Interview with Katy Vanderau, a senior from Scotland, Pa., who is currently studying abroad in Volgograd, Russia
Russia? That’s not your typical study abroad place, what kinds of reactions did you get from your family and friends when you told them you were going to Russia?
Normally when I would mention that I planned to go abroad, people would ask where, and I think they expected an answer like, “England,” “Australia,” or “Germany.” When I respond, “Russia,” I generally get some very surprised reactions. But Russia, like England, Germany, and (I assume) Australia, is a very beautiful country with a fascinating culture and history, and it is worth consideration from any student who is interested in the language, history, literature, or is simply interested in traveling to a unique country.
Did you go through Juniata to arrange your study abroad experience or were you venturing out on your own?
Juniata College has an exchange partnership with the Volgograd State Pedagogical University (VSPU) in Volgograd, Russia. Most people recognize Volgograd as Stalingrad, as it was known during Soviet times, and as the site of the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the most important battles in World War II, or the Great Patriotic War, as they call it in Russia. Volgograd has many museums and monuments dedicated to this battle, and even now, 66 years after the battle, it is evident that it still profoundly influences life in Volgograd.
How long have you been in Russia? What’s it like?
I have been in Volgograd now for almost nine weeks. My experience in Volgograd has been nothing like any other experience abroad I have had. I am the only American student at the university; so far I’ve only met one other American living in the city, and he is an older gentleman. I have a host mother, but I do not live with her. I live in an apartment in the building adjacent to hers. My apartment is quite cozy and is just enough space for one person. I see my host mother almost every day, and she takes wonderful care of me.
I have also had a good experience at the University. I take four classes: literature, culture, grammar, and speech. The first three of these classes are individualized, and I have speech with two Germans and one Austrian. They are actually professors of German at the University, and they take speech with me to improve their Russian.
What have you been doing?
My classes keep me very busy, but my professors have said that I have improved greatly in just the two months I have been here. I have also made many friends with Russian students who are studying English. We often alternate speaking English and Russian so we all get practice with our foreign languages.
Any words of advice for students thinking of studying abroad particularly to Russia?
Volgograd, Russia, is a wonderful, small city, and I think that any student who chooses to study abroad here will not be disappointed.
Rachel Kern ’09, Juniata Online Journalist