I came to Enjoy Russian with the goal of improving my conversational skills and overall fluency in Russian. I sought an immersion experience through living with a host family, and also wanted the opportunity to do some volunteer work in Russia.
I could not have made a better choice than to spend my fall in Petrozavodsk, Karelia. Although I had originally wanted to study in a standard or mini-group setting, the fact that Enjoy Russian hosts fewer students in the fall meant I spent over half my time studying one-on-one. My ease and confidence in speaking Russian improved tremendously over the last six weeks of my time in Petrozavodsk, and I now have the ability to understand and discuss in-depth a wide variety of topics. I cannot stress enough how good this program was for my Russian. The First Certificate Course, which I spent my first month working on, follows a textbook created by the school’s instructors. It is logically laid out, a gives good explanations and plenty of practice exercises to enforce both grammatical topics and culturally relevant vocabulary. When I moved on to the Second Certificate Course, my teacher used a mixture of dialogues, short stories, and grammar exercises to take my Russian to the next level.
The host family I lived with was absolutely lovely. They were incredibly accommodating and I gained a lot of speaking practice and cultural knowledge just through sitting in the kitchen while my host mom made dinner each night. My host mom, despite being incredibly busy, always had time to talk with me about the day’s events, recent political developments, philosophy, the great Russian writers, or even just life in Petrozavodsk. Her granddaughter was a real delight to tutor in English, but was even more so when she tutored the other foreign student living with us in Russian poetry!
All the women who work at Enjoy Russian were very helpful; if I needed to make a change or had a question, they were quick to answer and help me solve my problems. If your class ends at the right time of day, you might even get to drink tea with them. The volunteers they recruit to help foreigners acclimate to Petrozavodsk were all very welcoming; from going to see movies to preparing *blini* (Russian pancakes) at one volunteer’s apartment, we had a great time together. Furthermore, because Enjoy Russian is part of a larger organization, the Center “Initiative,” there are many international-themed events you can take part in and even help plan during your stay in Petrozavodsk. For instance, I worked with another American to put together several cultural programs for Russian kids aged 3-6 and 7-12. Though games, dances, songs, and arts and crafts, we taught children some very basic English as well as gave them an introduction to life, holidays, and cartoons in the United States. In fact, my experience volunteering at Enjoy Russian has already been very helpful in my current job as a ski instructor for pre-schoolers.
Petrozavodsk is a particularly wonderful place to study because there aren’t too many English speakers around, so you will be forced to practice your Russian! Besides that, Karelia is absolutely *gorgeous. *The city is located on stunning Lake Onega, whose navy waters glitter on a sunny autumn day–taking a walk along the Embankment, the pier that runs alongside the lake, is an absolute must. Petrozavodsk is no grey, stone city; here nature intermingles with the urban, and many side streets are lined with trees that turn all variety of bright colors in the fall. There are plenty of malls, bowling alleys, shopping centers, restaurants and clubs to choose from if you’re looking to go out. As my friend Zhenya has told me, if you say there is nothing to do in Petrozavodsk, you maybe just don’t know where to look! If you’re looking for a great way to make friends, consider joining the Petrozavodsk State University Academic Choir, which is open to all foreigners. It’s a great way to learn some Russian music, meet new people, and maybe even sing in your first choir concert if you’ve never sung before! Although I struggled a little to make friends first, by the end of my stay in Petrozavodsk, it was really difficult to say good-bye to all the truly *good* people I had met. I absolutely intend on returning, and who knows? Maybe I’ll even have a chance to study at Enjoy Russian again!
By Marilyn Harris, the USA