Academic Program

Colby in St. Petersburg was established in 1992 to enable a small number (maximum of 5 students per semester) of intermediate or upper-intermediate Russian language students to study in a small group or individual tutorial setting. The program has a fixed academic curriculum of three courses:

  • Russian language classes, (12 hours per week)
  • Russian literature class (3 hours per week)
  • Russian history (3 hours per week).

Successful completion of the program earns 16 Colby credits, distributed as follows:

  • Russian Grammar (3 credits)
  • Russian Conversation and Composition (3 credits)
  • Russian Phonetics (2 credits)
  • Russian literature (4 credits)
  • Russian history (4 credits)

All classes meet at the St. Petersburg Classical Gimnazium, the students’ host institution in St. Petersburg. All courses are conducted by St. Petersburg instructors, contracted and evaluated by Colby.

All the instructors have done advanced graduate work (Ph. D. or M.A. equivalent) in their respective fields and currently are teaching both at the secondary and university level. (In the present difficult economic situation in Russia, it is typical for university instructors to work part-time in several positions.) Be assured that students are receiving high quality university level instruction.

The academic program is unique in that the class size is very small, ensuring maximum, daily participation from each student. It goes without saying that students’ work is very intensive and progress very fast because of so much individual attention. In addition to the group classes, each student will have individual classes with instructors of phonetics, grammar, and composition throughout the semester. Attendance at every class is essential, and students should notify the Gimnazium if they are ill and unable to attend class. Classes will not be held during planned excursions and planned travel.

Students will note that they probably will spend more time in class but less time on homework assignments than is the case in American college courses. This difference in study time is deliberate so that students will have more time to investigate the wealth of historical and cultural resources which the city of St. Petersburg has to offer.

Students on this program must be ready to participate actively in the classroom and must be able to take initiative with requests and suggestions for the instructors. The advantages of personalized instruction are many, but the small class size works well only when students are well-prepared for each class, active in each class meeting, and willing to ask instructors for more or less difficult work. The instructors must have ongoing evaluation of materials from the students if the program is to be effective. Students must not sit silently when they do not understand, and students must promptly say when material is too easy or too difficult or presentation is too rapid. Students will receive a syllabus for each course at the beginning of the semester and should read the syllabus carefully and discuss it with each instructor. Students must view these classes as independent study opportunities and must take an active part in the selection of materials and the pace of the classes. Students should f irst discuss any problems with the instructor but should also discuss questions with the Academic Coordinator in regularly scheduled meetings.

You must be aware that you are a student in another country and should observe the usual rules of classroom etiquette. You should not eat , drink, or chew gum during classes. Men should not wear hats in class or anywhere inside homes or buildings. Students should sit attentively, not slouch or lean on tables, during classes. While some American instructors are accepting of a “casual” classroom, Russian instructors are not and as a sign of respect for the instructor you should abide by the usual classroom rules.

Students should be aware that in Russia an oral final examination is most often the sole evaluation of each course. Because this academic program is tailored specifically for you, you will have papers and written tests throughout the semester as well as written and oral final examinations, but you will notice that there is less written work than you are accustomed to in an American college setting. Previous students have requested more graded written work so that they may know of their progress and instructors’ evaluations throughout the semester. Colby has made this request to the instructors, but you may want to discuss this matter further with your instructors. It is definitely to your benefit to have as much graded written work (compositions and tests) as possible.

At the conclusion of the semester, each student will receive a grade and a written evaluation from each instructor. Students are graded by each instructor according to the Russian system, a five-point scale in which 5 is an A (excellent), 4 is a B ( good), 3 is a C (fair), etc. These grades and evaluations will be reviewed by the Academic Coordinator in St. Petersburg and by the Colby Russian staff before Colby grades and credits are recorded.

SPECIAL NOTE: Colby in St. Petersburg students who wish to receive equivalent credit for Colby’s course HI228 (History of Russia, 1855-1991), a course required for the Russian Language and Culture major, must successfully complete the 4-credit history component of the Colby in St. Petersburg curriculum and after their return to campus must successfully complete a graded 2-credit independent study in Russian history with Colby’s Russian history professor.