Ma Yi Shun, Elizabeth
Saint-Petersburg State University, Russia
Welcome to my CityU booth! It was such an honour to represent CityU during the exchange fair organised by my faculty - Graduation School of Management of SPbU. I received a lot of enthusiastic enquiries from Russian students while introducing my home university and wearing our GSO ‘Go Global’ hoodie. They were surprised by our school well-structured exchange programme and showed their interest in coming to our school and study. I felt so proud when I saw each of them leaving our booth with a fond smile. I am grateful to be part of the school and feel blessed to have the opportunity to share what I have cherish - our school and the Hong Kong culture. I feel like I have 'Go Global' for real.
Cold!! Weather is one of the difficulties I have to overcome during my exchange in Russia. The average temperature here is around -6℃ in February and snow is now a part of my daily life here. Usually, my body and legs are OK. 3 to 4 layers of clothes would keep them warm enough. However, my cheeks are always numb from the cold! Unlike Asian countries, wearing facemask is an uncommon practice here and some may even suspect you are a terrorist with a facemask. After 15 minutes of walk from the main Campus of SPbU to the famous Winter Palace, this is all I can do for photo taking. So, for my cheeks' survival, I hope you can forgive my ugliness.
During orientation week, I had the chance to meet other exchange students in GSOM SPbU. Our buddy team very kindly invited us to a Russian Quest which introduced us to all kinds of Russian cultures through quizzes. We have learnt about Russian famous people, landscapes, foods and, of course, Vodka. We even made a play for a Russian fairy tales. Interestingly, some of these fairy tales are also found in Serbia and Bulgaria too (this information is shared by my exchange friends from there). I played the frog in this play. And, those white pieces of paper on the floor are supposed to be snowflakes, which have made the play ‘more Russian’. At the end, my group won the 2nd Runner-up among 7 teams! However, in my opinion, the friendships I built here are the most valuable award I have won in this evening.
A snapshot by my friend when I am getting my parka back in the cloakroom. Before coming to Russia, I found an unexpected rule written in my classroom rules: No baggy clothing. Every time you walk into the campus, the first thing you do is turn right to the cloakroom and put down your outer clothes. I learnt why after I ignored that rule and walked straight into my classroom - I started sweating within a few minutes! There is a central heating system in all indoor area in Russia, and so the average indoor temperature is 22°C. Usually, I only wear a T-shirt with a cardigan indoor. Also, you don't want to move like a Humpty-Dumpty indoors and bumping into other people like bumper cars inside the campus. So, go to the cloakroom first! And don't forget to say Спасибо ('spasiba' - means Thank You in Russian) when you go.
In the Chinese slang, we always say “we miss our home more on festivals”（每逢佳節倍思親）. I experienced this doubly during the Chinese New Year. Homesick hit me hard, especially when I looked at Instagram posts full of red pockets and family gatherings. Yet, I was lucky to have this Asian gang. There are Hong Kongers (Me, or course), Taiwanese, Mainlanders and Japanese in this photo! We gathered around on the new year's eve in the Chinese calendar for reunion dinner (團年飯) in this fancy Chinese restaurant, celebrating our tradition together. Although our families are miles away, we are not lonely. It is such a special experience rejoicing a Chinese festival overseas.
I understand most of you think exchange programme is all about traveling and playing. Well, to be honest, traveling does cover half of my time spent here. Yet, studying is still something big. Comparatively, the workload and learning style is similar here at Saint Petersburg State University with Hong Kong’s. Group projects and final examinations account substantial parts in the final grading. You see me working on my project at the University Library here?! The difference is just the number of student in each course is relatively smaller, 15-20 people in one class. Therefore, discussions and debates often occur among students. I enjoy this part the most because it offers me a precious chance to know more about the Russian business environment from locals' perspective.
If you google ‘Saint Petersburg State University’, what you see in this picture is probably not what you may find. Let me introduce the building I go nearly every day - the Mikhailovskaya Dacha campus of Graduate School of Management of Saint Petersburg State University. According to my buddy, this campus was renovated from a horse stable building and was built 165 years ago. This building is one hour away from the city centre, not hard to reach but still rather isolated, which makes it good for studying. It is such a pleasure to study in such a historical, stunning place. And this also marks another difference comparing my study experience in the CityU where we have modern design and high-rise buildings. I am looking forward to spring when the snow melts and the grass yard reveals.
First, I would like to clarify that this is not a screen capture of a Windows XP wallpaper nor is it an XP device card. It is actually my student transportation card. Think of it as the Russian version of our student Octopus card in Hong Kong. Each student is given one and it is used for all kinds of public transport, including the metro, trams, and buses. It is very economical to travel using this card, with it only costing 1350 roubles (approximately HK$185) for the whole month. This includes unlimited bus rides plus 100 metro rides. It is a great example of why we should travel when we are students. I rank this as the most important thing to carry with me in Saint Petersburg.
I got flowers! International Women’s Day was surprisingly a huge event in Russia. 8th March was a public holiday and on this day it is tradition for men to send flowers or gifts to women. People usually gather with family and friends. Nearly all the restaurants were fully booked, and for that whole week there were loads of shops offering special sales for women. The flowers I received were part of a free giveaway on the famous Nevsky Prospeck street. This was the first time I had celebrated International Women’s Day, and it was a very surprising tradition to discover while in Russia.
Today, I would like to share my struggle with the printers here. At Saint Petersburg State University, we have to pay for our printing. For about HK$1 per page, it is really not that expensive at all. Yet, it is a very complicated and time-consuming process. First, the library computer I need to use always has a long queue. Then, when activating the card the instructions are written in Russian. It is a long procedure consisting of ten steps. Luckily, the staff in the library are kind enough to guide me through the whole process step by step. After that, I go to the printer and wait for the job to be sent. Here, you must be patient. Look at how frustrated I am after waiting for 15 minutes to print out the nine pieces of paper in my hand. Thankfully, I got it all done in the end. However, I must say that it is a real struggle to get things printed here!
We’re the only two people from Hong Kong exchanging at the Saint Petersburg State University this semester. Please, say hi to my CityU buddy - Angel. She is studying in her third year, majoring in Policies. While we have totally difference class schedules and majors, even different campuses, we still hang out once a week and share our experiences of living here. I’m glad to have Angel with me, who I can share my worries with, as well as give advice to. This photo was taken at our favourite Korean restaurant - Babjib, where we often meet up, especially when we are really missing Asian food.
Shout out for the end of the semester! In Saint Petersburg State University, the spring semester is split into two parts. The first part goes from February to April, and second part from April to June. Compared to Hong Kong, they have a rather intensive time table here. Most of the lessons last four hours (with only one break), and each course might have two or more lessons a week. Here is a photo taken with my project mates on the day of our last marketing research lesson of the semester. Can you see how excited I am?! We are so ready for our final exams.
Saint Petersburg is well known for its rich cultural and historical heritage. As a Saint Petersburg State University GSOM exchange student, you get to enjoy special student discounts and seat reservations at the famous Mariinsky Theater, where a lot of great Russian artists once performed. Taking full advantage of the opportunity, I have already seen the ballets ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘Don Quixote’ here, as well as the opera ‘Carmen’ and other orchestral performances. All of the performances have been world-class, especially the ballets. I couldn’t tell you how thrilled I was when I saw the ballerinas leaping and pirouetting (spinning).
After my journey began in Russia, the most common questions people ask me are “what do you eat in Russia?” I have to be honest, I am a total Asian when it comes to my eating habit. It took me quite some time to figure out what Russians eat. Unfortunately, I am struggling to get used to it. It’s made even harder because you can find quality Asian food, such as pad thai, Korean bibimbap, and Vietnamese pho here in Saint Petersburg. Nevertheless, after two months studying here, the following is my report on some of the Russian food I’ve had.
My favourite breakfast and street food – blini. In Russia, there is a chain of restaurants called ‘Teremok’, which has over 3,000 stores across the country. They sell blini, a Russian-style crepe or pancake. Blini is made by mixing flour, eggs, and milk. They are usually served with various kinds of fillings, the most traditional being sour cream or red caviar. Personally, I like the one with mushrooms, cheese, and cream. With a wide variety of fillings, they can cost between 60 - 370 roubles (approximately HK$8-45) depending on what you pick. It also only takes about two minutes for the professional blini maker to make one. They are a super convenient street food which really helps fill you up before class in the morning.
Borsch (Sounds like bore-sh, Chinese: 羅宋湯). In Hong Kong, whenever I mentioned Russian food, people always think of borsch. However, as I have observed, Russians do not serve borsch like Hong Kongers do. Hong Kong borsch usually uses oxtail soup with lots of tomatoes and vegetables, and tastes sweet, with a little bit of spice. In Russia, they use less tomatoes, and instead you find more sliced cabbage and carrots. Most importantly, they serve it with sour cream and herbs. The traditional way to eat it is to take a few spoonfuls of sour cream and mix it into your borsch (according to the waiter I met in Moscow). It is therefore not spicy at all, and is actually slightly sour and not as sweet as those in Hong Kong. In my opinion, because it is more refreshing and lighter tasting, Russian borsch is better as a starter.
Russian dumplings. The one I am enjoying in this photo is called pelmeni. It is a kind of boiled dumpling with a thin outer layer, usually filled with meat or mushrooms. I found the dumplings to be rounder than Chinese-style dumplings and rather smaller too. In addition to pelmeni, there is also manti, which originates from Turkey, and vareniki, which is usually served with potatoes and cheese. These dumplings are not only found in Russia but can be readily obtained throughout Eastern Europe and are common family dishes. You can also buy frozen ones in the supermarket and cook them yourself. While they taste quite mild and keep the meat’s original flavour, they are not too heavy. Pelmeni is a good choice if all you want is a light lunch.