A representative from the Gimnaziia designs and coordinates a varied cultural program throughout the semester. During the first month of the semester students have many guided excursions to museums and historical landmarks in St. Petersburg which include the Hermitage, Peter and Paul Fortress, Ethnographic Museum, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, several memorials to the victims of the German blockade of Leningrad during World War II, and the summer residences of the tsars, located outside the city. In addition literary tours to the apartment-museums of Pushkin or Dostoevsky will complement readings in the literature course. After this initial introduction to the riches of St. Petersburg, students will want to return to these landmarks on their own. The guided tours in St. Petersburg will conclude in the first month of the semester because previous students have found that after 2-3 weeks they would prefer to visit museums, etc. on their own rather than with a guide.
The Gimnaziia has arranged for the American students to have a university “buddy” in St. Petersburg. Previous Colby students have suggested this introduction because they lacked contact with students their own age. Obviously each relationship will be different because each person is different, but Colby recommends that the American students accept every invitation from their “buddies” particularly during the first month and plan activities with their student friends. American students should feel free to ask their Russian student friends to visit the university, visit the dormitories, meet their friends, go to student parties, play basketball or volleyball, visit student cafes. In short, let your “buddy” know what you are interested in and what you’d like to do. As the weeks go by, you might want to continue this relationship if you hit it off, or you might choose to strike out on your own and make new friends.
Theater and concert tickets will also be purchased for the students throughout the semester. Students should make specific requests to the coordinator of the cultural program if there are certain tickets they would like to have. Colby recommends that each student see an opera, a ballet, orchestra, popular movie, folk music/dance performance, drama and comedy theater, puppet theater, and circus in order to get acquainted with the cultural riches of Russia.
During the first month students will have a 3 day weekend train trip to Moscow where they will be housed in a modern and centrally-located hotel. Students are on their own for this weekend to investigate Moscow independently. Students should take advantage of tours which operate from their hotel and should get advice from host families and school personnel about things to see and do in Moscow. It is likely that a Russian university student will accompany you on this and other weekend trips to facilitate travel arrangements and to show you important and interesting places.
During the second month of the semester, students will have a 3 day weekend trip to the ancient city of Novgorod, a treasure house of old Russian architecture. Students will be housed in a central hotel and may do independent touring for the weekend. Students should read up on the history of Novgorod and get suggestions from their host families and from the Gimnaziia prior to their trip.
During the third month of the semester, students will have a week-long trip to a destination which they will choose in advance from among a list of possible trips prepared by Colby and the Gimnazium. The specific selections for each semester may be available to students prior to their departure for St. Petersburg and will vary according to changing prices in Russia.
The total costs of all excursions and travel on this cultural program are included in the program fee. Other travel will be at the students’ expense, and it will be the responsibility of the students to obtain tickets, hotel reservations, and visa documents where necessary. If students plan other travel, they must start early because arrangements for transportation and hotels in Russia are complicated and time-consuming.