Rachele Vagheggi is an Italian student in St Petersburg University’s Preparatory Course. At the age of 19, she already knows what she will do after she completes the course. We asked her some questions about her decision to study Russian, her experience living in Peterhof and her impressions of St Petersburg.

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Had you been to Russia before coming to the University?

Yes, I’d been to Russia two other times before coming to the University. Three years ago I came to Moscow and St Petersburg as a tourist, and in 2019 I did an exchange year in Rybinsk (in the Yaroslavl Oblast).

How did you find out about St Petersburg University and its Preparatory Course?

I wanted to continue my bachelor’s education in Russia, so I applied for a scholarship issued by Rossotrudnichestvo in my country. As a part of the selection process, it is required to define your level of Russian. As soon as I got the scholarship and I found out from the government that I had been accepted at St Petersburg University, I made arrangements to also study the language by taking the Preparatory Course.

What influenced your decision to learn Russian?

I have always liked to study foreign languages, but my interest in Russian started in high school. That is when I had the opportunity to study not only the language, but also the culture and politics of this country. I was lucky enough to study with a Russian teacher, and that made me even more interested in the language

In your opinion, how important are language courses? Are they worth it or can people easily study languages on their own?

I think that language courses are an important part of the process of studying a language. Not only are you more motivated to study the language, but the help of a teacher, in my opinion, will make you learn it faster and better.

Do you have any Russian language courses in Italy and in Arezzo?

They are not so common. My school was one out of several in my region that offers Russian as a part of the curriculum. It is still not studied very often in Italy, but in recent years, with the economic and political changes in both countries, there has been a growth in the number of people who want to study Russian.

It is your third month of studying at St Petersburg University. Please share your impressions. What has met your expectations, and what did you think would be different?

Well, I think my expectations have been half-way met since I came here. At first, I was disappointed because I didn’t know that our faculty would be located in Peterhof, and not the city centre. Nevertheless, after coming here I started to appreciate it more. Regarding the faculty, it’s sad that we still have online classes, because I think it is not the same as offline. However, the teachers are well equipped for such classes and make them more interactive.

Do you like St Petersburg? How do you get on with the locals?

I fell in love with the city the first time I visited it, and I am so glad to be able to live here for the next five years. It is so big and so full of life and culture that all this time is necessary to get to know it.  The locals are also an important part of my life here. What I would suggest to everyone coming to live in Russia is not to get scared in the beginning. Coming from Italy, I found their behaviour so different from mine. But as you get to know them you will see how kind and welcoming they are, from your roommates in the hall of residence, to the old lady that will chat with you in the bus, interested about why you are in Russia.

In Russia it is often said that St Petersburg is the Venice of the North. Can you agree with that?

I totally agree with it! I have never been to Venice myself, but the first time I came here I had the feeling that I was back in Italy. Walking on the streets in the city centre makes you feel like you are in a bigger version of Venice. So, aesthetically speaking, they are similar to each other, but that’s where the likeness ends. The vibes of the city, the people that live here, and, in more general terms, the culture are completely different, but still very fascinating.

After you complete the Preparatory Course would you like to stay here and continue studying at St Petersburg University?

I already know what I am going to do after completing the Preparatory Course. As I have already said, I have a scholarship and have been granted admission to the University’s Political Science bachelor’s programme once I complete this course.