Do Russians Never Smile? Study in Russia and Bust Some Cultural Myths! Where to study

International Polytechnic Summer School 2017 at Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, which annually attracts a big number of students, has recently ended. This year, the number of participants reached 500 students, which again made the Summer School of SPbPU one of the biggest events for international students in Russia. 

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Growing interest of young people from all over the world to education in Russia including degree programs taught in English gave grounds for our survey aimed at interviewing students why they prefer studying in Russia and why they favoured the Polytech. 

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These are the most frequent answers which explain their choice: 

  • One of the most popular reasons is an opportunity to study the Russian language: lots of international students are interested in Russian language skills, and here at SPbPU they have an opportunity to study it during the University Foundation Program. This language course prepares international students for undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Russian universities. SPbPU has been teaching Russian since 1965, and more than 15 000 international students from all over the globe are University Foundation program graduates.
  • English is a popular language at Polytech, too. Many young people prefer doing their studies in English, and choose one of the 20 competitive Master’s degree programs taught in English. They earn their ECTS credits, attend courses of visiting professors from leading overseas universities and go for a semester for studies at a partner university.
  • Living costs and tuition fees in Russia are cheaper than in many European countries.
  • One of the main features of SPbPU is the international atmosphere and consolidated campus: students come here from all over the globe, visiting professors from different countries give their lectures, and academic mobility programs are highly-developed.
  • Sight-seeing around the streets of St. Petersburg Students makes students really excited. This beautiful, charming, mysterious and welcoming city can touch everyone’s feelings.

As we have already noted, our international students study in a multicultural atmosphere, and every day they meet different traditions, cultural characteristics and even superstitions which cause surprise, laughter, fun or embarrassment. And we would like to give some insights into what we all call superstitions.

Myths international students had about Russians

Students of the educational module ‘Space Technologies’ coming from Singapore were sure that everyone in Russia could meet a Siberian tiger in the street. Students who came to SPbPU to study Russian language and Russian culture shared their opinion that before coming to Russia they expected to see lots of people in fur hats and sports suits. 

Students enrolled in the Business Management and Energy Technology programs admitted that before arrival to St. Petersburg they thought Russians were unfriendly people who never smile. In fact, lots of students said that they expected to see gloomy and non-talkative people in Russia.

overcome myths about studying abroad in Russia

There are lots of stereotypes about every country. The students of International Polytechnic Summer School met in St. Petersburg many new friends, and the anxiety that Russian people are inhospitable and antisocial disappeared. 

There were no Siberian tigers in the streets, and fur hats were only available in souvenir shops. 

But besides the stereotypes, there are also some interesting facts and beliefs that students actually have. Some were really new for international students.

Actual superstitions and myths of Russian students

1. Airing out your grade book brings good grades

The thing that Russian students value very much and care about is their student's record book. Students are required to come for an exam with this document, and it definitely brings a lot of problems in case they lose it. That’s why a widespread superstition has formed around this small book with all students’ marks. 

Many students believe that at night before an examination a student should open a window, pull his or her student's record book out of the window, wave it and scream loudly: ‘Halyava pridi!’ (literally – “Come, free ride”). This should attract the good luck which brings him or her a positive mark without any efforts at the exam. 

2. Coins in shoes make the best good luck charms 

Another surprising superstition is connected to shoes. Now the international students of SPbPU know that a bronze coin in the right shoe under the heel definitely brings good luck at the exam. 

Of course, it is very difficult to find a real bronze coin. 

That’s why students also use a red or brown one instead of the real deal. But some young people in Russia are sure, that only coins from the USSR will bring them a fortune, so to find such a lucky charm becomes not an easy deal.

3. Pillows do the learning for you

Have you ever tried to put the students’ lectures or books under your pillow to absorb all the knowledge from it a night before the exam? Russian students have. The book with the lectures for an exam under the pillow is believed to transfer all the knowledge to a sleeping student. This superstition is widespread not only in Russia: international students from different countries admitted that they had the same belief.

Russian student superstitions
4. The black cat – cross-cultural superstition 

Traditionally the symbol of misfortune was a black cat crossing the road. But both Russian and international students agreed that if you hurry for your exam, not even a dozen black cats will convince you to take a longer route to class. 

Did you know that Russians also say “Break a leg!” before an exam? They just use a different expression which literally translates from: “Wish you no fur hair and no feather”. In order to get good luck, you’d better not to forget to answer: “Dash it all!”

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We all have our myths

Cross-cultural communication is an integral part of an educational process. When students from all over the globe study together, they not only get new knowledge but also meet other cultures, broaden their horizons and learn how to understand each other in a better way. 

And this is one of the most important elements in education: to see the differences, but also realize the things that we share and have in common. You also have an opportunity to dive deep into this international atmosphere and to learn a lot about different cultures and traditions from all over the globe – just join our Polytechnic family! 

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