I went to Russia to study the language and to experience a different culture. I would say that I was very successful in doing both of these things.
I looked on the internet extensively for a program that would allow me to
do what I wanted to do, and in the end none of them seemed as good as Svezhy Veter. Still, I did a lot of investigation into the program before I went. So, I can understand anyone having reservations about legitimacy of the
program, and I can assure you that everything is totally legit.
I did have one sort of unfortunate experience in Russia that had
nothing to do with Svezhy Veter, but that they asked me to write about so that hopefully other people can avoid the same thing.
I was taking a picture of a monument in Moscow and was made to pay a fine to the police because they said you weren't aloud to take pictures, which I
doubt very much, as there were no signs or anything stating this. Either way, I received no official written ticket, it just went straight into their pockets, and I'm sure never came out again, at least not to give to any
Now, I have been told that in this situation, if you ask to speak to your embassy that they will often just leave you alone. The point is though, to avoid these situations entirely. So, if something looks like it could possibly get you in trouble, then it probably could. That is the only time
in 3 months though, that I ever encountered such a problem. I think that for the most part, with that kind of thing, Russia is no worse than most
other countries, including the US, or Canada(which is where I'm from).
The rest of my stay in Russia, which was mostly in Izhevsk, was totally enjoyable. One story, of many, that stick in my mind, occurred on my first day in Izhevsk. Silly boy that I am, I took a train to Izhevsk that arrived
at a ridiculously early hour in the morning, so there was no one there to meet me. I waited around for a while sort of not knowing what to do when someone just approached me and, to make a long story short, drove me into
town, fed me, showed me around a little bit, and drove me to Svezhy Veter's office. Now, if that isn't testimony to the kindness and hospitality of a people, then I don't what is.
All of the people at Svezhy Veter are awesome. My host was a very cool,
very relaxed guy, who was just generally very easy to get along with, and who threw some kick ass parties. All of the other hosts, and everybody for that matter in the English club, are super friendly people, and are always
inviting the volunteers out to do a whole variety of things, whatever tickles your fancy(trips out to the country; going to clubs, if you're into that kind of thing, etc..)
Teaching English there is super cool as well. In the private classes in the evenings you are there primarily as speaking practice for the students. They ask you questions, and you answer them and correct any mistakes you
hear; that's it in a nutshell. The cool thing is, because you are essentially just conversing, you wind up getting to meet a lot of
interesting people, who are generally very interested to talk to you and find out about your life and where you are from.
I think this program is probably one of the coolest programs of its kind. I think anyone interested in travelling just to experience another culture, or to study Russian, or both, will have an awesome time with this program.
Anyone with any further questions that I might be able to answer can email me at firstname.lastname@example.orgSam Levin
Volunteered: May 14 - July 31, 2004