Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Studying Abroad in St. Petersburg!

Здравствуйте! Hello! My name is Elizabeth and I will be studying abroad in St. Petersburg this summer! I am so excited to partake in this opportunity! For so long I have wanted to visit the Russian Federation. From stunning architecture to elegant ballets and intriguing art, I have yearned to experience the country’s beauty and cultural magnificence. Once enveloped by mystery, Russia holds a unique splendor that excites the senses. Spanning a huge territory, the country offers insight to many different cultures, customs and beliefs. For one month I will experience the brilliance and finery of this country.

While in the Russian Federation, I will be taking classes at the New York-St. Petersburg Institute for Cognitive and Cultural Studies at St. Petersburg State University. Studying Russian language and film, I am thrilled to expand my knowledge of Russia’s vibrant culture. In particular, I am absolutely psyched to learn Russian. While I have learned a few important phrases (“how are you?” and “where is the bathroom?”), I am excited to use the language on a daily basis. Immersed within a country that predominately speaks Russian, I have no other choice than to practice and learn! So far the language seems so lyrical, expressive and powerful.

I am hoping the courses at St. Petersburg State University coupled with the opportunity to meet Russian students will aid my endeavor to study Eastern European art too. As an Art History student at SUNY Purchase College, I had the opportunity to study art of the Russian avant-garde this past semester. The class was fabulous! I was introduced to an array of artists, writers, dancers and directors. As my major suggests, I appreciate art in all forms. This experience offers a fantastic opportunity: I can expand my knowledge of Russian artists and broaden my awareness of cultural understanding. I can visit the country in which so many of my favorite artists developed and produced their creative genius! During the class at Purchase College, I was attracted to two distinct figures; Natalya Goncharova and Vaslav Nijinsky. As a student, Goncharova definitely proved to be a source of inspiration. With Cubo-Futurist images matching her fiery rhetoric, Goncharova unleashed a dominating presence in the avant-garde. Her paintings developed into a fervent, yet elegant, allusion to primitive and abstracted designs known as Rayonism. Nijinsky (my other favorite visionary of the avant-garde) prompted the modernization of ballet with angular movements, paralleled feet and stylized profiles. In Le Sacre du Printemps, Nijinsky shocked audiences with his revolutionary choreography which created the origins of modern dance. Furthermore, I was able to view Soviet-era films directed by Eisenstein (Battleship Potemkin) and Room (Bed and Sofa) as well. This brief introduction spurred on my interest in Russian cinema and other products of the avant-garde.

So why did I choose to study in St. Petersburg? The list is endless:

1.) As I spent an entire semester studying it, I want to experience the art of the avant-garde.
2.) I am intrigued by the beauty and elegance of the country’s culture.
3.) I have a personal yearning. My family emigrated from the Soviet Union. I know very little about my grandmother’s life in Eastern Europe. As she has aged, I really regret not asking questions about her life and experiences sooner.
Another endless list is my “to-do” list! While in Russia I want to:

1.) attend a ballet.
2.) experience first-hand a painting by Natalya Goncharova (my favorite artist).
3.) try some Russian cuisine.
4.) visit the Hermitage Museum, State Russian Museum and Museum of Non Conformist-Art.
5.) visit Moscow.
6.) see the sculptures, the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman (a powerful monument to Soviet ideals, this sculpture depicts two workers holding a hammer and a sickle. Simply said - it is breathtaking.) and The Bronze Horseman.
7.) visit the Peter and Paul Fortress.
8.) visit the Museum of Cosmonautics and Rocket Technology (I am really excited for this).
9.) visit the Museum of Hygiene (sounds interesting).

With a little over two weeks to go, my anticipation is growing, growing and growing! Along with my anticipation, my suitcase is growing too! Over the past few days, I have begun the tedious process of packing. I must say – I have to restrain myself from over packing. Returning home this past semester was proof of my ability to over pack: the car was so stuffed I had to wear a lamp shade on my head as there was just no more room – for anything! I also must resist the temptation to buy an entire new wardrobe.

The one thing that I am nervous about is - the flight! To be blunt - I am petrified of flying. While I enjoy “taking off” and “landing,” the actual duration of the flight makes my heart race! Just knowing that I am suspended in the air (thousands of feet above the surface) makes my blood pressure soar (probably higher than the actual plane). I feel very sorry for the individual that sits next to me. I squirm in my chair, blurt out random phrases (“I’m going to faint!” and “my heart is going to explode!”) and breathe obnoxiously heavy.

While I am excited to study abroad, I will miss home immensely. I will miss my parentals. They have supported this endeavor in so many ways. I will miss my amazing boyfriend, Grant. He is so sweet sweet.

In short, I am so excited for this wonderful opportunity! The thought seems surreal – in a little over two weeks I will be in the Russian Federation! I am excited to experience a new culture! Humbled by this opportunity, I hope to embrace the differences, explore a vibrant city and enjoy my studies at St. Petersburg State University! I invite you to join me in discovering this unique and beautiful country!
Much love,