A group of 18 HWS students led by Associate Professor of Russian Area Studies David Galloway and Assistant Professor of Psychology Brien Ashdown are getting a glimpse of Russia in winter as they embarked on a study tour of the country on Dec. 31. The group will spend the Russian Orthodox Christmas day, Jan. 7, in Moscow, and will explore both Moscow and St. Petersburg before their return on Jan. 9.
“The tour has been developed as both an educational and entertaining trip to introduce students to Russia and its two great cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg,” says Galloway. In Moscow, they will visit such well-known sites as the Kremlin museum and churches; while in St. Petersburg, the students will tour the Hermitage Museum and Palace and St. Isaac’s Cathedral.
Other highlights include a visit to Moscow’s legendary Red Square with the opportunity to wander through the historic merchant quarter, Kitay-gorod, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, and Russia’s ubiquitous GUM department store. On the last day of the trip, students may choose to attend a performance of “The Nutcracker” or “La Boheme” at the famous Bolshoi Theatre.
According to Galloway, there are many potential highlights for the students. “For some people, just stepping onto Red Square in Moscow and seeing the towers of St. Basil’s creates an emotional reaction,” he says. “For others, it’s trying Russian food, or the traditional steam bath (banya), or the novelty of the night train between the two cities. Of course, being there over Christmas makes all this even more interesting, since both Moscow and St. Petersburg are decked out with lights and special programs for the holidays.”
For Ashdown, who has never been to Russia, the trip will be eye opening. “It’s going to be a good way for me to think about my scholarship (which focuses on issues of cultural identity, but mostly in Latin America) in other cultural contexts,” he says. “A 10-day trip is barely long enough to be introduced to a new place and culture but I’m hoping it will get me thinking in some new ways.”
Dominique DeRubeis ’18 is one of the HWS students traveling with the group. “I applied for the Russian study tour because I was itching for an adventure,” she says. But, she adds, it’s the educational component that makes the trip special. “A big part of the trip is exploring history and cultural perspectives, and by traveling with a professor, it sounded like a meaningful journey.”