до встречи, Martina!
до встречи, Martina!
Our beloved intern (and great friend) Martina Vierin is returning to Aosta in a few days. Not having her around anymore will be a bummer, of course… but the one good thing to come out of her departure is an opportunity to conduct this interview!
Hi Martina! How is your last day at school going so far?
Hey Cynthia! It’s bittersweet, for sure. Everyone has been so lovely… I just cannot believe how quickly the last three months have passed by!
Tell me about it! Time truly flies in Petersburg. So, tell me a little about your background, and what brought you to Russia in the first place.
I’m from Aosta, which is a small city in the north of Italy. My first visit to St. Petersburg was a month long stay in October 2015. During that time, I was studying Russian at my University in Milan, where I was offered a Russian exchange opportunity. I instantly fell in love with the city and decided to come back for the work and study program after graduating from university.
What initially got you into the language?
Back in High School, I took a short Russian course. That popped in mind while I was figuring out what I wanted to do with my future, so I thought: Why not give it a go?
The first few semesters were interesting, but something was definitely missing. Learning such a drastically different language in an Italian classroom caused for a bit of a disconnect… learning Russian in that setting made the experience feel more like learning Latin or Ancient Greek than a language that millions of people use around the world daily. Of course, when I came to Petersburg for the first time, I immediately realized that I had made the right choice.
And you will be coming back again in no time!
Yes, yes I will be! I guess what they say is true: Once you come to St. Petersburg, there’s no leaving it for good. *laughs* I’m planning on coming back for a longer period in a few months. The two options as of now: I would love to partake in the Master’s Degree Program “Region Studies: Russian Federation” at the Polytechnic University of St. Petersburg. If that works out, I would work at Liden & Denz as a part time intern. The other choice would be to come back and work at the school full time.
So Russia has really become a big part of your life. I guess we can call you a “Peterburgenka” now?
Truth be told: During my three years in Milan, I have never felt as home and as happy as I do here. I think I’ve really found my place.
Tell us about your Russian tattoos.
Hahaha! Well, after my first visit, I decided to get a Matrushka on my arm. And just recently, you and I stopped by a local shop and got tattoos! This new one is tiny, just to remind me of my great stay here. It’s a little “спб”.
Intern Tilly, sitting across the room: You know what’s next: A nice, big portrait on Martina. Maybe Pushkin, or Dostoevsky…
Of course! My skin is a Russian canvas!
Jokes aside, can you tell us about your preconceptions of Russia and whether they proved to be true?
Oh yeah! First of all, I was prepared for the worst weather. Obviously the winters are tough, but nothing that a warm coat can’t withstand. This April was unusually cold, but in general, I actually prefer the chilly climate here — it suits the atmosphere. Also: St. Petersburg is much more modern than I could have ever imagined. I think it’s more contemporary than Milan! It’s not the only place to discover in Russia, of course, but it is a wonderful place to start (and to come back to).
Last question: Is studying Russian really as hard as they say it is?
Oh, absolutely! — And that’s not a bad thing. Getting a good foundation is important, and is absolutely doable as long as you put the effort into it. The more you study the language, though, the more you realize that you will probably never feel like you have reached the ultimate level. There is always something new to learn… even if it isn’t on a grammatical level; to master Russian is to have mastered the Russian mentality. That is why the immersive way of teaching at Liden & Denz is so beneficial: The teachers know that you can only properly learn Russian by thinking like a Russian. So: From the very first lesson onwards, we exclusively speak Russian in the classrooms — it makes a huge difference!
It does, indeed! A few weeks ago, I could hardly picture myself deciphering the alphabet. Thanks to my teacher Olga (and the help of some universal gestures), I now eagerly start conversations with Russians.
Exactly! Immersive learning is the way to go.
Thank you for the wonderful interview, Martina. It was a pleasure to work with you, and you will truly be missed! До свида́ния!
Cynthia, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg