The International Student's Guide to Surviving in Russia

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Students all over the globe come to Russia to study at its universities, as studying in the biggest country in the world is getting more and more popular. But, among those who are interested in new experiences and impressions, there are some who are really afraid of such a long journey.

‘My grandma still thinks that Russia is a country behind the Iron Curtain. She told my parents: "Lindsey will die there! This is the last time we will see her!", - says Regional Studies student Lindsey Collier, who had been studying at Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU) for a year.

On arrival to St. Petersburg, Lindsey was very impressed: ‘I was so delighted with St. Petersburg and Polytech that I decided to stay here longer. Your university offers many educational programmes: I picked out one of them, and later I extended it’.

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The moral of the story? Don’t trust grandma! Instead, here’s a useful guide for international students who are still hesitating to go study in Russia.

Admission procedure to a Russian university

  1. Be in touch with an admission manager. When you send an application form, an admission manager contacts you and gives you further instructions. You should prepare and send the necessary documents.
  2. Before your arrival, you must have your educational documents (Certificate / Diploma and Transcript) translated into Russian and notarized.
  3. When the university receives them, an admission manager will write an invitation letter. An invitation letter includes information on your country and city of birth, city of residence, city where your visa is issued, and your full home address, as required by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation. Just keep in mind that the invitation letter takes about 1 month and a half to be completed.
  4. By the time you arrive at the university, both your Certificate/Diploma and Transcript should be legalised (validated). Just so you know, legalisation is the procedure in which academic documents are approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the country of your graduation, and, after that, by the Russian Consulate.
  5. Do not forget to confirm your arrival 2 weeks before the start of your programme, otherwise your enrollment will be canceled. You’re not advised to buy a plane ticket before receiving a student visa.
  6. After arriving in Russia, you must visit the university’s visa department (Office 112/113, 1st floor, Grazhdansky prospect 28). At the customs area, you must fill in a migration card, and, after the customs officer stamps it, you should always keep it with you until your departure from Russia.
  7. Finally, visit Admission office of SPbPU and provide it with the necessary documents.

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Useful tips to keep in mind:

All foreign students arriving in Russia must submit their passport with visa, migration card, contract (sent along with the invitation) for registration to the Visa department within 3 days after crossing the border of the Russian Federation.

All foreign students should apply to extend their Russian student visa one month prior to the visa expiry date.

‘Tutor Forces’ helps international students adapt to studies in Russia

Here at Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, there is a special organisation called 'Tutor Forces'. Its members are Russian students, who help international students feel comfortable at their new place of study. The members of the tutor organisation understand that, for international students who come to study in Russia for the first time, it is very important to have a person who can help them with all the emerging issues.

A tutor is both a friend and an instructor. It is not only help in getting accustomed to the new environment, but also helping you organise your leisure time: concerts, museums, sights of St. Petersburg, cinema, and various events. Every international student who comes to Polytech has a tutor – and everything is done absolutely voluntarily.

Dormitories and infrastructure in Russian universities

  • On the day of your arrival, you will settle in the dormitory. A dormitory on SPbPU campus can cost from 130 USD to 180 USD per month. The cost of living in Russia is not very high, as an average student in St. Petersburg needs about 300 – 400 USD per month. This money includes food, transport costs, laundry, and entertainment. Please, note, that these prices are corresponded to the cost of living in St. Petersburg, as in other Russian cities and regions, they can be different.
  • Ask your tutor or new acquaintances to show you the nearest supermarket, hospital, and bank.
  • Add in your phonebook the numbers of your tutor, programme coordinators, admission managers, and emergency services.
  • Download a city map and underground map. Ask your tutor to show you the easy routes to the buildings of the university, hospitals, banks, shopping malls, city centre, and popular sightseeing attractions.

Student safety in Saint Petersburg

  • Be careful with your things in the streets and public transport. We do not recommend you take a lot of cash, as it is better to use a credit card. Still, on the public transportation, and, in some shops, cashless payment is not available, so you should definitively keep some real money in your bag.
  • Unauthorized cab drivers may cost you a fortune. Use licensed taxi services or public transport, as they have fixed prices.
  • Always follow traffic regulations and use underground walkways to cross the road to avoid the city traffic.

Getting around in the city and making friends

  • If you are going to have a long trip, buy a ticket well in advance, and take into account traffic jams, as they can occur in St. Petersburg any time, not only during rush hours.
  • Russia is not an English-speaking country: most of the people speak Russian only. That is why it is best that, on arrival (or even before arrival), to learn some popular phrases in Russian, and have a conversation book with you.
  • Foreigners who often visit St. Petersburg notice it is often raining. We strongly recommend you read a weather outlook. If the weather bureau says it will be raining, always take an umbrella with you.
  • Also, take into account that Russia is a rather cold country, so warm clothes are a must.
  • Most of all, remember to make friends! There are about 30 thousand students at SPbPU, and about 5 thousand of them are international students. You’ll never be alone here, and the various activities will never allow you to get bored.
  • Join student clubs, walk around the streets and parks of Russia’s cultural capital, visit museums and exhibitions, attend theaters, relax in one of the numerous cafes, restaurants, shopping malls, bars and clubs of St. Petersburg, and just have fun.
  • If you have a problem, do not hesitate to ask for help: in most cases, people on the street will try to help you out.

You won’t regret studying abroad in Saint Petersburg

People’s warm-heartedness and open-mindedness chase the changeable weather of St. Petersburg away. Come study in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and fall in love with the City of White Nights. Living in Russia will be an unforgettable experience, which you won’t regret. Just give it a try!

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