Studying as an exchange student in St. Petersburg State University of Film and Television

30 October 2019

Ilari Hassinen from Karelia University of Applied Sciences (Finland) told us about his studying as an exchange student in St. Petersburg State University of Film and Television.

I studied in St. Petersburg, Russia, as an exchange student from 1.9.2017 to 30.6.2018 in St. Petersburg State University of Film and Television. I lived there two semesters and this time was very interesting phase in my life. Before moving to Russia, I had not lived in different country than in Finland, so it was exciting to see how everything would go. Also, there had been only one student as an exchange student from Karelia University of Applied sciences in this University where I was going, and she spoke Russian language. So, I didn’t have so much information about studying in that place or how I can study in Russian speaking University.

I managed to get all the right courses before the exchange period, and they were suitable for replacing my own studies in Finland. Because I was going to Russia, I needed to apply for visa. The student visa is firstly given for three months period, and the visa is in “one time” form, which means that with this visa you can go in the country one time, and come back one time. After this three months period my visa was turned into multi-visa, with what I could visit Finland during my exchange period. 

I didn’t have any bigger health issues during my stay. Of course, I needed to visit pharmacy sometimes but for example, I didn’t need to visit hospital. I still had travel insurance, which is also needed to have for the visa. I would recommend being on time with all the documents and important applications before the exchange period, because you will never know, how long the procedure with them will last.

My host institution was very old and quite big University, teaching students in every field of TV and cinema. I had courses with different teachers from different fields, what was good for me as media student, because in not specializing in my Finnish studies only in one thing, for example directing or sound design. Some courses had a lot self-studying, some courses had lessons and working in groups or alone.

I am happy with the content and level of my studies. For example, I did a documentary, which was probably the most educational project of my studying history in media industry. Also, I managed to study Russian language, and the course was very interesting and good. Most of the courses wereon Russian language, which was sometimes hard for me, but there were students who spoke English, and they translated the main information to me and it worked out well.

In big city like St. Petersburg, there is a lot of activities. For example, the city has very interesting historical places, which everyone who is visiting there must see. Different kind of museums, churches and parks are places, which are very unique. Students also usually get discount from the tickets. There is also hundreds of restaurants, bars and cafeterias in St. Petersburg, and compared to Finnish prices, you can get good dinner with couple of drinks in very cheap price. Basically, you can do almost anything there, what you can do in big city, it just depends on your interests what you want to do.

St. Petersburg is huge, and at first it was quite difficult for me to adapt to a city, where is more people living than in Finland. I am from small city and the rush of a huge place was at first little bit unpleasant. Quite quickly I adapted to the city, and I also started to enjoy some of the features of a metropolis. For example, you can get anything in any time of a day if you want, because many shops, restaurants and cafeterias are open 24 hours per day.

Before I went to the city, I thought that it can be very dangerous there. And of course, it can be, if you’re not using common sense. In city centre and in normal places, like public transport, it is very safe and you will not face some problems if you’re acting normal. Of course, at the night you probably should avoid some bad districts or weird places, but that is the case in any big city all over the world. I think St. Petersburg is as safe as Helsinki, what was surprise for me. Another positive surprise for me was the fact, that the Russian people are very nice and helpful. I didn’t know before, how Russians usually are, but I noticed how kind and hospitable most of them are.

They are also quite open-minded, and many Russian students were interested to communicate with foreigner from Finland. Sometimes the communicating with other students was hard, because in the big city it’s not so fast and simple to meet somewhere. Many people are also very busy there, but in the end the contacts with other people were quite easy to create, for example in the lessons.

The year in Russia also improved me in many ways. My English skill developed a lot, and I also learned little bit Russian language, which is useful for me also in Finland. The exchange period also taught me to be more patient and open-minded. Social skills got also better and even though it sounds funny, but it feels that it made me a better person in general. Of course, living there wasn’t always so nice, and I had a lot of problems with the language and adapting to some new things, but those experiences also taught me a good lesson in life.

For students who wants to go to St. Petersburg as an exchange student, I would firstly recommend getting to know the place as good as possible before you travel there. Find out how everything is working and how you should act in different places. If you don’t know Russian language, it helps a lot if you learn some basics and some of the letters as well. Many people in Saint Petersburg doesn’t speak English, even though it is quite international city.

Also, if you’re going to study in St. Petersburg State University of Film and Television, I recommend you to ask questions and information from the teachers as much as possible and try to get to known some students, who can also help you sometimes. In the end, Saint Petersburg is beautiful and big city very near to Finland, and my studying experience there was pleasant.

Ilari Hassinen,

Karelia University of Applied Sciences