Interview to Alex from the UK!
Alex Sowerby, who is 22 years old and from the UK, has just finished his study/teaching programme at Liden & Denz, which started in September 2013. In this interview he shares his reflections on his time in Saint Petersburg and at Liden & Denz.
What is your current occupation?
I am currently a student at Bristol University in the UK and a student at Liden & Denz in Saint Petersburg.
Why did you decide to come to Russia to study Russian?
As part of my university course I have to spend a year in Russia and from day one I always wanted to come to Saint Petersburg, then it was a matter of find where in the city I wanted to go, and which schools or universities or institutes could best cater for my needs. I found Liden & Denz through recommendations of one of my tutors at university, she stressed the very professional atmosphere at the school. After looking at the school’s website I thought that everything really suited me and that it was a good place to start.
A lot of people consider learning Russian to be a challenge. Do you agree with this statement? Why?
I think studying any language is a challenge, but the difficulty can surely be overcome if you are truly motivated. Russian is certainly a difficult language but if you have the right teachers, the right materials and the right atmosphere, it does become a lot easier. And that is precisely what I have found at Liden & Denz. Here I was given the confidence to really speak Russian in the classroom. Some of my friends studied Russian at the Universities in Saint Petersburg and I think that their experience was different. Liden & Denz has a very relaxed atmosphere, the teachers help you a lot, they really want you to learn. You really feel that you are progressing and you see the results.
What sort of impression did you have of Russia and Russian culture before coming here? And how did it change after arriving here?
I knew quite a lot about Russia before coming, having studied Russian politics, literature and culture. Yet I must say that coming to Saint Petersburg has blown my expectations. I really loved the city and the people here. The friendships I have made here were incredible. The idea of Russia and Russian culture should not be scary to people. People read a lot about Russia in the media, and they often derive a negative impression of the country, but when they come here they often change their mind. As I have said, my expectations were completely outdone.
How has Liden & Denz made your experience in Russia better? Anything specific?
The teaching is outstanding and a school wouldn’t be a great school without great teachers. At Liden & Denz I felt comfortable straight-away. Culture-shock is something that I was worried about, but Liden & Denz has made my stay very comfortable. There are excursions that you can do with the school: they are outstanding. Here they really make an effort to further your Russian experience, by bringing you to visit very interesting sights in the city and on its outskirts.
Do you think a knowledge of Russian will benefit you in your future?
Absolutely, my objective in life is to use my languages and I would really love to work in Russia, or work abroad for a Russian company: either way, to use Russian on a daily basis. Given the current world situation, I think studying Russian can benefit many people. But learning Russian is not just learning a language, you learn a new culture, a new way to approach things in life. It can really influence the way you view the world.
What is the most unique thing about Russia that you have experienced here?
Certainly the hospitality of the people. If you don’t know a Russian they might be distant, but if you know them, they will treat you like a brother. And I have certainly experienced that here. The people here are wonderful, there is no expense spared when there is a party at Russian house for a friend. People in the world consider Russians to be cold but that is not true. Another thing I loved was walking in the city every day. I didn’t even go into museums when I arrived to take advantage of the good weather, knowing that I would have time for sightseeing later. This is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Saint Petersburg is a unique thing about Russia. Not so many people speak English to you, it’s a great opportunity to speak Russian, whereas in Europe most people will speak to you in English if you don’t know the local language.
If there is one thing that you will never forget about your time in Russia, what would it be?
Good question! I will never forget the New Years Celebrations that we had before we left, organised by the school. It was a very good evening, not just a party, with a number of mixed emotions, since some of us were not going to come back after the winter break. Also, I will never forget the feeling of being at home here. When I look back at Russia I think: I felt at home here, and more than that, I want to come back and live and work and make a life here.