After 10 days immersed in the life of Russia’s two great cities, a group of 18 HWS students returned to the U.S. with an increased ability to engage in culturally sensitive travel in a non-English-speaking country. The trip, led by Associate Professor of Russian Area Studies David Galloway and Assistant Professor of Psychology Brien Ashdown, included several students who took Galloway’s first-year seminar in the fall.
In Moscow, the group visited sites such as the Kremlin Museum and Churches. In St. Petersburg, they toured the Hermitage Museum and Palace and St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Red Square, a GUM State Department Store and Bolshoi Theatre were also on the itinerary.
The trip held many highlights for the students. “One thing that stood out for me was the Winter Palace,” says Alexander Shaw ’19. “Seeing the architecture and gilded halls of the Czarist era was kind of like stepping back into the past.” The architecture was also a draw for Rachael Brown ’18. “My favorite part was seeing the cathedrals of St. Petersburg,” she says. “They were absolutely incredible.”
Erika Ireland ’19 was moved by the experience of seeing “The Nutcracker” ballet performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. “I have performed ‘The Nutcracker’ for 13 years,” she says. “It was amazing to see it done by one of the world’s greatest companies. Hearing the score performed by an orchestra in such a historic theatre brought me to tears.”
Academically, says Galloway, students benefited from the exposure to Russian language and culture. “For my language students, in particular,” he says, “I think it demonstrated how crucial Russian is for ease of navigation.”
While many students may find the notion of studying abroad for a semester in Russia intimidating, Galloway believes that shorter trips of this nature offer an important introduction to international travel. “A short-term trip gives students some familiarity [with the country], which helps in overcoming that inner obstacle.”
That familiarity, more than any specific learning experience, is what makes trips of this kind so valuable, Galloway says. “Of course, they had academic content through the tours, but that to me is less interesting than changing their mindsets. You can always take in the history and knowledge about a place, but a change in how you view it is the best thing to come home with.”