the kossaks culture. I hope to see you again.
-J. Roumayat (France), Summer 2004 (Irkutsk)
Hi Renee! I just wanted to first thank you for suggesting that I stay with Philfak... because I have the GREATEST business-Russian tutor right now who's pushing me to establish contacts and do everything I can to get myself involved in the music world here. Haha. :) And as for my Business School tutors, I'm studying with one right now who's a wonderful, brilliant woman and she's one of the greatest teachers I've ever met. I'll be calling an economics/math professor at MGU soon, so that I can brush up on all of the ugly math I need to know for Business School!! Overall though, things are perfect. :) Thank you Renee.
-C. Nakahara, 2003 (Moscow)
Renee, I'm back in the states again. End of the semester went well over in Russia. I already miss it there. Thanks for everything, my time was amazing and my host family will surely be my friends for life. They were the BEST!
-M. Belz, 2003-2004 academic year (St. Petersburg)
Hi Renee, I know I haven't kept in touch well enough this summer. I just wanted to let you know that things are going well here in St. Petersburg. ... The history class is extremely interesting ... I am always raving about this class to my friends, and they are quite jealous. :-) I'm happy to report that I have had no administration or setup problems at all since my arrival. Everything was taken care of in advance by you guys, so good job! After seeing some of the hassles that other students have gone through, I'm glad I went with SRAS on my first trip here.
-J. Metts, Summer 2003 (St. Petersburg)
... While I'm emailing you I just want to say I'm really impressed with the SRAS program and have nothing but good things to say about how helpful and cool Natalia has been. My only regret is that I'm not doing this for the whole summer, but in all likelyhood I'll be coming back, if not next summer then the following.
-A. Bossie, Summer 2003
Dear Renee, hello from russia! it's sam hart. i am writing to let you know that things here are running smoothly and i am having a great time. my family is very cool and they are feeding my tons. i have built them a small door for their pantry and they love it, so far so good ... thank you for all your help, you have made this an amazing experience for me thus far.
-S. Hart, Spring 2003
Renee - Thank you very much for all the work you have done in getting me to Russia and taking care of me since I have returned. It was a huge life experience changing the way that I think and view the world around me. I truly enjoyed my stay in St. Petersburg and I hope to return to Russia and further my language skills in the future.
-T. Hoffman, Winter 2002 (St. Petersburg)
Hi Renee, I finished my classes on Monday and left Russia on Tuesday. I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed the year and that my classes were great. Thank you for all of your help, and especially for organizing the trip to Petersburg.
-S. Werry, 2002-2003 academic year (Moscow)
Dear Artour and the SRAS Team,
Thanks so much for setting up a wonderful semester at Moscow State University. The team over there was very helpful. Doug was great at arranging necessary visas and when we wanted to travel to Uzbekistan and other places. Natasha was a great ally to have in dealing with any bureaucratic problems that we encountered. My homestay was fantastic, I couldn't have asked for a better host. Thanks for finding a great place for me to live, that made the stay all the better.
-Ross Campbell, Fall 2001 (Moscow)
Hi Renee - First, a belated thanks to you, Artour, and Doug for everything during my time in Moscow last January-August. It was a great experience, and I really appreciate everything, especially your help with the phone so I could keep in touch with my work here in the States. My language skills improved dramatically, and I was able to land an internship with a U.S. law firm's Moscow office while I was there. All in all it was a great experience.
-A. McConnell, Spring/Summer 2002 (Moscow)
I can only say that in the development of my professional career many years ago seeing your web site and taking one single summer business course convinced me that I want to devote my career to serving the interests of US firms in Russia and that means that you represent quality of service across the board. I didn't know at that time that I will end up staying, will travel and consult in 14 countries in the region, live and manage projects just about everywhere across Siberia, meet my wife in Moscow and get happily married (together for almost six years) thanks to one summer learning Russian business. Wishing you best of luck, many more new clients and success in all of your future endeavors. You are wonderful folks and your endurance and dedication will bring its high rewards.
-E. Shor, Summer 2002 (Moscow)
Dear Renee, Thank you so much for that information. Yes, I am planning on entering the Philology Faculty for degree studies next year. I want to teach. I really am excited about that. :-) ... Thank you for asking about my family's visit. It really was a great time. It was great to see them, and I think that they really were pleased with Russia and the beauty of this country. Renee, I really am grateful for your help. It is really helping my dreams to come true. Thank you so much.
-A. Woloszyn, 2002-2003 year abroad (Moscow)
Hi you guys! Anyway, I just wanted to thank you guys for all your help and tell you that I really had an incredible experience over there. My host family in Moscow was wonderful and I had tons of fun in St. Petersburg despite all the bureaucratic problems (and even that has given me an amazing story to impress people with!).
"Just so you know, when I go back to school I will be spreading the word and recommending you guys to anyone who asks. I think one of the best things you people have going there is your weird combination of hand-holding and total flexibility, how you guys can arrange everything and fix problems, but don't chain students to the front doors of MGU like most college programs. It's really really cool that you have contacts all over the country, because it's not all about Moscow. So, anyway, thanks!
-R. Chaplin, 2001 year abroad (Moscow and St. Petersburg)
"Hello to everyone at SRAS!! I got back from my year abroad in Chelyabinsk in August. I had such a wonderful time, and that is why I am contacting you again. First, I would like to thank you all for all that you did for me. And secondly, I would like to ask some questions ... "
-T. VanKeulen, 2001-2002 year abroad (Chelyabinsk)
Privet Artour! Sorry it has taken so long for a reply. It seems like we just skipped over the last few weeks, and suddenly it is almost time for me to go home. I have had a wonderful time here, and as excited as I am to go home and see my family, I am also getting very sad to leave here. Julie and I talk all the time about how glad we are that we came here to Siberia instead of going to Moscow.
"I had a wonderful time in Ulan Ude. The contacts you have there are amazing people. It was a very relaxing place, a nice change of pace from Irkutsk. The people in Ulan Ude seem to be a bit more laid back and not in such a hurry all the time. We all felt very at ease there, it was like a vacation for us. Svetlana did so much for us, she took care of absolutely everything, we were all able to just relax and enjoy our time there. Not knowing all the work it takes to set up a program like the one you have here in Irkutsk, it is easy for me to suggest a program in Ulan Ude as well. I would recommend to anyone who asked. I hope to return to Siberia again, and especially to Ulan Ude.
-A. Zendron, Fall '02 (Irkutsk)
Dear Renee! A very happy new year with a lot of inspiration for the organisation of as beautiful trips in Russia as last year. I had a real great time! Do you have new plans and interesting programs for Russia in 2003 already??? And maybe this time to Sergej Posad as well?? I still have my preparation materials ready for that one. Ha!
-I. Wierda, Summer '02 (Moscow)
"I had a great time in Russia. Thank you for all your help in organising time, dates and individual instruction for me. I really appreciated being able to do exactly what I wanted to do there."
-K. Skewes, Spring '02 (Moscow)
"By the way, I am having such a blast! I've been volunteering in the community with the orphanges and schools giving cultural presentations about the US. It's so much fun! This might be a neat recommendation or even a neat addition to thestudy abroad program in the future - or at least to recommend or encourage this option as part of the experience. Today I gave a presentation to a class of 22 hockey playin' 10 year old boys. IT WAS A TOTAL RIOT!!!! :) I LOVE my ethnography professors here! They have all been absolutely wonderful and I'm learning so much!!! The program has been amazing and I will definitely recommend it to the anthro dept. back at Michigan."
-C. Vandenbosch, 1999-2000 academic year (Khabarovsk and Moscow)
"... Also I forgot to add that my classes with Tatiana Borisovna at IGTU are wonderful. Wanted to thank you for making this possible. "
-C. Burke, Fall '02
"Thank you very much for putting together an excellent program. I benifited enormously from the instruction I received at both VGIK and MGU -- the professors designed fascinating and challenging courses to suit my interests and needs -- and the staff at both locations were cordial, accommodating and went out of their way to help. It was a wonderful two months, and I learned a great deal."
-T. Coxe, Summer '01 (Moscow)
" ... By the way, after a rough start, Kate was very happy with the instruction she received through this program. Thank you for your kind assistance. Sincerely, Karl Bakkum."
-K. Bakkum, Summer '02
"I was wondering if it would be possible to do a study abroad for language in Moscow ... I have been in Moscow for a week and must admit that I have fallen completely in love with the city and I have some free time fall quarter and would love to spend it in Moscow if I could study while here. I also recieved an offer for part time work here in a position that interests me very much ... Thanks."
-M. Lamm, Summer '02 (returning from studies in Sochi)
"I just wanted to drop you a quick note to thank SRAS for organizing the trip to Volgograd. I had a terrific time - it's a great city. I only wish I had a few more days to explore."
-S. Camp, Fall '02 (Moscow)
"The arrangement with spending a week in Moscow and the rest of my summer stay in Irkutsk was perfect. I ended up with some fantastic summer memories, reminding me of childhood days. Russian countryside is so nice in summertime."
-T. Osterdahl, Summer '99 (Moscow and Irkutsk)
"Hi Renee, Just thought that i'd let you know i'm absolutely overjoyed to be back in Russia...feels just like home! I'm pleased that i went with my gut and chose SRAS, because i don't think that i could have gotten any closer to what i wanted and received the personal attention that i have...i know, i'm gushing a little. But, this is a big step for people--at least for me it was--that owes a certain amount of its success to your work and support. Ok, there it is and thank you...if you'd like, i'd be happy to write a testimonial, and i got a message from one prospective student and recommended as highly as i could."
-A. Koltowicz, 1999-2000 year (St. Petersburg)
"I just loved that place (Gorni). I wish I could stay there longer ... did a lot of things that I never imagined I could do, like berry picking, Russian banya ... My favorites were the warm fresh milk Lyuda got every day and Yura's smoked fish."
-A. Uesugi, Summer '98 (Blagoveschensk)
"You guys have a great program in Irkutsk. That was a great summer - I certainly do get a lot of strange looks telling people I would rather be in Siberia than in LA. Thanks for offering such a spectacular program."
-K. Tighearnain, Summer '97 (Irkutsk)
"Dear Renee - I know that this is a bit (in fact, very) late coming but I just wanted to send you a quick "Thank You" for all of your help so that I could study at Yaroslavl State University last semester. I had a really great time and the course which I did I really enjoyed and found very effective.
"I'm back home now in Australia, back at university still doing Russian....and still trying to find the next opportunity to get myself back to Russia. Thanks once again!!"
-S. Bove, Spring '00 (Yaroslavl)
"The program coordinators, and the school administrators have bent over backwards to meet my needs while here in Moscow ... the professors I had also offered to help me in ways I could never imagine."
-J. Nations, Fall '96 (Moscow)
"Hi Renee - it's Janina - how are you? I just returned from a trip to see the reindeer festivals in the north of Amur oblast - I was also able to squeeze in a few days at Ludmilla Stepanovna's place in Gorni. She and her husband are great, busy with spring things, like clearing fields for summer grazing and tending to tomato and cucumber seedlings in greenhouse. Ludmilla Stepanovna spoke warmly of you and asked me to convey a big Privyet. Hope you are well in Moscow! Still have not been to China, propsects are dwindling along with my financial situation. I am saving for a summer in Vladivostok. I was able to get an internship with the Vladivostok News but it will be unpaid so....Still, I am very excited to be heading to Vladivsotok, even as fond as I have grown of Blag and my host family here. All the best,"
-J. deGuzman, 1997-98 year (Blagoveschensk and Irkutsk)
"I chose the summer study program in Irkutsk because I wanted more than mere language instruction and sightseeing. I wanted to connect with people ... to feel the pulse of Russia. Irkutsk and Lake Baikal did all of that for me."
-L. Forero, Summer '95 (Irkutsk)
"I learned at least a year's worth of Russian in just a few months and by the next year I was reading notes from party conferences as research for my Master's thesis in Russian history."
-S. Long, Summer '94 (Moscow)