Crossing Paths in St. Petersburg – new interns at Liden & Denz
Louis: Hi Stacey, you’re also starting as an intern here at Liden & Denz, I was wondering how you first got interested in learning Russian, it’s such a unique language!
Stacey: I graduated from my university with a degree in Foreign languages and decided to pick one to focus my career on. It’s a Goldilocks story; French was too easy, Japanese was too hard but Russian was just right and so off I went!
Louis: I got into Russian at a much earlier age than you did, 14! I was fortunate enough to go to a school which offered Russian lessons, though this is just as rare in the UK as in the USA. The Russian department at my school was full of fun and enthusiastic teachers so I got into it straight away. What helped was my previous experience with studying languages, I had started studying Spanish at 11, and due to my French mum, had been brought up bilingually and it went on from there. The fact that I was enjoying it so much meant that I got some good results in my exams, so I continued my studies through school and eventually onto university, where I am now studying Spanish and Russian. But starting as an intern in St Petersburg I imagine will be an altogether much more different experience!
Stacey: That’s strange that we started learning Russian at such different ages. So you already knew a bit of the language and culture the first time you came to Russia!
Louis: That’s right! The first time I came to Russia was in 2014 on a school trip to St Petersburg and Moscow for a week, and then my second trip in 2016 was for another week, this time a school exchange programme to Velikiy Novgorod. My third visit to Russia was in 2017 where I stayed in Petrozavodsk for a two week language course. It must have been a completely different experience for you, coming to Russia with no previous experience of the language or the culture?
Stacey: I felt like a newborn babe coming into the world for the first time on my first trip to Russia in 2009! I didn’t know the first thing about Russian and I didn’t speak a lick of Russian to boot. Who was this great Peter guy they kept talking about or that Pushkin guy everyone spoke about with great reverence?? After my study abroad, I went back to the USA and delved into Russian studies. Now I’m teaching the Russians a thing or two about their own history!
Since the time that I first arrived in 2009, I’ve seen St Petersburg change a lot and it’s way easier for foreigners and tourists to navigate now. Signs and menus in English can be found in most cafes, restaurants and pubs, not to mention the number of Russians who can speak English. It’s a very easy city to visit now compared to back then. What was it like for you when you first visited in 2014?
Louis: When I first came to St Petersburg I thought it was in many ways similar to other European cities. The beautiful architecture is reminiscent of some of the more iconic and historical areas of cities such as Paris or Rome, but then there are stark differences as well, things like the cars which to me look much older and weathered. As for the driving, I’ll be polite and just say that as a pedestrian you have to be on your toes!
Stacey: Yea, definitely make sure to make eye contact with the drivers before crossing the crosswalk. Many drivers don’t slow down for those who are crossing unless they’re already in the middle of the street, but overall it’s a safe place to live and a great place to visit! Best of luck in your endeavours as intern!