A Week in the Life: A Petrozavodsk student

A Week in the Life: A Petrozavodsk student Petrozavodsk by Svetlana Grechkina

This article was written by Eilidh Oliver, published on 19th September 2012 and has been read 4722 times.

Eilidh is studying Single Honours Russian at The University of Edinburgh and is spending the first half of her year abroad studying in Petrozavodsk. Here is a week in her life...

This is my second week in Petrozavodsk. I'm not sure that there's any such thing as a typical week as a year abroad student in Russia but at least you know to expect the unexpected...

Sunday

In the early hours of Sunday morning my flatmate and I managed to get lost on the way home from a club. The streets here are so long that there is no way of telling where they will end up. We headed off down one road but took fright at the dark forest on the other side and opted for a more brightly lit alternative. After all, as our cultural studies teacher said: "It is no joke to say that someone may be alive or dead, this is not Europe, this is Russia". We did finally get home and, rather annoyingly, the sun woke me up at nine. Despite already having had our breakfast, our хозяйка still insisted on feeding us. We were given some sort of milky каша. She then asked how much butter we wanted in it, umm none thanks actually, I'd rather stick with the home made jam. After second breakfast I opted for a quiet day. Later in the evening we were invited round for a cup of tea, where we met a random Russian man called Seriozha. We have since discovered that he's their lodger, but at the time we were slightly confused by the fact that our хозяйка had a male guest whilst her husband was away. On meeting me Seriozha was very embarrassed about not bringing me a present - apparently Russian men bring presents when they meet a woman for the first time.

Monday

I got up at 8.45 and ate breakfast, before heading to classes. Classes last til 1 with a ten minute break between the two. After classes we stopped off at a German bar for a quick drink and then I headed to the lake to take some photos in the brighter light of the afternoon. On my way back I got stared at for my hoodie and boots. Planning to buy some high heels to try and blend in a little.

Tuesday

The morning was much the same as yesterday and we once again headed to the German bar. Ten minutes in a friend joined us and ordered 100ml of vodka, without food. The waitress, nicknamed Smiley for her typically Russian grumpy face, struggled not to burst out laughing. Once I got home I Skyped my boyfriend, a daily ritual to try and avoid the inevitable homesickness.

Wednesday

Classes as usual and then I popped into the hypermarket. For the first time I understood everything the cashier said, answered correctly and had the correct change. The best advice for shopping, if you don't have the change, just say нет firmly and they won't get so annoyed at you. Shopping can be a bit daunting at first, so avoid lunch hour when the cashiers are particularly grumpy.

Thursday

We were invited round for breakfast because our хозяйка was worried about my flatmate being ill. We were given some sort of Russian omelette, rather like a fried egg with sausage in it. Classes as usual. All evening I waited in to meet a Russian student and go buy new jeans, but my хозяйка never came round. Pretty sure I'd understood what she said about the arrangements but you just never know.

Friday

A bit of excitement today. In the first class we went on a tour of the city. We saw Russia's first railway, the Lenin statue, the Karelian school and visited the biggest church. If you are going into a church, it's worth noting that women must cover their heads and you should stay quiet when looking round. After classes myself and two other girls headed off for some shopping. Having checked out all the shoe shops in the street, including r-ceipt (which is somewhat funnier but rather rude when written in cyrillic), I finally found a pair of ankle boots for just 600 roubles. We then headed off to the circus. On the way, a soldier, who had been walking with some friends, came over and asked if we knew where "to buy some...um...you know...paper for my printer", a rubbish excuse to talk to some foreign girls, anyone? Turned out the circus wasn't starting till the next day, so we bought the tickets and headed home. Went out about 9.30, later than usual and found all our favourite bars packed out. Headed to a new place, where one of guys (the same as the other day) ordered half a pint of vodka, which I helped him with. Ended up at Das Kapital, a fairly swanky, but expensive for guys (free for girls), club. Having not been given any change the guys were pretty keen to stay for ages, but with the drunkest in charge we ended up walking the city for about an hour. Quickly bored of that, I headed home and was instantly asleep.

Saturday

Early start to head to Kizhi. It costs 2500 roubles for a ticket and if you take your student card you can then get free entry to the museum. Make sure to take plenty of warm clothes, food, money for souvenirs and a flask of tea if possible. About half-way there I regretted having drunk any vodka last night. The crossing is pretty rough and, although I never get sea sick, I felt horrendous. Finally got there and headed off to the nearest church. It's worth taking extra batteries for your camera (and film if you're old-fashioned, like me) because you will want to take lots of photos. Got home mid-afternoon and was absolutely exhausted. This is when homesickness kicks in. My advice is, this is not the time to Skype. Send an email saying you feel ill, eat something and sleep. That way you'll feel better and avoid tearful arguments.

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