By Victoria Cullinan
When someone mentions Siberia, the first thought that comes to my mind is a frozen wasteland where Soviet dictators, like Stalin, sent exiled insurgents. What I don’t think about is the beautiful landscape, which includes the world’s largest, deepest freshwater lake, Lake Baikal, or the unique culture of the Mongol Buryat tribes whose ancestors were conquered by the infamous Genghis Kahn. Join Modern Languages Professor Kristin Bidoshi on Union’s newest spring study abroad term to Irkutsk, Russia, a trip with a highly environmental- and cultural-based theme.
In Irkutsk, one of Siberia’s largest cities, students will have the opportunity to study history and environment both inside and outside of the classroom. The courses offered include the History and Environment of Siberia, which is currently seeking approval for a HST and ESP credit, and a course in Russian Language, depending on placement level. Students will be studying at the Irkutsk State Linguistic University.
Due to the overall experience and goals of this term abroad, it is highly recommended for students pursuing a major or minor in environmental policy or the Russian language. The third course is a Siberian internship, in which students will have the opportunity to engage in active roles in NGOs (non-governmental organizations), such as the Great Lake Baikal trails, schools or museums. Students will work at their internships within the community approximately 10 to 12 hours per week. These internships will be carefully selected based on interests and there will be a variety to choose from, including enivonmentally based ones and those with an economic focus.
While staying in Irkutsk, students will live with host families, allowing them to engage in a high-level cultural experience. Students will be able to enjoy native, home cooked Siberian meals and celebrate exciting holidays with their host families.
Some of the excursions and activities that students will experience in Irkutsk include hiking around and exploring the famous Lake Baikal, a lake that holds 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater. They will be able to see the world’s largest statue of Lenin’s head and visit a monastery in the heart of Buddhist Russia. Students will also visit the reindeer-herding Mongol Buryat tribes, learn about their unique culture and watch exciting performances.
After staying in Irkutsk, students will fly to Moscow and then travel by night train to Petersburg. In both cities, students will be staying in hostels. In Moscow, students will have the opportunity to tour the Kremlin, see Lenin’s tomb, visit a Cold War museum, indulge in some delicious chocolate at a chocolate factory and explore one of Eastern Europe’s most exciting cities
Students will then travel overnight by train to Petersburg, where they will visit the Hermitage—or Winter Palace—as well as take a hydrofoil to Peter the Great’s extravagant summer palace and see where Russia’s famous czars once lived. Students will also be able to experience a Russian “Banya,” or sauna for some relaxation.
For more information on the trip, including the application process, deadlines and travel information, Bidoshi will be holding an information session Tuesday, May 14 at 12:50 p.m. in Brezzano House. The session will also include delicious Russian food. This study abroad program requires one prerequisite, which is the successful completion of at least one Russian language course. So get a Russian dictionary and get your study on, because this is trip full of environmental and cultural experiences you won’t want to miss out on!