To study or to work? That is the question.
James Bradstock is studying Russian at the University of Bristol. He's spending his year abroad in St Petersburg, combining work and study at Liden & Denz Language Centre. In this article, he discusses the pros and cons of working vs. studying on a year abroad - especially one in Russia!
My name is James and I am currently at the University of Bristol, where I study Russian. As part of my third year I am lucky enough to be spending 10 months braving -20℃ blizzards, becoming the world’s authority in Borsch (the most fantastic beetroot soup; try it, thank me later) and combining work and study at Liden & Denz Language Centre in St. Petersburg. Having spent my first 10 weeks undertaking a language course for four hours a day, in the 2 months before Christmas I am combining my studying with four hours a day interning in the Language Centre’s marketing department.
1. Striking a Balance - Culture or Career?
When it comes to balancing work and study, it is a great challenge for a student as well as a glimpse into life after university. The combination of keeping my teachers happy in class by doing any homework and liaising with my supervisor is a great chance to improve one’s time management, discipline and organisation.
I spent my first 10 weeks attending just the language course, which ran from 10am to 2pm. This was brilliant at the start of my time in St. Petersburg as, with temperatures as high as 30℃ on arrival in August, I managed to get to know the city in the afternoons, enjoy the end of the summer as well as meeting a few locals and throwing myself into the Russian way of life. However, as the days got shorter and temperatures started to plummet, the chance to combine work and study was too good to turn down.
My advice to those who are considering combining work and study is that if you are going to make such a commitment, you have to appreciate that you will not be getting to know the city you are in as well as before. By the time I leave work, all museums are closed, the sun has set and the day is all but over. What I would therefore recommend is that you try and spend your first few weeks with a bit more freedom and time off in order to really get to know your surroundings.
2. Working in Russia: Pitfalls and Red Tape
The first point that I would like to stress is that undertaking an internship in Russia is not like finding work in other European countries. Visa restrictions mean that it is increasingly difficult for foreign students to have the necessary paperwork to secure a paid internship in Russia, coupled with the fact that the culture of offering internships to students, which is found in cities such as London, Paris and Madrid, does not really exist in Russia. However, Liden and Denz offer part-time internships with a complementary language course. This means that you are ‘paid’ in language classes, so whilst I never receive cash in hand I can still work in Russia, gain from the experience financially and do so on a study visa. These opportunities are available in both St Petersburg and Moscow, but more generally combining work and study has left me very satisfied with my year abroad so far, improving my Russian much quicker than I thought as well as enhancing future career prospects.
3. Plans for the future
The whole experience has been a great opportunity to understand Russian business culture, as well as a chance to put my language skills to the test in a Russian-speaking office. It has made me want to spend the second half of my Year Abroad interning in Moscow, as Liden and Denz also offer full-time internships in St. Petersburg and in the capital.
So to summarise, a combination of work and study has improved my language skills as well as enhancing future career prospects. I would recommend this combination even more to those students who are combining two languages, as with less time spent in each country every second counts. If anyone has any questions about working in Russia or combining study and work more generally, my email address is [email protected] Let me know if you need anything!