MSIP Intern Reflects on a Trip of Beauty

Moscow Summer Internship Program (MSIP) student Tatevik Sargsyan took a moment to remember the stunning city she encountered during her group’s trip to St. Petersburg in July.

From Russia with Love
Growing up in Armenia and having had my share of Russian history, I was excited to see St. Petersburg, Russia’s famous “Window to the West.” Since childhood I’ve been told that the city dazzles with its rich culture, striking architecture, enormous museums, and of course, the Kirov (now Mariinsky) ballet. The prospect of being able to share this amazing experience with my newly found Armenian friends made me anticipate it that much more.

Our journey to St. Petersburg started in the morning and on a very interesting note, a downpour. However, nothing could break our spirits. The trip to St. Petersburg traditionally made overnight on the “sleeping train,” was upgraded to a ride on the new high speed train Sapsan, with the maximum speed of 250km/h, which cut our journey to as little as four hours. Having arrived in the afternoon we were all a little bit tired. As we stepped out from the train station, we found ourselves immediately on the famous Nevsky Prospekt that cuts through the historical center of the city.

The ride to the hotel was really short as it was situated in the courtyard of St. Catherine’s Armenian church, one of the two Armenian churches positioned perfectly on Nevsky Prospekt. The façade of the church combines elements of both baroque architecture and traditional Armenian details. So as not to lose time, we decided to start our quest immediately. As we strolled down the streets, I couldn’t help but admire the beautiful architecture: every building we passed was like a monument. The first stop was the famous Dom Knigi bookstore located in one of the most beautiful buildings in St. Petersburg. Directly opposite it was the monumental Kazansky Cathedral.

The city was founded by one of Russia’s great emperors, Peter the Great. When he built this city on a swamp his subjects simply laughed at him but when it was declared the new capital, they were dissatisfied. Unlike Moscow’s red bricks, golden domes and strict demeanor, St. Petersburg’s network of canals and baroque architecture give the city a kind of a warm and somewhat Italian flavor. No doubt it is often called the Venice of the East. I was a little bit sad that we had missed the peak of the legendary White Nights (in June)—Beliye Nochi as the Russians call them. Still the first few days the sky stayed bright till 11 o’clock at night. We spent that night on a boat cruise through the heart of the midnight city, watching the spectacle of the Neva River bridges opening.

The following morning promised to be highly productive. We were able to visit Peterhof—the Russian Versailles, a reminder of the beauty that a man can create. I found myself in a kingdom of fountains. The view to the Baltic Sea was highly appreciated. The amazing pictures we took will always remind me of the magical hours spent there.

The other highlights of our trip were the enormous and impressive Palace Square with the Winter Palace, the old residence of Russian tsars—nowadays mostly known as the main building of Hermitage Museum; St Isaac’s Cathedral—an architectural marvel; and the enthralling Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The pictures taken in the rain from the observation walkway at the base of the dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral were both chilling and breathtaking. Another stop was the first structure to be built in Peter the Great’s Petersburg: the Peter and Paul Fortress—an emblem of the current city.
At noon we were hugely surprised to hear the loud cannon that is shot daily—a tradition started in the 19th century.

A whole day spent at the state Hermitage Museum was not enough to see even one percent of the whole collection. Three million artifacts of world culture can be admired by anyone interested in history and art. Experts say that if you were to spend a minute at every exhibit it would still take seven years before you will have seen them all.
All of these incredible experiences wouldn’t have been the same without the most adventurous, fun-loving group of people I have ever known. During this internship program, I have found true friends, who have encouraged me to try new and interesting things, who share the same passions as me and who have showed me the importance of being an Armenian and of being proud of it every minute. I can’t wait for the next few weeks..

Dispatches from Moscow — Michelle Deherian Writes About MSIP 2012

Zdrastvouyte!

My name is Michelle Deherian and I am a proud Armenian from Canada. I am a 5th year psychology student studying at York University in Toronto and by nature I am fascinated with learning about and observing human inter action. Some important questions arise in everyday life; what defines an individual’s self-concept? How does one differ from those in their environment? And most importantly, how do they interact with and live in a society which thrives on social acceptance?

Well, here I am, living and breathing Moscow, Russia — the beautiful architecture, the most complicated subway system I have ever experienced and the fashionistas who grace the streets of Moscow with their presence. To be honest, upon my arrival to take part in the AGBU Moscow Summer Internship Program (MSIP) I was extremely nervous. I had no idea what I was getting myself into as far as what I was going to see, especially with the potential culture shock I was anticipating. Now, the greatest unsettled argument in the field of Psychology is the nature versus nurture debate. Are we who we are based on genetics or does the environment we live in shape our personal characteristics? Through simple observation since my arrival here in Moscow, I can proudly say that being Armenian comes with a universal feeling of greatness.

Whether you live in Russia, Armenia, Canada, America, France or Bulgaria you have the same caring, hardworking, and fun-loving mentality. My fellow interns are amazing; I could not have selected better people to represent their respective countries. It’s only been a week, and we’ve already grown as a family, and I feel as though I have known them my entire life. We could not be where we are without our nurturing caregivers, Lilit and Lusiné, who have helped us with a comfortable transition to Moscow life. Last but not least, the SIVAM Volunteers have been very helpful from day one. They have gone well out of their way to make sure we are having fun and learning as much as we can about this great country. It has only been a week since we have been here, but we have been so busy with the welcome dinner, Armenian dance classes, Russian language classes, meeting with entrepreneurs, and of course enjoying the night life that time has flown.

This first week has been a great introduction for what I’m sure will be a more eventful five weeks to come. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Da svidanya!.