University of Dallas’ Modern Language Department is offering a new study abroad program next summer that guides students through Moscow and St. Petersburg from June 8 to 16. Dr. Richard Olenick and Professor Irina Rodriguez created this opportunity that is open to students, alumni and faculty.
The group will experience a “Cultural and Literary Tour of Russia,” seeing sights such as the “Red Square, Kremlin, celebrated art museums, Peter’s and Katherine’s Palace, [and] writers’ houses-museums,” according to the UD Study Abroad Program webpage.
There is an optional one-credit literary course that focuses on Russian short stories and poetry that are often connected to sights the group will visit.
Olenick hopes to lead the group on “a little train trip, half an hour outside of Moscow, 30 or 40 miles, and go to one town, which has another apartment of Nikolai Gogol. You can do a little walking tour and there are three churches and a monastery, and just get out of the city. We are planning on doing one or two of these. And the neat thing is we will be under what is called ‘white nights.’ St. Petersburg is 180 miles from the Arctic Circle … it sets around 1:00 a.m. and then rises at about 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. It will be light most of the train trip, so people can see the countryside.”
Rodriguez, from Kharkiv, Ukraine, was part of the last generation to grow up under Soviet control. Her recently published book, My Soviet Youth: A Memoir of Ukrainian Life in the Final Years of Communism, reflects on her experience and clarifies misunderstandings about the lives people lead under Soviet control.
Rodriguez’s native language is Russian and Olenick, who minored in Russian during college, taught computational physics in Russian for a semester at Moscow State University two weeks following the end of the Soviet Union. They both highlighted the advantage of traveling with two fluent Russian speakers in a country where English is not commonly spoken. Next semester, they will co-teach a new class at UD: Intensive Russian I and II.
Rodriguez and Olenick emphasized that they experienced no difficulty with the Russian government while they were organizing the program and they hope that people realize that Russia is safe to travel.
“I don’t think there is open animosity towards Americans, mostly they are curious,” said Olenick.
They will host an informational meeting on Sept. 23 to familiarize members of the UD community with the program and clarify doubts and concerns.
The program’s cost for students under 23 years old is $4,468 according to Explorica, which “includes international airfare and Moscow-St. Petersburg train” and “airport transfers, double occupancy room, entrance fees, tour guide, all meals except most lunches,” although that figure does not include other fees according to the UD Study Abroad Program webpage.
There will also be a gathering with students and professors from Moscow State University to “meet the students and see their perspective on things,” said Rodriguez. The group will discuss “culture, life, and literature in the US and Russia,” said Olenick.
Rodriguez hopes that those who attend the program will comprehend “what it means to be Russian,” as well as “the Russian soul, [to] not just tour the places, but really understand what lies behind that.”
Olenick emphasized that this is a chance “to go see and understand more about the great Russian people. You’ll be with friends and faculty and get some insights into things, so I think it’s a golden opportunity to see this not just a tourist, but really from the academic side.”