Thursday, February 17, 2011

Week 2 in St. Petersburg

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How could temperatures drop again? Where do you go from -16 degrees?

A portrait of two frozen people, defrosting
The radio stations have been saying this is the coldest week of the year, and there's only more cold in the forecast. Hence my blogging silence.  There's not much you can do (besides just try to survive) in this climate.  My days go something like: Wake up, go to work, run home.  With a stop at the grocery store every so now and then. And I have practically no photos for you, because I'm not crazy enough to stand still and take off my gloves outside - for fear that I will become a permanent fixture wherever I happen to be standing; a new statue for the park, maybe.

I do have a few pictures from last weekend's excursions, when Alex came to visit, and his childhood friend came up from Moscow to spend the weekend with us in St. Pete.  We spent most of the weekend hopping between bars and caf├ęs, just trying to stay warm. Nevertheless, this is what we looked like most of the time -- either freezing or defrosting.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Just when you think it can't get any colder...

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I've never been in so much physical pain due solely to the weather. If you would have asked me a few weeks ago, I would have told you that 15°F (-9°C) probably isn't all that different from 26°F (-3°C).  Entering my apartment after my 45-minute walk home this evening, however, I will tell you otherwise.

26°F is a nice, comfortable temperature, requiring only one layer under a down jacket, and leaves gloves optional.  If you happen to wrap more than one scarf around your neck in 26°F, as I did this morning, and walk briskly for more than ten minutes, you're likely to actually overheat and start peeling off the layers as you go.  

Saturday, February 05, 2011

St. Petersburg, first impressions

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I woke up to a winter wonderland as the plane plunged into an almost-vertical descent toward St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport. I prayed, for the second time in ten hours, that by some miracle I would walk out of the plane. 
Almost whimsically, these colourful onion domes
adorn the Church on Spilled Blood.

Obviously, I did. And from the airport I was swept away into a day full of new experiences, new sights, new foods, and a new lifestyle. I came home and fell into bed last night, completely exhausted, but very thankful for this smooth transition and excited about everything that lays ahead for me here.

Reach the World

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Throughout my travels this semester I will be serving as a Travel Correspondent for Reach the World, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting students in low-income schools to students who are traveling and studying abroad, thereby multiplying the impact of one student's life-changing experiences overseas.

My Journey page was officially launched last week, and I invite you to visit the Reach the World site to read my traveler autobiography and view my photo gallery (which will contain even more photos than the few I am able to upload to this blog).  Keep in mind that my writing for Reach the World (RTW) is geared toward a 4th-grade reading level, and aims to introduce students to new ideas and concepts by connecting the new and different to the familiar.

The following questionnaire that I filled out in order to help RTW with their press release will give you a better sense of my involvement with the program...


Name of Study Abroad Programs: (1) U.S. Department of State Internship,
(2) School of Russian and Asian Studies

Classes that you focused on while studying abroad:
I have been assigned to the Public Affairs and Political Sections of the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia. Following my ten-week internship with the State Department, I will be studying Russian as a Second Language in St. Petersburg and in Odessa, Ukraine for a total of twelve weeks. Throughout my semester abroad I will be conducting research for my thesis on young entrepreneurs in Russia.

What year are you in college? Senior

Where did you grow up?
Medford, Oregon

Why did you choose to study abroad?
I studied abroad for the first time in 2006, when I left home at the age of sixteen and moved to Brussels, Belgium for a year. My experiences during that formative year abroad have opened my eyes to a world of opportunities for young people with a passion for cultures, languages and travel. Since then, I've been on a perpetual quest for the next big study abroad trip. My hard work has paid off and I've been so blessed to travel to over twenty countries in the past five years, including all of Western Europe, Bosnia, Australia, and China.

Please describe any assistance other than the Gilman scholarship that you received:
I have received significant grants and scholarships from Belmont University College of Business Administration as well as private scholarships from our university's generous donors.

What drew you to the Reach the World Program?
I have a deep passion for motivating young students to take their education into their own hands and get excited about the seemingly unlimited opportunities to live and learn all over the world. I've been speaking in elementary and middle school classrooms in Medford for the past four years, and now that I'm on the road again, it seems only natural to get involved with a program that engages students with travelers around the globe!

What do you anticipate gaining from your experience living and studying abroad?
I count myself blessed to have had the opportunity to live, study, and work abroad as a teenager. With every journey to a new country I am reminded of the immense luxuries I enjoy in my home in America, and I am continuously touched by the aspirations, passions, and generosity of individuals that I meet along the way. I know that I will return home from this semester in Central Asia with the fluency I desire in the Russian language, a new perspective on the political and economic issues in the region, and a new appreciation for the Russian and Ukrainian cultures.

Why choose Reach the World over other community service projects? What stood out to you about the Reach the World program?
I'm impressed with the infrastructure behind Reach the World. In the short time I've been involved in the program, I've seen growth and improvement to the website and the communication lines between Reach the World staff, Travel Correspondents and participating teachers are open and well used. In my experience this is an organization concerned with the efficiency and efficacy of their services, and I feel that my work here won't go to waste! I'm particularly excited that I've been paired with a specific class, a group of students that I will get to know and interact with throughout this semester. I'm looking forward to the live Skype conferences where I'll be able to answer students' questions and discuss in depth my experiences and current events in the region.

What are your academic plans upon your return to the United States, and your greater aspirations in life?
After graduating with my BBA in May 2012, I will apply to the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at Kentucky State University. I would like to work for the U.S. Department of State and continue studies in economics and international politics. After gaining experience in these arenas, I plan to start and run a consulting group catering to small and medium enterprises with high growth potential and the desire to expand internationally.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

If I were a Princess, Aljaferia would be my Palace of Choice

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This may have been the most relaxing visit to a new country I've ever experienced. I succomb far too often to the pressures of seeing and doing everything possible while traveling, and I just can't do it anymore. It becomes exhausting and unenjoyable, and it causes me to lose sight of how blessed I am to be able to make the journey in the first place!
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