I've just created a TYA account just so I could ask this question, so I hope it's okay if I ask it.
I'm not at university at the minute, but am 18 and hoping to study Spanish and French from GCSE level all the way up to A2 level, and then take French to degree level, picking Russian up ab initio.
My main concern with picking up Russian from scratch is that with it being a Slavic language, it will be much, much harder to learn alongside French, as opposed to Italian or Portuguese. I've been told that there's not a lot of people who speak English in Russia, even in the big cities such as St. Petersburg and Moscow, so you're obviously going to be forced to use your Russian skills, but I'm still not sure as to whether or not I'd actually be able to reach a native standard of Russian, which is my main goal with both of the languages I wish to pursue at uni.
Also, slightly unrelated, but still relevant to Russia: Has anyone who is gay spent their year abroad in Russia? I'm not too worried about this for when I get there, because I still get people who I've known for 10 years ask if I'm gay. It's not obvious.
So, my two questions are:
How much did your Russian improve by the time you got home from Russia?
Are attitudes towards homosexuality really as bad as everyone says they are?