Icicles on Sarah's eyelashes show how cold winter in St Petersberg can get.
Icicles on Sarah's eyelashes show how cold winter in St Petersberg can get.

My ‘insanely cold’ semester

Sarah Ansky is completing a Bachelor of International Studies. As part of her degree she spent an exchange semester at Saint Petersberg State University in Russia.

“Many adjectives can be applied to my experience as an exchange student in St Petersburg. ‘Insanely cold’ would be the predominant one.

Winter in Russia was, well, intense. I quickly learned that an un-gloved, camera-busy hand can only survive minus 15 degrees for a small period of time before it begins to ache and moving indoors becomes necessary.

I loved wandering the city while admiring the beautiful different coloured historic buildings of the city, separated into many islands by numerous frozen rivers and canals.

And while I was not a fan of descending into the 100-metre-deep metro on escalators, pressed against thousands of fur-clad people at peak hour, I enjoyed the ‘Russian-ness’ of the experience.

The ice melted after a couple of months, and I felt an involuntary, tear-jerking euphoria at the sight of flowers and grass (seriously). As the city, and Russians in general, thawed I made friends with locals who showed me what the place was really like; I was taken to the roofs of the historic skyline for picnics, cycling through the city (terrifying; don’t do it), climbing on ruined walls of a fortress, and to beautiful expanses of wilderness belonging to past Tsars.

While Russia can be a cold and disheartening culture to find yourself in (definitely home to the world’s most terrible customer service), once an introduction is given I found that they are the most willing, warm friends who are eager to show off their homeland; they were determined that I had a ‘real Russian experience.’

I learned many things of the Russian psyche; such a mix of pride, humour, cynicism and hope. I enjoyed the many beauties and ironies of the place. I had a great time, actually.

However I will not, under any circumstances, be returning in winter!”


In the Bachelor of International Studies you will study a focus language (including Chinese, French, German Japanese and Spanish) as well as broader studies that provide skills in cross-cultural communication and global issues.

Students also spend a semester overseas in order to further their language skills and experience another culture first-hand.