Luka is a Law student from Serbia planning to enroll in a Master’s programme at St Petersburg University. Currently, he is taking an SPbU Preparatory course. Due to the pandemic, his studies are taking place online which, however, hasn’t stopped Luca from achieving great results in mastering the Russian language in just one semester.

He told us about his expectations, plans for the future and impressions of the Russian education system.

luka stevanovic

1). Why did you choose to study in Russia?

As a lawyer I always thought of my profession as a particularly interesting and challenging one. Interesting because of the variety of personalities we meet in our everyday work; challenging because we must constantly seek new knowledge in order to provide our clients with innovative solutions to their problems, while at the same time meeting the high ethical standards of our profession. 

That need to expand my knowledge made me apply to study for a master’s after finishing my two years long mandatory internship in Serbia. Russia was my choice because I think that it has highly developed industry and trade relations with other countries, both eastern and western. It is a perfect place to get an insight into legal practice in certain areas of law that do not exist in practice in many other countries, or the practice in such areas is not as developed as it’s the case with Russia.

2). How did you know about Preparatory Course at St Petersburg University and what made you decide to apply for it?

St Petersburg University was my first choice for master’s studies and therefore I wanted to take the preparatory course there as well. I only heard about it from my professors of Russian language at home who have visited St Petersburg University several times and returned with positive impressions.

3). What were your expectations of the course?

I had previously studied Russian for two years in my hometown. My fear was that the course would not be challenging for me; that it would not help me develop my Russian enough to be prepared for studying for the master’s programme taught in the Russian language. Basically, I expected that the course would be more focused on learning to communicate in Russian in everyday life rather than on preparation for using Russian in a professional environment. That was the experience my friends had with some other preparatory courses. The fact that my course was scheduled to start in an online regime due to the COVID-19 pandemic only increased my fears because I needed to adapt to a learning method that I wasn’t familiar with.

4). So as your first semester is devoted to studying Russian, what are your impressions of this?

Contrary to what I expected, thanks to my professors from St Petersburg University, I have quickly seen the results. Only a month after starting the course, I have successfully passed the TORFL-1 exam for which I was supposed to prepare for another two years in my hometown. The results came not just in terms of grammar and communication, but also in terms of my professional Russian. This is something I didn’t expect to come, especially during the first semester.

5). Did COVID change your education plan somehow?

Yes. Unfortunately, the main change for me is that I still haven’t left my home to study in Russia. Recently air traffic between the two countries has reopened, but for the time being I will remain in Serbia, at least for the New Year holidays. Other than that, I am sure that I will be able to finish the necessary work in time.

6). How is the University helping you get prepared for your trip to Russia?

I don’t expect to experience much difficulties with integration in the country. So far, my communication with the University personnel was directed to the questions regarding the student visa and their answers helped me in the process. 

7). Does the course provide insight into what you can do in the future? What are your plans for the future?

We have talked about how master’s studies will look like for us and that is a sufficient insight into my future for the time being. Right now, I need to remain focused on learning the language.

I have some plans for the time after I finish master’s studies, but I think I don’t realise yet how big this opportunity to study at St Petersburg University is and that it may lead my career in a totally different direction than what I am expecting right now.

8).  Can you please compare the education system in Russia and in Serbia? What is the advantage of studying in Russia?

In Serbia from early stages of our education we are forced to remember much unimportant data. Perhaps, many students feel the same about the educational systems in their countries, but I think that in Serbia that problem is present more than elsewhere. So, I would say that is the biggest difference between education in Serbia and all other countries, including Russia. Due to that, our high school graduates are usually not ready to use their knowledge in practice. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Russian high school graduates, so that is certainly an advantage.

Also, from my point, the variety of master’s programmes offered is the big advantage of finishing the master’s studies in Russia. At my home faculty, the curriculum for a bachelor degree in law is very similar to the one at St Petersburg University. However, St Petersburg University for example offers more innovative curriculum for a master’s degree.

9). Could you speak a bit about what you like to do in your free time?

I spend most of my free time on various sport activities. I have been practicing martial arts for a couple of years now and recently started kayaking. I also like doing different outdoor activities with my friends, such as bicycle riding, running and swimming. Feeling myself as an active person and nature lover, I expect all the recreational spots to quickly become my favourite places in St Petersburg along the cultural places of St Petersburg.     

10). Have you been to Russia before? What was your first impression?

In November 2018, I travelled from Belgrade, Serbia to the city of Samara in Russia. I had a layover in Moscow. At the time of my travel, the weather in Belgrade was unusually warm and sunny for November (+15 C) and in Moscow it was around –15 C and there was no sun at all. I expected better weather in Samara, or at least slightly different from Moscow. I boarded the plane to Samara and as the plane was taking too long time to take off, I fell asleep. I woke up and saw the similar weather and ambient, we were still at the airport, but we were moving. I asked the flight attendant whether we will take off soon and she replied that we have already landed on Samara airport. I slept the whole trip and didn’t realise we arrived due to similar weather conditions.    

11). Do you have any advice for future applicants?

To the applicants who need to learn the Russian language, like myself, my advice would be to watch as much as possible Russian TV and films and to listen to Russian music and radio. That may help with naturally learning the phrases with complex grammar, before learning the actual grammar rules behind those phrases (and exceptions to those rules).