Petar Kordic is a 26-year-old Serbian student with a bachelor's degree in law from the University of Belgrade. Currently, he is taking a St Petersburg University preparatory course to learn the Russian language and aims to enrol in a master’s programme in International Relations at the University. He told us about his experience of studying in this course, gave an opinion on the issue of learning Russian in general and told us the reasons why he chose to come to St Petersburg.
- Why did you decide to learn Russian? Is it related to your academic field of interest?
I decided to learn Russian for personal reasons. I like the way it sounds and its cultural and historical attractiveness. The Russian language today is one of the official languages of the UN and it is spoken by around 250 milion people in the world, which makes it the most widely spoken language from the Slavic group of languages. Serbian also belongs to that group, and our country has admiration and respect for both Russia and its people. We share historical and cultural simillarities and like to say Russia is our ‘elder brother’, which all contributes to my wish to study and learn the language. Other than that, I have always wanted to learn another language other than my native Serbian and English. In the globalised age of the 21st century, a knowledge of English is not regarded as a skill, but rather a mandatory requirement for academic standards. My master’s programme in International Relations will be taught in English, but regardless of that I wanted to study and learn Russian. Having in mind my academic aspirations, which are of an international character, a knowledge of Russian is desirable and may be important for a successful career in the future. I believe it will open up numerous possibilities in the workplace.
- Have you had any particular difficulty learning Russian? How have you dealt with it?
So far it has been going well, although I would be lying if I said it is easy. Despite some similarities to my language, there are a lot of rules that are contrary, and it is a very rich language in terms of words and ways to express oneself, with a very complex grammar. Luckily, though, I am enjoying it, and I have fantastic professors in my preparatory course, so I am confident I will soon start to speak Russian.
- Why did you choose the Preparatory Course at St Petersburg University? How did you find out about it?
I had always wanted to live in Russia. My only dilemma was where, because most of my colleagues from my faculty days in Belgrade (who were and still are outstanding young prospects) had studied and finished their courses in Moscow. I decided to try something new and get out of my comfort zone. Besides, I have always been amazed by the rich history and architecture of St Petersburg. I was also told and more or less knew that I would not have the full experience of Russia if I didn’t learn the language as well, which brought me to the decision to enrol in the year-long Preparatory Course. I should also note that I received a scholarship for this renowned and quality academic programme, which further makes me happy to be here. And so far I think it was the right choice!
- Can you tell us about your impressions of the classes? What do you like most about them?
I have to say I am very satisfied and happy with my professors during this preparatory year, namely Natalia Bure and Antonina Guliakova. My impression so far throughout my school and college days is that the quality of the professors is just as important as the programme we take. Here, their teaching methods and approach to the students make us enjoy learning Russian, and they are always here for us whatever we need. The method of studying is interesting, with some attractive additions such as watching short Russian movies and listening to popular music, sparking an incentive for students to educate themselves in a more modern and innovative way – not just during class, but also during our free time as well.
- What do you think of the city? How do you cope with the cold weather?
When I told my family and close friends that the next city in which I would live was St Petersburg, everyone said I would be living a dream. St Petersburg is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and worldwide in general, with not just charming architecture, cultural monuments and history, but it is also full of young students with a very distinctive energy that I am attracted to. Its nickname, the ‘Venice of the North’, is a reference to the numerous bridges and canals it has, just like the city in Italy, but for me this is a real change, since I have never lived in such a large and diverse city.
As for the cold weather, talking with some Russian friends that I have met here, I have learned that there is a popular saying which I have inherited and accepted: there is no cold or bad weather, just bad clothes!
- We know that you earned your master’s degree in Portugal. Can you tell us about the differences between education in Serbia, in Portugal and in Russia?
Even though I have not been here for a long period of time and these past almost two years have been very turbulent and confusing due to the pandemic, during which we have been trying to adapt as much as possible, I can say the difference here in comparison to Serbia and Portugal is the amount of practical work we get after class, with homework being an important and integral part of our studies. This is the case in our preparatory course, and it will also be the case in the master’s programme next year. This different system of education might be more useful in practice, keeping in mind that the purpose of studies is to prepare students for what is to come in their professional calling.
- What are your future plans? Are you going to apply for an aspirantura programme at our university?
I don’t really have any concrete plans for the future, but I need to bear in mind that by the end of my master’s course in International Relations I will be 29. Although an aspirantura programme is a likely possibility, I wouldn’t mind searching for a job here either, but it is still too early to talk about that. Right now I want to learn Russian and be the best I can when my classes start next year.
- Do you have any advice for international students who are considering coming to St Petersburg University?
Bring some warm clothes, be very patient with the administration, and most important of all – be thankful you are here and enjoy the experience. Cherish every moment and appreciate the chance you have been granted to live and study here. Try to learn and understand Russia and its people, and use this time wisely. It is a life-changing adventure!