Alumni Profile: Erin Ling

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St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg

Erin Ling 

Summer 2019

University of California, San Diego


Why did you choose to study abroad in St. Petersburg? What were your expectations? Did they match the reality?

I chose to study abroad in St. Petersburg because I have always been curious about and fascinated by Russian culture and had really wanted to live in Russia briefly to interact with the people and city first-hand. There are so many opinions and stereotypes about Russian life in the U.S., and I really wanted to learn about the country for myself.  St. Petersburg appealed to me because it was smaller than Moscow, but rich in Russian history. I honestly expected to be a bit afraid exploring the city, but the reality was that I had so much fun learning the public transportation system and interacting with people I encountered around the city. I felt so safe the entire time I was there and was absolutely blown away by how present Russian history is in everyday Russian life in St. Petersburg. 

How would you describe your life during that semester abroad? How was it different from college life in the US?

It was amazing how quickly you come to focus on taking things one step at a time when the language and geography is unfamiliar. I spent a lot of time walking and just taking in everyday interactions on my way to class or stopping in shops to practice conversing with the staff. I felt more independent than I had ever felt, even compared to starting college. 

Have you found life-lasting friends (could be locals, classmates, teachers, staff) and develop new skills while studying abroad? Tell us about them.

My host mother, Nadezhda, and I keep in touch still (nearly four years later), and I am so grateful to have connected with her during my time in St. Petersburg. Even though I was surprised my first day to realize she didn’t know any English, it was truly such a wonderful experience communicating and living with her. She took me on so many small trips around the city, most memorably waking up in the middle of the night with me to see the bridges rise and helping me get tickets to see the Red Sails ceremony right in Дворцо́вая пло́щадь. She encouraged me to be brave, and to really take into account how Russian history has shaped Russian life and policies as a country. She still reminds me today how we are all the same, no matter how far we live from each other, and I am so happy to have formed a connection with “моя русская мама.” 

 Since it is CIEE’s 75th birthday, what would you like to say to and wish the organization and staff members?

Thank you so much for the hard work you put into this program. I know that it cannot be easy, and it truly is so touching to see how much you care about sharing the wonderful city of St. Petersburg with students abroad. You made my stay so comfortable and enlightening, and I’m so thankful for the flexibility you also gave us to explore the city on our own as well. Thank you so much!

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