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Narges, BA Philosophy student, chose to challenge common stereotypes and venture out to St Petersburg in Russia to complete her year abroad! Visiting Siberia and seeing the northern lights, Narges has plenty to share.

For me, a year abroad was something I’d decided before even picking out my university. Luckily, I picked a university that offers a range of options for a year abroad and this was the best thing I could have done. My outlook on life is to always do something different to the rest of the crowd, I knew that I would follow this for what country I picked. The idea of living in a place that isn’t one of the top holiday destinations intrigued me, this is how I decided on Russia!

Narges posing before skiing down a slope

With the typical stereotypes of Russia such as its bear infestation, vodka addiction and severe cold weathers, my friends told me I was crazy!  Being half Russian, I knew these stereotypes were false. As arguably the biggest country in the world, I knew I would not be bored here. Thankfully without the language barrier, the only obstacle was actually getting there during a pandemic, but soon I arrived in the beautiful big city of St Petersburg. All my classes were online and I had missed all the opening opportunities to make friends as I arrived later than most. This was when I decided to move into the student dorms. This doesn’t sound like a challenge, but unlike English universities, in Russia, the dorms are shared with a random roommate. Despite my worries, this was the best decision I could have made! There was a homely sense that everyone was in the same position, and I met an amazing mix of friends.

Narges on a snowmobile

As a BA Philosophy student at Birmingham, I chose to study something different during my time abroad and focus on Russian Law. Law, particualrly in Russia, allowed me to adapt my transferable skills from Philosophy and combine it wit my language skills. Unfortunately, two months into my year abroad, at the end of October, the pandemic started to worsen, meaning that most places in St Petersburg only accepted a Russian QR code vaccine. This restricted me in doing certain activities. I decided to take this opportunity to travel, with all my studies online, I figured I could study from anywhere I wanted.

My new group of friends and I, made our way to a small city called Murmansk, which is on the edge of the Artic Ocean. This was a one in a lifetime experience, where I snowmobiled, slept in an igloo watching the Northern Lights, visited abandoned towns, frozen waterfalls, my new experiences were endless. After a short stop back in St Petersburg I then made my way to Siberia, a place that always interested me. We got to ride huskies, ski, ice skate on the largest Deepwater Lake in the world - Lake Baikal - all the winter activities that one could only dream of. 

Narges on a swing

The experiences I have had from my year abroad is something I will never forget, and I am so blessed to have been able to do this. I have grown in independence, confidence, and widened my mindset. Not only do I have a CV that will stand out, but I have made life-lasting friends, improved my Russian language, and expanded my knowledge about the Russian law which I will be able to use in my future careers. 

Blog post written by: Narges Loudi