The Pros and Cons of Russian Life (by Joanna Duvigneau, Exeter)
This piece of writing will explain from my experience the pros and cons of living and studying in Russia. I arrived during Russian Winter (13th February 2010) and will be leaving during Russian Summer (16th June 2010), therefore a total just over 4 months.
The best thing about living in Yaroslavl for me has been living with such a marvelous Russian family. I had no idea that I would have the honour of living with such talented, hard-
In addition to this I have been lucky enough to live in a house. Ordinarily, students who go abroad to Russia expect to stay in an apartment and are told to not expect certain luxuries that one has when living in England. I was once told to expect no shininess, no power showers, no baths, smelly toilets and peeling wallpaper. For my part, none of this is true; my Russian family keep a very beautiful tidy house and to add further to that I have visited at least 5 different apartments whilst being here and they are all in excellent condition and some of my colleagues even have double beds! We have a director who ensures that the people and accommodation, which we receive, are of an appropriate standard before we even arrive.
The city centre of Yaroslavl is very pretty with churches dotted everywhere and home to the first Russian public theatre C The Volkova. In the centre one can also find an array of shops and restaurants; whether one needs to buy cosmetics, books or shoes or whether one wants to sit down to a nice sushi evening meal or pizza, it is all available here! Be that as it may, I have enjoyed living away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre in a region of the outskirts of Yaroslavl known as the Perekop. It is a safe and quiet area and it is very easy to get to the centre and other regions of Yaroslavl, which brings me to another advantage.
Travel around Yaroslavl is made extremely easy through the buses and marshroutkas. For the very cheap price of 15 roubles, which is at most 30 pence, one can go to a shopping centre, 40 mins away. It’s fantastic! These methods of transport open up the beauties that can be seen around Yaroslavl. From the architecture of the churches to the rivers Kotorosol and Volga, the landscape of Yaroslavl is simply picturesque.
Lastly, I much prefer studying in a school environment to a university environment. The intense course that I am enrolled in, within the short timescale of just over 4 hours ensures maximum contact with the Russian language whether it is in a grammatical exercise context, within an excerpt of literature, during a conversation of an article, during the imminent translating of a new unread article or the break down of translation theory.
The hardest physical experience of being in Russia for me has been traveling on the train to St .Petersburg. I had no idea an overnight train could be so stuffy, hot, claustrophobic and dehydrating. Yet this is the fastest way to travel such a distance. I think that it may be possible to get a better carriage but at a high price. Despite all this it is possible to travel around Russia at a bargain. Three train tickets (one from Yaroslavl to St .Petersburg, one from Petersburg to Moscow and one from Moscow to Yaroslavl) costs less than a train ticket from London Paddington to Exeter!
I have found contact with England a bit difficult. I have bought and used phone cards but they don’t seem to last that long and sometimes my phone calls have been abruptly stopped for no apparent reason. It is rather annoying to not just be able to call home without a phone card and whenever I send an SMS to a mobile phone at home it does cost a lot! Yet phone calls and messages to my colleagues in Yaroslavl has been very cheap, which is nice. Thankfully we all have our own Internet sticks but it is at times incredibly slow and unreliable. There are Internet cafés in the city centre but as useful as the public transport services are sometimes they can get very packed and the traffic jams that one can sometimes get stuck in are horrific.
My primary concern regarding coming to Russia was racism. I got extremely worried about it being of a different ethnic origin to all my colleagues. It was like all of a sudden I was being put in a separate box from everyone else. I was told not only that I might be a victim of verbal abuse but maybe even physical abuse just because of my skin colour making me stick out like a sore thumb as a foreigner. (Unfortunately, the picture of Russia painted in the Western world is a very anti-
I was told that I should not carry to much money on me when traveling to Russia, but I wish I brought more with me because the exchange rate and charges for taking money out are very annoying ! Money has simply been disappearing because as much as Russian life can be very cheap in some circumstances in others it can be very very expensive.
The final disadvantage to Russian life to add is the restriction of movement through the necessity of registration when staying in a certain place in Russia for a certain amount of time and the need for visas. It’s all so strict and it is also a shame because I imagine a lot of people would love to travel to Russia and a lot of Russians would love to travel outside of Russia but the whole process is so complicated and strict.
In conclusion, I have no regrets about living and studying in Russia, it has been one of the best experiences of my life and I only wish it could last a bit longer as I’m so settled here now and will definitely come back. Kukoboi is the name of a little village in a forest where, according to the legend, is the birthplace of the famous Russian fairytale heroine -