Sarah Howard is a Sophomore majoring in Russian at the University of Utah. She traveled to Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, during the summer of 2010 with the Russian Language study abroad program.
If you had the chance to spend you summer in Siberia, would you do it? To some it may sound crazy, but I did it anyway. When one hears the word Siberia, all that comes to mind is cold and snow. However, I found out that Siberia has a lot more to offer than what the typical stereotype calls for.
My study abroad was spent in the summer months of 2010 in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. My decision came because of great friends, a desire for adventure, and my love for the Russian language and culture. What I found in the end was an even greater abundance of all of that! Lucky for us, the summer months were nice and warm. To start off, we all separately flew into Moscow and it was more than warm there! There, we met up with everyone attending, including our coordinator/professor and a few students that came from the University of Toronto. While we were in Moscow we took some time to tour the amazing city and architecture. There is a lot of history located in this city, as well as many others in Russia, that fascinates me non-stop. We got to see Red Square, the Kremlin, and much more that constantly had my attention. Although the Soviet Union is no longer existent, it wasn't too long ago that it was and the history of this time is visible all around you.
St. Basil's Church
From Moscow we then took a plane to Krasnoyarsk (about a 5 hour flight). Krasnoyarsk is one of the most beautiful and green cities that I have ever been to. There is so much to see and I feel like I got a good taste of Russian life there. We went to school every morning where our professors helped us get to know the city, language, and culture a lot better. They introduced us to other students (Russians) that could help us out as well as our host families. Getting to know other students around our age added life to our outings. The host family that I lived with lived right next to the Yenisey river and one of my favorite things was looking out at that view. During our stay, we got to know that river very well. Along the bank of the river they have a walkway where there are lots of little patio tent cafes. It became a daily ritual to go and sit there after class to do our homework while drinking Kvas or whatever you prefer. A lot of our free time was spent around the Yenisey. We fed ducks there, rode peddle boats, had picnics, or even just walked for fun.
Yenisey from window
Yenisey from outlook point
My host family would spend time speaking with me in the language as well as teaching me about my surroundings. They would drive me around to see "dostoprimechatelstva" (sights worth seeing such as fountains and statues) and they even drove me to see "taiga". Taiga is also known as boreal forest. Another place that they took me to see was a reservoir where we got to swim and relax. The reservoir is created by a large dam which is located in the Yenisey river and supplies factories with power. There are green trees and hills surrounding the place that make your summer swim even more enjoyable. I heard from them that in the winter it gets so cold that it freezes over and people go cross country skiing there. Fun! Although I'm not sure if I could endure the cold! They get down to -40 degrees in the winter, ouch.
It's hard not to be addicted to nature in Krasnoyarsk. One of favorite parts of the study abroad was when we took an 18 hour train ride to Lake Baikal through Irkutsk. If you are anything like I was and don't know about this amazing lake, get to know it! It's the worlds oldest, deepest, and clearest lake. Also, it is the most voluminous freshwater lake in the world. Something I found really interesting is that there are over 1,700 species of plants and animals found at Lake Baikal, 2/3 of which can ONLY be found there. It truly is a one of a kind place! While there, I could not convince myself to get in the water, way too cold. However, other students did just to do it and agreed afterward that it is indeed very cold!
Looking back, I realize how great my summer was, how much I saw, experienced, and learned. I feel like my language skills improved, my vocabulary grew, as well as culture and world experience. It is something that I will never forget and wish that everyone could experience. Everyday was an adventure and pushed me to grow. Traveling in general opens up your mind to the world, and seeing a world that was once the Soviet Union for people expands your thinking even more. Krasnoyarsk was the perfect place for my summer study abroad and I'd do it again in a heart beat! Пока пока!