…by Aleksandra / from Poland / studies Russian & English Literature / 4th Year (UG)
The prospect of going on a year abroad is daunting: you leave your friends and family behind, you have to deal with piles of paperwork for funding, visas and applications, and everyone around says that coming back in 4th year is going to be really tough.
I don’t think I had ever been more terrified than before getting on the plane to St. Petersburg where I spent two semesters last year. The first few weeks felt scary and lonely, and some things never got easier even after months of being there (I’m mostly thinking of endless problems with my visa).
Having said that, I would not have changed that year for anything else in the world. I know I’m being a stereotypical just-got-back-from-my-year-abroad student here but in all fairness, it truly was an incredible adventure for me and a choice I’m happy with. Here’s why:
1. A new adventure!
I love Edinburgh and I consider it my second home but after two years of studying here it felt a bit too comfortable. I was excited to move somewhere new and explore a completely different part of the world. And I wasn’t disappointed in hoping for novelty in Russia. I saw more gold-dripping palaces than I could ever dream of, went on rooftop tours, tried amazing food and watched countless sunsets blend into sunrises over the Neva river during the White Nights. The fact that I have already booked flights to go back probably says a lot about how much I love St. Petersburg.
2. Mastering the language
Ok, so I didn’t exactly become fluent, as I was somewhat naively expecting. I did, however, gain full confidence communicating in Russian. Going from writing essays on what I had for breakfast in second year to gossiping with a Russian friend or discussing current affairs on my year abroad felt like a big enough improvement.
3. Friends for life
Nothing bonds people more than being in the same boat, especially if that boat is away from home and everything they know. A year might not sound like a lot for making life-long friendships but what an intense year it was! The feeling of support and shared experience is one of the things that made my year abroad so unique.
4. Travel opportunities
While on your year abroad, not only will you be in a new place to explore but you will also be closer to other destinations that had perhaps been out of reach so far. I visited Finland and Estonia (you can get to both countries by coach from St. Petersburg and it’s pretty affordable) and a few other places in Russia including Moscow. I also went to Georgia and Armenia, popular holiday destinations for Russians, even though I had never thought of going there before. They had in store everything that the Russian winter didn’t: sun, fresh vegetables and loads of outdoor activities.
5. Higher employability
Going on a year abroad might sound like pure fun but it actually looks great on your CV. Most of the graduate schemes based abroad require a minimum of a year’s experience living in a foreign country. As for other jobs, such skills as adaptability and great communication are always a plus and chatting about your year abroad will definitely help you stand out amongst other applicants. I personally include it in every application I fill out.