Katie Rees is a fourth year UCSC linguistics student who spent her junior year abroad at St. Petersburg State University. Besides her interest in travel, Katie also is passionate about dance (performing with Rocky Horror, UCSC’s Tangroupe (Tango team) and Cabaret group, Guerilla Dance and UCSC’s Ballroom Team) . In Russia, she also practiced dance, spoke on television twice, and traveled to Moscow, the Ukraine and other cities. She’s currently taking Chinese classes, and is interested in spending time in China before returning to Russia. We asked her a few questions about her study abroad experience.
Q: What was the hardest part about moving to Russia?
The hardest (and best) part about studying in Russia is that no one speaks English there. I had studied Russian for two years before leaving, so I guess I was forced to practice my Russian and there was no cushion if I couldn’t remember a word.
Q: Why would you recommend Russia to prospective students looking to study abroad?
Oh man, it depends on your hobbies. If you’re interested in ballroom dance (like I am), then it’s absolutely a great destination. There’s a reason all professional ballroom dancers are Russian. Dance schools are intensive and they have world champion teachers teaching for ten dollars an hour!
Also, if you want to be hired to teach English without any experience, they will hire you over the phone. I was a substitute English teacher in a private children’s foreign language school. I got hired multiple times to do this kind of thing. I even got offered full time jobs and was asked to join teacher’s unions.
Q: What’s one of your favorite memories from your study abroad experience?
A lot of them revolve around teaching English. I taught English weekly in a high school and I got to watch the Russian school assemblies. Before meeting me, many Russians had never met a foreigner before. People were usually really excited to meet me.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to students looking to study in St. Petersburg?
Even if you’re feeling culture shocked, or if you find the dark nights depressing, I always tell people not to go right home after classes but instead explore the city. Meet friends, do things. It might seem sad that it’s dark outside at 3pm, but it’s even more depressing to go home and sulk (don’t worry, it stays light until midnight by the end of the school year).
Katie Rees is also a peer advisor at the UCSC International Education Office. If you’d like to chat with her more about her experience, come visit our office in the Classroom Unit Building during our drop in hours (Monday-Thursday, 9-12 & 1-4).