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French and Russian undergraduate student, trying my hand at the real world.

Thursday, 23 August 2012


Hello chaps,

My mate from Sweden, who studies in London with me, suggested compression sacks for travelling. On the assumption that he knows what he is talking about when it comes to studying abroad, I took his advice and found THESE BAD BOYS. They are the solution to my packing nightmare, so I would heartily recommend investing. Indeed, they are hardly an 'investment' in the traditional sense - they are a complete steal at £5.99 for a pack of five. There are of course other brands available, these are just the ones I happen to own. I'm promoting a concept rather than a particular brand here!

Faith in humanity, restored.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A welcome distraction

Hello chaps,

I was partly inspired to start blogging by the lovely people at Third Year Abroad. Thriad Year Abroad is a fantastic support network for students heading off to the wide world.
I've just been reading this feature and it's really whetted my appetite for going.
Lizzie Fane, the creator of Third Year Abroad, is a former year abroad student and she is living proof that a year of study abroad can really benefit your future career.
So thank you, Lizzie, for making things feel just that little bit less isolated and please keep up the great work you do.

Monday, 20 August 2012

A few more pre-departure thoughts.

Hello chaps,

I'm going to keep this one short: I'm stressed!

If anyone has any ways I may reduce this and reduce the perpetual lymphatic swelling I'm currently experiencing, please get in touch!
This week is just too much: I've got a hugely important day, future career-wise, on Friday, followed closely by the commencement of my Russia travels.

Think I need a holiday.

Answers on a postcard, please

Hello chaps,

Packing for a year abroad is a tricky business.

It's not like packing for two weeks in Corfu where the weather is the same on a daily basis and all you need is a few clothes and books to keep yourself entertained. St Petersburg has a changeable climate, one which I have not yet experienced. Horror stories about how cold the winter is and when 'winter' begins are enough to bring even the hardest Englishman to their knees with doubt and confusion.

It's not like packing for a six month sojourn in South East Asia, where your backpack is your best friend. In this context, nobody expects you to function as a fixed resident. A traveller is expected to be dressed and act accordingly - those khaki trousers that zip off at the knee to become shorts, linen shirts and a rather grubby, but well-loved, backpack all come to mind.

My main concern is not looking out of place, having had an unfortunate experience the last time I was in Russia - I got mugged outside MGU and, at the time, was unable to speak a word of Russian! Luckily I was with a group of guys who were able to ensure the mugger didn't get anything. I do fear however, should it happen again, I will not be so lucky.

So thus, my dilemma. Answers on a postcard please: How am I meant to function as a civilised citizen of St Petersburg for four months in a country where I can only just make myself understood, based on what I can fit in a single suitcase?

Thursday, 16 August 2012

A few pre-departure thoughts

Hello chaps,

So my Russian visa has ARRIVED and all is good. It's such a relief after all the stress it caused!

Other news: I've just found out I'm through to the next stage of assessment for a *really important internship*, which, if successful, would potentially land me the job of my dreams. So here's hoping! I'm not going to tell you who it's for though, because I'm superstitious and I don't want to tempt fate. I've been away for a few days having a interview for it, but normal service is now resumed.

I've noticed I'm getting a lot of traffic from some rather diverse sources - so consider this sentence a shout out to all of you who have come across this page from the weird and wonderful far-echelons of teh interwebz. Very pleased to make your acquaintance.

To be honest, the thought of moving to Russia in a little over 2 weeks is the source of one of the biggest freakouts I've ever experienced. I'm planning to go back *home* home just to see everyone before I go just in case I don't make it out alive. No joke. I'm not really sure why - it's fear of the unknown, I guess. Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful for the experience and I plan to make the most of it. I am exceptionally lucky to have this opportunity, plus I did choose the degree with the compulsory year abroad. I could have chosen English studies with NO OPPORTUNITY OF LEAVING THE COUNTRY, which would not have been my cup of tea at all. It's just the fact that there is a part of me, despite everything, that wants to curl up quivering with my face buried in the carpet of the departure lounge and shout "DON'T MAKE ME GO THERE, IT'S TOO SCARY". Fortunately, that part of me emerges only momentarily and is quite easily pacified with chocolate and happy thoughts, as well as the memories of the last time I went to Russia, which was, quite frankly, awesome. But nevertheless, it exists and it will not cease to do so until my time abroad is complete.

There is also a part of me that feels a bit guilty for going. I have loved ones in England who will be made to worry about my not being there, whom I shall miss deeply. Said people are also planning to make the effort to come out and visit me, which is no easy or cheap task - it involves planning, money and time and I feel somewhat responsible for this. I'm not the sort of person who expects things of people - I feel guilty when I have to ask even the smallest favour!

That's all I can think of for now! Do sleduyushevo raza!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Russian visas!

Hello chaps,

So it's been a while, hasn't it?! I've been busy in all different corners of the country, quite literally. I've been surfing in Cornwall, moved out of my student house and worked on applying to internships for next summer and jobs for this summer - I've not had a day that's been completely empty it seems.

My biggest project and headache of late has been applying for my Russian visa. It is a rather arduous task, but one which must be completed in order to be able to enter the country.
Russian visas are rather particular in their application requirements. I can't really say if it's the same as with other countries, as the only Non-EU country I've ever visited is America, which has a special agreement with the UK regarding visas.

Russian visas require a 'Visa Invitation' to be issued prior to application, which for tourists are sent by the hotel/institution in which the tourist will be staying, so for tourists it's not too complicated.
Student visas, however, require the applicant to take an HIV antibody test and for the test result certificate to be sent alongside the application. This has caused me some problems in my non-London residence, as there is not the provision on the NHS for a test to be carried out for such non-medical reasons. Consequently, I had to make a second trip to London in order to get this rapid-HIV test which caused some annoyance as train fares are not cheap!

I've been unable to get a job this summer too, as it seems employers want to hire people who will stay for longer than 3 months over the summer - which is quite fair enough, I would do the same. It does mean that my financial resources are rather finite, so a £100 visa application, plus a £50 train fare to allow all the parts of the application to be present and correct has made for a rather expensive couple of weeks!

A la prochaine fois!