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St. Petersburg, Russia – The White Nights

Context: In the summer of ’09 after my sophomore year at college I studied abroad for 8 weeks in St. Petersburg, Russia. I frequently wrote updates home (once a week), and this is one of those updates. I am adding this here because this is our travel website and I want it to be a collection of our travels, however, it’s important to know that I wrote these years ago without the intention of them ever being part of a travel website. They are not representative of our future work, but maybe you will enjoy reading them and get a taste of what it can be like to study abroad. Hope you enjoy!

On the bridges - St. Petersburg, Russia

Hanging out near the bridges – St. Petersburg, Russia

I’ll never understand why I always hear about how much Americans go to McDonalds. Never have I seen such long lines at McDonalds as I have in Europe (Italy too). It’s ridiculous. Imagine four of the longest lines you’ve ever seen in America. I’m finding it impossible to escape from my accent. When I want to look like I am Russian, I generally keep my head tilted downwards and remove any trace of a smile, that said, the minute I speak, even in Russian, I am a dead give away. Even ordering a Big Mac at McDonalds (which is not even a word change, just Big Mac spelled with the Russian equivalents of English letters) the server immediately identifies me as an American, and, instead of telling me the cost directly, doesn’t say a word and points to the machine, as if

1. I wouldn’t understand the number if she said it and
2. I wouldn’t know to look there myself if I didn’t

I’ve been going out with my Russian friends a lot. I could go out with the Americans, and I will from time to time, but I see them everyday. I prefer to spend the night with Russians, speaking Russian, doing what Russians do. Last night we went to watch the bridges go up. Petersburg is a city of islands (40ish) connected by bridges, and every night at various times the bridges go up to allow boats to come and go. This happens every night, but apparently last night was a big deal as it was sort of the first day of summer. The problem is, if you are on the wrong side when the bridges go up, you can get stuck on an island, and this is almost exactly what happened. Since the bridges are far apart, and the schedule isn’t clear, it is very easy to miss bridge after bridge. Long story short, we were almost stuck on an island but made the last bridge 5 minutes before it went up (3:15AM). Imagine lots of running. Then we hung around until the Metro opened up (remember, it is still light because of the white nights and everyone is still out).

Having been here a week, I think there is a general consensus among the Americans that there is a longing not necessarily for home, specifically, but for things American. There’s something to be said about walking down the street and knowing that you can communicate with anyone (as opposed to here). Another thing of note are people’s faces. Naturally, in Russia, people have Slavic features, which isn’t too different, but just different enough for you to know you are not one of them, and, consequently, you know you don’t belong.

Want to read more about Dave’s Study Abroad Program in St. Petersburg, Russia?
Letter 1: St. Petersburg, Russia – Arriving in Foreign Territory
Letter 2: St. Petersburg, Russia – Starting Class
Letter 3: St. Petersburg, Russia – The White Nights
Letter 4: St. Petersburg, Russia – Some Things Lost Some Things Gained
Letter 5: St. Petersburg, Russia – New Friendships
Letter 6: St. Petersburg, Russia – Beach For July 4th
Letter 7: St. Petersburg Study, Russia – phhh Piskov
Letter 8: St. Petersburg, Russia – End Of Days

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