"My experience was one of entire enjoyment and fulfilment. Undertaking Russian Studies was possibly the best, and most daunting (being ab initio) choice I’ve made.
In terms of the year abroad, it was thoroughly useful in many ways. First in terms of language - being taught in Russian (particularly at the State University) was invaluable and rewarding. Living in the country and getting on with everyday things - shopping, making friends, etc, was equally fruitful. Travelling within Russia, and the CIS was astonishing. I cannot stress this enough. It gave as real a sense as possible to learn about the culture, language, people and, I feel often overlooked, it allowed such personal development. Confidence. Inner strength. A sense of the absurdity of life. All of these and more can be thrown into the end result. I’ve realised this more and more since. People need guidance on years abroad - they must be thrown in and, with all the support and goodwill intended, embrace the unknown and overcome any obstacles. It's worth it. It's a learning curve for life. It really shows you how much is possible and how easy it is to do something really interesting.
After my year abroad I worked in St. Petersburg for a Russian electronics-industry manufacturer, teaching the middle management English. This was a temporary position for a few months. I slipped right into everyday life there; I had no qualms at all about living abroad having done it before. Since then I returned to the UK and wanting to remain in Birmingham, I became a bookseller at Waterstones. Not degree related, but what an environment to work in! I've since become part of the senior management team at one of the biggest branches in the country in Birmingham. It's not related to Russia but it is related to confidence, knowledge, and insight. I will certainly work elsewhere, travel again - for work, study and pleasure. I'm also taking a CELTA course which may be very useful in doing this.
My year abroad provided some very personal and happy memories. I sorely miss it; yet I'm on good terms with both the nostalgia and my present life - it taught me to love the time you're in, for it'll pass soon enough. Create good memories!
When people find out I had a year abroad, they have many many questions and show such interest - it seems I've been very privileged! It's a grand opportunity. I am merely 24. I’ve come a long way personally. I am entirely in debt to those who have helped. My year abroad plays a huge part of this, a catalyst for many fantastic changes; a star in my inner Solar System."