World Class

A semester in Russia

By Chris Murphy
Globe Staff / February 13, 2011

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John Casper, a junior at Boston College majoring in political science with a minor in Russian, chose a study-broad program at St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University. He wanted to improve his Russian but also to learn more about a country and culture that Americans generally know little about. Casper lived with a host family and studied Russian language, art history, modern Russian life, and the politics of communism.

RISE AND SHINE: “The day starts later in Russia. People usually start work at 10 in the morning and dinner is usually not eaten till 10 at night. People also live in smaller living quarters over here as well. The majority of Russians live in large apartment complexes. A family living in a single-family house is a rarity.’’

HEAVY PLATES: “People tend to eat food centered around meat, potatoes, and bread. The food tends to be heavy and bland but filling. I live with an ethnic Russian family and they tend to cook traditional Russian meals such as borscht and beef stroganoff. Russians tend to eat staples for breakfast that would be considered dinner in the United States. Many times my host mother has given me pasta and meatloaf for breakfast.’’

PERFECT WITH CAVIAR: “I have become a big fan of blini, which are like crepes but much thinner. The Russians put a variety of different foods in them like chocolate, ham and cheese, cabbage and eggs, and of course caviar.’’

LESS STRESS: “Students take their work just as seriously as American students, but they do not stress as much about it as American students do.’’

DAY IN THE LIFE: “On my first Saturday night out in St. Petersburg, I went to a club and did not get home till 6 in the morning. The city is busy at all times of the night. You can go clubbing, go grocery shopping, or go to a restaurant at any time.’’

FRESH SOUND: “I have become a big fan of Vera Brezhneva. She is an ethnic Russian from Ukraine. She’s Russia’s equivalent of [Jennifer Lopez]; she sings, acts, and models. Her newest song, ‘Love Will Save the World,’ has been a big hit in Russia.’’

MULLET POWER: “If a guy wants to look cool he has to be rockin’ a mullet. For some reason that type of haircut is huge in St. Petersburg.’’

SERIOUS BUSINESS: “People tend not to smile out in public as they do in the United States. While it is fine to smile and nod at strangers in the United States, in Russia a person might think you are crazy or strange. People keep to themselves very much.’’