Nathan Garrido, Russia, Russian Language Program (Global Studies)


1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

I was really more excited than anything about going to a new part of a country I was already familiar with. As a result, I felt less scared about any type of issues regarding adjusting to living in Russia or losing personal items. If anything, I was worried about the possibility of not liking the meals prepared by my homestay, but the food was delectable so it ended up not being an issue at all.

2. What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?

Better preparing for the financial costs would have been ideal in retrospect. However, once I was able to arrange all of the financial matters it was easy to focus on my time abroad and make sure I had enough money for any situation.

3. What were your favorite classes abroad? How did they compare to UCSB?

My favorite classes were my Russian Conversation and USA – Russia Political Science courses. The classroom environment is vastly different than in UCSB in that the layout and furniture of the rooms at the Smolny campus were much more school-like. The professors I had never held office hours, but they were easily approachable during class. What I particularly enjoyed about my political science class was learning about Russia’s political culture and how it has affected Russian politics since the fall of the Soviet Union. It felt entirely different to study this content in the country where it all took place.

4. What is one of your best memories from abroad?

I had many amazing memories that would take me forever to tell about, but one of the best experiences was being at the top of the promenade of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. It was beyond breathtaking to be able to stand at such an altitude have a full view of the city. I will never forget the feeling of seeing endless rows of streets and buildings that encompassed the city as I walked around the promenade.

5. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

My biggest challenge was balancing the amount of time I dedicated to practicing my Russian and speaking English with friends. There are always tempting opportunities to rather speak in English than attempt to communicate in the native language, but several ways I averted this was by either practicing my Russian with my English-speaking friends, befriending as many Russian students as I could, and even telling shop-owners I didn’t speak English. I was able to learn a lot and make use of what I would learn either in class or from my friends.

6. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

My favorite aspect of Russian culture is the Russian people. I had so much fun getting to know many of my Russian friends; they are all wonderful students who I shared many things in common with despite our varied differences. I gained a lot of knowledge from them and felt more and more at home as time went by and I spent more of it with my friends. St. Petersburg is such a beautiful city that most Russians I met told me they preferred it over Moscow. For me, its difficult to decide, but I will forever hold St. Petersburg close to me in my memory because of the people I met there.

7. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.

I volunteered for the local film studio Lenfilm, where I provided tutoring lessons for several Russian schoolchildren twice a week. It was a unique experience working with Russian kids, since they had very little to no knowledge of English. However. the lessons were fun and active, and I bonded with some of the kids I worked with. It was an excellent opportunity for me to hone many organizational skills and improved my ability to translate from English to Russian.

8. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

I miss all of Russia, but in terms of food I miss Khachapuri, which is actually a Georgian plate. I loved the Russian cuisine, but it was quite common to find Caucasian and Mediterranean food around St. Petersburg. I took a master cooking class and actually had the chance to make Khachapuri, which is great since now that I know the recipe I could probably try to make it here at home.

9. How have you changed since your time abroad?

I’ve learned to rely on myself and become more assertive with my decision making as well as getting around on my own. The commute to school and overall schedule made me become a bit more time oriented, and quickly made me learn how to distribute my time to balance my time in and out of the classroom. I feel much more independent now that I got used to living in a very metropolitan city, but my desire to learn as much as I can about political systems and institutions of power – which will in turn be helpful in developing more career goals.

10.What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

Never doubt to make use of the resources provided by EAP, and rest assured that your experience will be everything you could desire and more. You may potentially encounter challenges, but they can all be overcome and will expand your growth and development. Studying abroad builds bridges that connect you to a people and their culture if you immerse yourself well enough.

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