Among various ways to broaden your horizons and continue learning outside of classroom, volunteering takes the lead when it comes to the level of meaningful engagement with the local community. CIEE students partake in various initiatives that take them around and beyond Saint Petersburg. In addition to CIEE’s regular partner volunteering programs, such as teaching English as the SPSU Foreign Language Center and translating for the Lenfilm cinema studio, this semester CIEE students engaged in volunteering at a children camp in the small town of Pushkin, lending a hand at Rzhevka animal shelter, and paying a visit to a local orphanage. Abigail Pech (Rochester University) shares her volunteering experience:
“I had a great time volunteering at the shelter. I absolutely love dogs, so I'm pretty sure that I got more out of it than they did. For real.....at the end of the day, they handed me a tiny puppy, and I started crying. It was really embarrassing.”
CIEE ALTERNATIVE BREAK
Every semester CIEE students volunteer during one-week-long Alternative Break program and lend a hand with community service in smaller Russian towns. Kim Lantz (Lewis & Clark College) and Melanee Robles (UCSB) spent their fall break working with teens in a children camp outside Saint Petersburg. They facilitated creative developmental master-classes, engaged children in outdoor activities, and held 'storytelling evenings' daily. Throughout the program, Kim and Melanee were instructed and trained by experienced facilitators, which contributed to their expertise and development as young educators and helped them advance their Russian language skills.
Brendan Hebert, Macalester College, participated in Alternative Break in Rostov-on-Don. Read his impressions of the trip:
“Rostov was truly an unforgettable experience and, at the risk of sounding cliche, I think I made lifelong friends there, or at least friends I will for sure stay in touch with after I leave. I jumped on the first opportunity to return and am truly floored by the hospitality of the people there.”
CIEE SPORTS ENGAGEMENT
A widely known aphorism, “В здоровом теле – здоровый дух” translating literally as "a healthy mind in a healthy body", perfectly outlines such an important component of CIEE student life in Saint Petersburg as extracurricular involvement. On top of joining the university and the city sporting clubs and teams, CIEE students and Russian Buddies enjoy their own initiatives, such as a volleyball club started by Sveta Chichvarina, a third-year student of SPSU School of Political Science.
Grace Mannix (Pennsylvania State U), pictured in the center, with her Russian soccer team that she has been a part throughout the semester
TRAVELING TO EXPLORE THE REGION
In addition to CIEE’s own overnight trip to Moscow, day-long trip to Veliky Novgorod and the one-week Alternative Break program that took students to Rostov-on-Don and Pushkin this semester, the students take any chance they get to explore more of the unknown Russia, and beyond. This semester, the most popular travel destinations included Finland, Georgia, Estonia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Belarus.
Zach Smith (Georgetown University) reflects on the trips that he and his friends took throughout the CIEE semester:
“Our trip to Siberia was the vacation of a lifetime. We experienced the Trans-Siberian Railroad, the Hot Springs of Arshan, the cabins in the South Siberian forests, and the vastness of Lake Baikal with its beautiful, commanding mountains that seemed to rise straight out of the lake itself. The sights were amazing, the interactions with the locals were fun and engaging, and the friendships we made will last for years!”
Left: Jessica Marshall (U of Florida), Alexis Giunta (George Washington U), Riley Ries (Washington and Lee U), James Howard (UC Riverside), Erin Seewaldt-Dietze (Georgetown U), Zach Smith (Georgetown U), Louis Bethge (UCLA) during their Siberian adventure
Right: Lachlan Bebout (UC Berkeley), George Howe (Macalester College), Ty Goering (UCSC), Hayden Plunkett (UCSB) during the Independent Travel Week spent in Tbilisi, Georgia and Yerevan, Armenia
WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR?
Continuing a warm tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving in Russia, CIEE students, alumni, and staff put their efforts in planning, cooking, decorating, and setting up a beautiful feast right on Smolny campus on the Thanksgiving Day.
Now the November holiday cheer starts to slowly wither, leading way to the December holiday spirit and, inevitably, the conclusion of the incredible fall 2017 CIEE semester in Saint Petersburg. As we are approaching the final semester mark, we would like to say that we are beyond thankful for our amazing students, their families and instructors both at home and here in Russia. Happy Holiday season from all of us at CIEE Saint Petersburg!
S nailuchshimi pozhelaniyami (Wishing you all the best),