Travel grants: Learning Russian in St Petersburg

Ellamae Lepper (2014, Medieval and Modern Languages)

Each September, just before starting their second year, many Cambridge ab initio Russian students travel together to St Petersburg for a three-week intensive language course. I was able to take part in this trip last year thanks to a £600 grant from St Catharine’s which covered a large proportion of my costs.

For many of us, myself included, this was our first foray into the country we’d already committed to doing a whole degree in! In between classes at the language school, we took advantage of the wonderful September weather to roam the city’s distinctive architecture and museums, leaving me with a folderful of photos of gold roofs looking splendid in the sunshine, and a more personal understanding of some of the culture and history I’d just spent a year learning about.

I also gained a healthy new appreciation for the challenges of Russian grammar – it’s one thing to think you’ve got the hang of something when you’re sitting safely behind your textbook, but quite another when you’re standing at the front of a long queue in the canteen, figuring out how to ask for the right food!