Alexander - Lomonosov Moscow State University

B. Laws / Arts
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

Having finished four semesters of Russian at UQ, I thought it would be an excellent idea to finally travel to Russia and test whether I remember any of my case endings. MSU is the only partner university that UQ has relations with in Russia, so off I went! Luckily for me, MSU is extremely well respected within both Russia and abroad; the Faculty of Foreign Languages has a number of lecturers who solely teach international students. After a quick placement test whilst still very jet-lagged, I was placed into the level 3 group (1 being the most proficient, 5 beginner). 

Overall, the courses were very enjoyable - you are certainly thrown into the thick of things, as all the subjects are taught entirely in Russian, which means you have to quickly get up to speed with Russian names for parts of speech. The lecturers were on the whole very good and personable - sometimes it felt like our classes were merely an excuse to have a chat with the lecturer and consult them on your relationship problems, the existence of God, the War in Donbass, whether vegetarianism is a fad, and what we ought to seek in a fulfilling marriage. Heady stuff. 

My only word of caution is that the teaching style is radically different from Australia: staff feel little compunction about grilling a student and embarrassing them in front of the class. This is never intended to be a personal insult, but simply a core part of Russian pedagogy. Don't dwell too much on it as everyone gets a dose of this medicine from time to time.

Accommodation

I stayed in "glavnie zdanie" of MSU - I wholeheartedly recommend staying in the obshchezhitie. The cost is negligible and the building is very historic. Try and insist on a private room - I was forced to share a room for a while which, whilst even cheaper, is obviously not good for privacy. However, arranging the accommodation is an absolute nightmare: you have to confront the lady in komnata pyat', whose sole goal in life is to frustrate your time at MSU. Be prepared with all your documents - ID, money etc. etc. - well in advance, and take a book, as the queue to see her often takes an hour or longer to subside. The canteens in the university vary in quality but are all extremely cheap, with dinner costing $4-6, and breakfast about $2. The best canteen is by far dietka, which can be found down the stairs in sektor B (B, not V). I hope you like tvorog, grechka and kotleti.

Budget

When I was in Moscow, I budgeted around 1,500 rubles a day (or around $30) whilst I was there. This excludes accommodation and travel but was more than enough to live a very comfortable life in the city, eating out in shikarnie gruzinskie restorani and paying gallery admission.

Professional development and employability

 feel much more confident in my Russian now - although I think my grammar is pretty comparable to what is was beforehand, being surrounded by Russian speakers for six months has significantly improved my listening comprehension and speaking ability. Before travelling to Russia, I would have been a lower-intermediate level of proficiency, whilst now it is upper-intermediate.

Highlight

The Kremlin of Velikiy Novgorod in Spring
The Kremlin of Velikiy Novgorod in Spring

The absolute highlight of my time was the opportunity to really get to know Moscow: it is such an outrageous, fantastical city, filled with the most colourful character imaginable, from besuited oligarchs to semechki munching gopniki. The theatre and musical performances on offer are unparalleled (I suggest you try and catch a few concerts at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, which is very affordable for students and frequently hosts some of the world's best musicians). Similarly, the city is dripping in history: a stroll around the centre involves walking past Lenin's Mausoleum, the tower of Ivan the terrible, beautiful orthodox churches, and street names that are recognisable to readers of Tolstoy. 

Lastly, having the Russian visa for 6 months is a privilege - it allows you to visit many lesser known places that most tourists simply don't have the time to see. I went on a few trips to Vladimir, Suzdal, Velikiy Novgorod and Petersburg (sleeper trains are comfortable, even the notorious platskart that most guidebooks warn against). I can't recommend seeing some of the smaller towns enough - the people are warm, the vodka cold, and the nature unspoilt.

Top tips

  • I would leap at the chance to study abroad in Moscow.
  • As long as you remember to have a relaxed attitude to life and shrug off the annoyances of the Russian bureaucracy, you will have an incredible time.
Alexander - Lomonosov Moscow State University