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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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From museums to festivals: A summer spent in Russia

Photo by Courtesy of Steven Eldridge

Steven Eldrige, a senior international studies student who went on the trip, stated that [The Russians] go to operas and plays instead of going to the movies.”

Instead of going to the beach or taking a road trip to the mountains, Texas A&M students spent their summer break exploring and learning in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, Russia.
Maria McCuskey, political science junior, went on the trip to study the Russian language at Saint Petersburg State University of Economics. McCuskey said she was excited for the chance to practice her Russian and learn Russian culture firsthand.
“This was finally a chance to dive deeper into the literature and selective works, and learn literacy concepts that I hadn’t learned before,” McCuskey said. “I kind of established my own rule to speak as little English as possible. I live in the United States so I will always have the opportunity to speak English, but not always Russian.”
This was McCuskey’s first year learning the Russian language, however, she stated that because her mother is of Bulgarian descent, she had exposure to the language early on.
“I’m not going to let her be the only Russian speaker in the family,” McCuskey said. “I want to be [one] as well.”
Steven Eldridge, international studies senior, is in his second year learning the Russian language, which he said he picked up because he wanted a challenge.
Eldridge said his favorite part of the trip was the seeing the performing arts, specifically the opera houses and theater performances.
“Performances over there are completely different,” Eldridge said. “[The Russians] go to operas and plays instead of going to the movies. Their culture is completely different than ours. They know their literature. [People like] Alexander Pushkin, they love him and would sometimes recite him. It was educational for me to see that and see a culture.”
The Scarlet Sails Festival is a popular event that takes place on the Neva River, where hundreds of people gather to see boats with red sails, and celebrate the recently graduated high school students.
“They have a massive celebration because everyone graduates on the same day,” Eldridge said. “It is always late June, around the summer solstice and it doesn’t really get dark, so the sun sets and then you have this kind of twilight where there is this massive firework show. It was loud, sounded like cannon shots. It was an amazing thing to watch.”
Jack Petroff, political science sophomore, said he is taking Russian because he wants to travel and work for the state department.
Petroff said that the museums were the most fascinating part of the trip. He cited The Ruskie Museum, which is similar to The Smithsonian, as a particular favorite.
“Seeing the paintings, they were so beautiful,” Petroff said. “It looked more realistic than a photograph. You can see this on Google, but to stand there in front of a canvas as big as a door, it is something else.”
Petroff said he mingled with several locals, heard their stories and shared some of his own. He met several Russians who, once they found out that he was American, became excited to practice their English with him.
“I really liked getting to know the Russians,” Petroff said. “They reminded me a little of Texans. If you sit down and eat with someone they would just talk to you, like they do here. It was so much fun.”
Steven Bartlett, international studies junior, said he wanted an authentic experience, and so he looked for Olga Cooke’s, international studies associate professor, study abroad trip. Cooke and her husband’s reputation in Russia preceded them, and the students said they learned firsthand just how respected the Cooke’s were in their international travels.
“They are true professionals in their fields,” Bartlett said. “Everybody in the Russian and Polish fields of study seems to know about them. Their work is all over the place. It didn’t occur to us students just how prevalent they are in the community. They are wonderful people, truly.”
During their free time the students would explore the city and talk with various locals. Bartlett said that overall the Russians were very kind and welcoming.
“It was really interesting to get hands on experience that was completely different than what the media elements focus on,” Bartlett said. “[The media] couldn’t be further from the truth. For the most part when we would meet people at clubs or restaurants they were willing to share their culture with us and learn about ours. They loved being around other people, regardless of who they were or where they were from.”

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