Crane Hall 121
1000 E. University Ave
Laramie, WY 82071
Russian Language, Literature, and Folklore at the University of Wyoming: Internationalizing Education
Twenty FAQs about Russian Studies at UW
7) I am a “native speaker” / I am a “heritage-speaker” (one or both of my parents are native-speakers of Russian, I understand Russian well and speak it, but do not consider myself a native-speaker), what courses could I take in the Department?
· If you ask most Russianists (people who study the language and culture of Russia), they will tell you that they became fascinated with Russia, intrigued by the Russian language, and that they fell in love with Russia’s great literature, and that these are good enough reasons on their own to study Russian. And they are. But there are lots of other reasons, too. Russian is the primary language of the 150 million citizens of the Russian Federation, and is the native language of approximately 30 million people living in the other states which were formed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In many if not all of those states (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia) Russian is widely spoken by people who are not themselves ethnic Russians, and it is also spoken - if sometimes reluctantly - by many people in the other countries of the former "Warsaw Pact." In other words, it offers a key to the parts of Europe which will be most changed by economic development in the coming century. And while Russia itself may not look like a wealthy, or even economically healthy, country right now, it has enormous reserves of valuable natural resources and an extremely well-educated populace – in other words, it has great potential for economic growth.
· Moreover, the last few years have seen a great improvement in the Russian business climate, and current indications are that it is becoming increasingly easy and more profitable for western companies to do business in Russia. Given these circumstances, knowing the country’s language and culture will certainly give graduates looking to work in international business a very important line in their résumé. Any U.S. student who studies Russian is one of a select circle of people with such knowledge and expertise. Such knowledge can only become more sought after in the future. Moreover, knowing any other country’s language and culture is both very useful and very appealing to employers and to professional schools, while knowing the language and culture of a major and very remarkable European country indicates that a person can handle all kinds of different and even difficult challenges (although the Russian language is really nowhere near as hard as people who have never learned it tend to think) and can acquire useful knowledge on a very significant part of the world. With the globalization and internationalization of business, employers are often very interested in hiring people who show that they are familiar with a culture well beyond their own, and are comfortable handling the differences and even difficulties that working in a different culture brings. As Sally Adamson Taylor, in her book Culture Shock, puts it, “assigning home office personnel abroad is an expensive and complex proposition." She cites the authors of Leaders Sans Frontiers, who assert that when staff assigned abroad return home early “they cost their company between $25,000 and $125,000 in wasted capital, not to mention the hard feelings left with clients they were unable to deal with successfully” (and those costs were estimated almost fifteen years ago!). She concludes, “multinational companies need leaders who are internationally adept” (Sally Adamson Taylor, Culture Shock! France, revised edition, Portland, Oregon, 1999, p. 211 – incidentally, although she writes about France, her chapters on general “culture shock” will help anyone traveling overseas). So, yes, learning Russian could make a big difference to your career. And if you learn Russian, why not concentrate in Russian (see next question)?
· By the way, the information at the Why Study Russian website, put together by teachers of Russian, will give you lots more information on the benefits of learning Russian.
· The Russian major/minor enables you to gain a very solid grounding in the language (most majors take the equivalent of at least four years of Russian, minors take about 2.5 years), and an equally good introduction to the literature and culture of Russia. By the time you have finished your major, you will speak and read Russian with good fluency, understand spoken Russian well, and write well enough for most everyday forms of communication.
· You will know quite a lot about one of the world’s undoubted great literatures, and understand why it has had such enormous impact on other world cultures. You will have read authors such as Tolstoy (War and Peace), Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment), Chekhov (The Cherry Orchard), Bulgakov (Master and Margarita). You will likely have studied the great folklore traditions of Russia. You might well have studied some of the most famous films and film-makers in the world (Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, for example, was once voted the greatest film ever made). You will have completed a liberal-arts degree which will show that you can: learn a language well; analyze complex materials (literary texts, films, etc); write analytical and discursive prose; enter into a foreign culture and understand it (see question one). You will quite probably have lived and studied, perhaps even worked in Russia. This will certainly make you stand out when you apply to graduate and professional schools, or look for employment, and the skills you have learned will serve you well. Our graduates are, without doubt, very competitive in applications to law schools and to business schools, and seem in general to appeal to employers. In recent years, a lot of Russian students have also been concentrating in a social-sciences subject (international relations, history, psychology, economics, business, for example), or have even been completing joint undergraduate degrees, for example in Engineering, Geology, or Computer Science. The academic and professional profile of such double-concentrators and dual-degree students has been especially strong.
· And, by the way, our concentration program is such that University of Wyoming Russian students form a tight-knit and friendly community (it’s not too big), and take classes in small and medium-sized classes. Our faculty are very accessible, and are always ready to answer questions from undergraduates. You can check out some details about the faculty at UW Russian Faculty. There you will also find office hours for Russian faculty.
· Need more information? You can check out the UW Bulletin's section for Modern and Classical Languages, as well as the section on Russian Language. And the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages and the American Council of Teachers of Russian has a most informative site on Russian.
· Of course! Think about the following: the Intensive Summer, Semester, or Year Programs at Saratov University in Russia can move you along towards the necessary credits in Russian language, especially if you wish to complete your degree sooner than in the normal four-year framework.
· In addition to courses in Russian language, linguistics, literature, and folklore available within the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, UW also has numerous connections to Russia through many programs and departments such as International Studies Program, History, and Business. These, and other, connections to Russia are supported by the groundbreaking Wyoming-Saratov Initiative.
That question has been
addressed in part in the answers to questions one and two above. Our graduates are very competitive in
applications to professional schools, are appealing to employers within the
government, and, increasingly, in the corporate world.
And for any students considering Law School, the study Russian can give you that extra advantage necessary to distinguish yourself from the crowd. “The Association of American Law Schools recommends courses that stress reading, writing, speaking, critical and logical thinking. Law schools report that their top students come from math, the classics, and literature--with political science and economics ranking lower. Research has shown that math and verbal SAT scores climb higher with each additional year of foreign language study."
Information on employment prospects can be obtained at Why Study Russian - Russian in Your Career.
A student who graduated with a degree in Russian about a decade ago, entered the "world of work," then went on to complete an MBA and have a very successful career in the business world, was kind enough to write at length about her experiences. Here is what she had to say:
It took me a while to be able to stress the value of a liberal arts education: analytical thinking, the ability to synthesize information and form rational conclusions, creative problem-solving, and of course, the ability to speak and write at a level befitting someone who calls him/herself "professional." I finally landed a business manager job at a small software development company.
Once I had the "hard skills" on my résumé, I went to business school to get the credentials to back up the skills .I was treated as something of a pariah in b-school at first ("what, you didn't study BUSINESS as an undergraduate? What did you think you were going to do with RUSSIAN?!"); then, with the considerable vision of a new dean, the b-school began to recruit liberal arts students actively because hiring managers were complaining about the woeful lack of skills (see liberal arts paragraph) in new MBA's. Upon graduation, I found my liberal arts/MBA combination to be extremely powerful, and the Russian degree added a bit of exotic cachet to my résumé that kept me in the "for further consideration" pile. (By the way, in a former job I managed a newly-minted MBA who had a business undergraduate degree rather than a liberal arts degree, and I found that his performance was severely compromised by skills I took for granted -- the ability to look at lots of data and draw intelligent conclusions rather than just spitting it back in raw form, the ability to come up with creative suggestions for problems, the ability to write and speak cogently and to persuade others about his opinions, etc.)
I recently landed a consulting job *because* of my Russian degree. First, I had to explain the connections between my current work (organizational development) and my illustrious educational and career trajectories. What seems non-linear and perhaps nonsensical to some is eminently clear to me: I studied language/literature because I am interested in the human condition and the profound, multi-hued expressions of human experience; I chose organizational development/management consulting because I am interested in the human condition *at work*. As I explained to this client, business is driven by analysis and planning, but people are the wild cards in the game, and therefore people are the most interesting elements to me. The reason I landed the job is because they loved my explanation (very liberal arts view), they loved my business knowledge/training, and they loved the fact that I understood and valued other cultures because they had a Ukrainian and a Rumanian on staff who were having difficulties understanding what all this organizational development stuff was all about.
Why study Russian? Because you love it and because it teaches you about the human condition... not because Russian study leads to x, y, or z career choices, because the trajectory is not that clear. What helps? Talking about the value of a liberal arts education, connecting liberal arts to the career you desire, and supplementing the "soft" (but incredibly valuable) skills you get in Russian studies with the "hard" skills you get through internships and the like. Being a project assistant or research assistant for consulting groups would bean ideal short-term job to get the more recognizable skills on one's résumé; consulting firms love liberal arts majors! Also, tech writing jobs (if one is inclined toward technology) are good jobs for liberal arts majors because tecchies very often can't write in "English."
A more recent graduate (double concentration in Russian and English) writes as follows:
I am and always have been possessed by a fascination with language, and was predisposed to take Russian. That said, I do not think there is any language quite so beautiful as Russian.
Grammar has largely disappeared in US education. There are rudimentary brushes with the stuff, how to discern a pronoun, what's a verb, can you find any adjectives here, fifteen minutes a day devoted to it for perhaps a week of the third grade. The result is a student body that is, on the whole, unaware of the workings of their own language. Taking Russian forces the student to learn not only the grammar of the foreign language, but also to learn, or rediscover, the grammar of English. I had little grammar in elementary school; mostly I learnt it at home, talking with my parents and older siblings. Even so, I hadn't nearly the sort of exposure to it I now wish I had. Fortunately, studying foreign languages have helped me to make up, in large part, my grammatical deficiencies. Spanish introduced me to the subject, middle, predicate idea (not entirely applicable to Russian word order); Russian taught me what should be the very basics of English grammar. The rules of Russian grammar, in short, forced me to locate the English equivalents (or approximate equivalents). It was never any problem for me to listen to a sentence in either English or Russian, and know how it should sound; but having endured rigorous training in Russian grammar, I began to understand the whys and wherefores.
Having been introduced to the fundamentals of grammar, I explored its more advanced elements, a path which has led me to explore, most recently, the ins and outs of rhetoric (that is, rhetorical terms and methods). An acquaintance of mine, listening to me wax poetic about Russian grammar, rudely interrupted me and asked, a bit sourly, why it was that Russian majors talked about grammar all the time. That proves it to me. Grammar is so out of place in American primary and secondary schools that it is unusual to hear it discussed at all.
Studying Russian will make you into a better student. The schedule demands you employ a system of study that quickly becomes a habit. I cannot say that I saw a dramatic improvement in my grades, as I received high marks even before I began Russian. I do believe, however, that in the process of learning Russian, I became more adept at studying English: I began to see into, as it were, the language of the varied texts I studied, noting the reuse of words containing certain roots, roots which related directly to certain themes; I understood patterns and rhythm better. Russian enhanced my ability to read and to communicate.
And this is what another recent graduate, who was working for a publishing house but about to enter a top graduate program in comparative literature, had to say:
I guess I have a few things to say in favor of Russian Studies. The job I have right now, for example, is one which both indirectly and directly capitalizes on skills I gained in the Russian program, in language and literature. I happen to be lucky, because I work for a press that has an entire academic series devoted to Russian studies and also publishes many burgeoning authors from other Eastern European countries, but I think that, in general, university presses (and probably publishing houses at large) favor applicants with foreign language skills, because it usually indicates that they know something about English grammar as well, something that often immediately separates one from the average American college graduate. In my case, knowing other languages (Russian, Italian, and some French) helps me catch mistakes in manuscripts that others are missing, and once in a while, this helps to avoid embarrassing errors on both the author's and the publisher's part. And I don't think I'm suffering from delusions of grandeur. The mistakes I catch are usually so minute that they would escape most readers' attention, and in publishing, we devote ourselves (somewhat irrationally, it seems at times) almost exclusively to these details. But they are gratifying to detect, and if for this small reason alone, I am valued here, mostly due to my language skills. That is my experience in publishing anyway.
Otherwise, I think extensive experience studying another language and culture make one more attractive to various government employers, but to that (as well as in the business world) I can't speak directly. In general, however, my praise for the program in Russian at U of M, goes to its rigorous structure, its small class sizes, and its dedicated professors. Although I am obviously biased in this, I feel that devoting much time as an undergraduate to studying foreign languages was one of the most worthwhile decisions I made at Wyoming, if only because it gave me concrete skills. I've been accepted to the Ph.D. program at University of Chicago in comparative literature and plan to start my work there in the fall. I'm not sure which direction I will take there (the freedom is significant), but I hope to continue my study of Russian literature and American literature.
7) I am a “native speaker” / I am a “heritage-speaker” (one or both of my parents are native-speakers of Russian, I understand Russian well and speak it, but do not consider myself a native-speaker), what courses could I take in the Department?
· First of all, congratulations on having special access to one of the world’s great cultures. You may well be one of approximately one million people born in the former Soviet Union, and now living in the United States. We warmly welcome students from Russian-speaking backgrounds, and offer many courses which help them deepen their understanding of their own roots. If you would like to improve your general language skills, consider speaking with Professor Pavel Sigalov (418 Hoyt Hall, 766-3348). Dr. Sigalov (a native speaker of Russian) is the instructor in the upper-level Russian courses who can help you determine which courses would be most appropriate to facilitate your continued progress in Russian language. In general, “heritage speakers" form a special category of student, and before they enroll in pure language courses (i.e., Russian 1010-4080), they should talk with either Dr. Sigalov or Mr. Krafczik, who will be able to help place them in the right course. These students are, of course, very welcome in all of the literature and culture courses, and such students often choose to complete a concentration in Russian, usually in combination with another concentration, either in the social or the natural sciences.
· The Department of Modern and Classical Languages offers a Russian placement exam. Please contact the department secretary, Yvonne Wiley (766-4177) for scheduling details.
· Credit transfer is administered by the University Office of the Registrar, not by the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, whether the courses you have taken or are planning to take are at an American institution or at a foreign institution. Of course, also feel free to seek advice or suggestions from your advisor, or other faculty members.
Courses taken at Saratov University in Russia are transferred according to each student's particular level and to how the given courses will most efficiently apply to the student's degree program. This transfer is handled jointly by the Office of the Registrar in consultation with the Office of International Programs.
· But – this is important to remember – it is generally up to the Director of International Programs and your major/minor advisor to decide what role in fulfilling concentration requirements will be played by courses taken elsewhere, especially in Russia (this is not the same thing as transferring credit – your advisor may be able to waive certain concentration requirements because of courses you have taken elsewhere, but this does not mean that the Registrar's Office will give you UW credit for those courses equivalent to the requirements waived). Overall, the Department tries to be flexible with students who have completed study-abroad programs, because we firmly believe that students benefit enormously, both as Russianists and in broader terms of personal development, by studying in Russia.
· Talk to the Director of International Programs, Anne Alexander, as soon as possible! And look at the answer to question nine above, about transfer credit.
· That's the easiest question to answer - forms for declaring a major or minor are located in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages Main Office (219 Hoyt Hall). Before you meet with your advisor, don't forget to look at the details of the major and minor in the Modern Languages (Russian section) of the General Bulletin. And, if you are completing a major audit prior to graduation, don’t forget that you will need to check general requirements with a general advisor too. If you want to substitute courses, use transfer credit, or do anything else beyond the basic pattern of the concentration, talk to your advisor well in advance of graduation! Of course, you can always drop by the advisor's office during office hours, or even try to catch him or her at another time – and if you need to go over your transcript with your advisor there and then, you can print up an unofficial copy from Hole in the Wall, – so don’t hesitate to come to see him whenever you need to.
· There are many study programs in Russia, from summer programs to semester- and year-long programs. Wyoming is directly affiliated with Saratov Province in Russia (for more on this innovative pairing check out the Wyoming-Saratov Initiative) and for nearly 11 years has had an active exchange program with Saratov State University. A good place to start is by checking out The Wyoming-Saratov Study Abroad Program website. Also be sure to visit our excellent Office of International Programs. If you plan to use study abroad to complete parts of your major, don't forget to talk to your advisor, and to the Director of International Programs, Anne Alexander, both before you leave and after you get back, and keep a careful record of all the courses you do and the work you complete.
· The Department of Modern and Classical Languages thinks that study abroad is an excellent way to broaden your education, whether you are a Russian major or not. If you are majoring in Russian, we will make every effort to ensure that your studies in Russia help you to graduate on time (that’s why you should talk to the advisor before and after). In general, don’t forget, that you are going to Russia to speak Russian and learn about Russia – go there with an open mind, be willing to tolerate and understand what is different from home, and try not to spend your whole time speaking English with other students from America! Books such as Culture Shock – see question one – may help prepare students for study abroad, especially those who have not previously lived overseas. Look at the answer to question twenty on travel to and within Russia too.
· We have all heard a lot about crime in Russia in the last decade. It is certainly true that some aspects of modern Russian life reflect a striking disregard for what we regard as elementary legal culture (look at the stories of naïve businessmen buying into Russian companies, without understanding how different the business culture of Russia is from Western Europe and the United States – another reason why learning Russian and understanding Russia will be very useful in the future). Moreover, Russians, especially older Russians, most of whom grew up in a society where the streets were very safe indeed, are themselves often shocked and horrified by visible crime directed at individuals in Russian cities, and can give you the impression that street crime is ubiquitous. However, the truth is that, in pure statistical terms, Russia is a much “safer” country than the U.S. for the individual, and that the vast majority of foreign visitors, even though they may seem more of a target than the natives, come and go with complete security. But, just as in America, you have to be sensible – don’t leave your lap-top in an unlocked room; don’t walk around city streets alone late at night; if the deal you are being offered seems too good to be true, then conclude that it probably is; and, if you know full well that the activities you are engaging in are what most of us would call “risky”, or even downright criminal, and you still cannot resist the allure and excitement of them, then be prepared for the consequences – in other words, however appealing and thrilling this vast new country is to you, don’t forget the elementary things you have to bear in mind back home.
· Student Educational Opportunity (SEO) has tutors available in a wide variety of disciplines. Tutoring can also be obtained from qualified Russian language-lab assistants. Check the language lab schedule to determine when these people are available (in Hoyt Hall 123). Conversation practice is also available through the UW Russian Club.
· The UW Russian Club is an active organization where the only requirement for membership is interest in all things Russian! Russian Club regularly sponsors films, potlucks, conversation tables, and excursions to Russian-oriented events. Feel free to write to the Russian Club President for more specific information.
· The Department of Modern and Classical Languages offers a minor in Russian. These minors require some courses in the language, and some courses in literature and culture, but far less than the major. Specifically, the minor requires 18 hours of coursework after RUSS 2030 (third-semester). Details are in the Modern Language (Russian section) of the General Bulletin. Note that a minor will be indicated on your official UW transcript, but that it will not be shown on your diploma, which will, on the other hand, indicate your major.
· There are currently quite a number of exchange students and visiting faculty on the UW campus. Making contact is easy. Try the Russian Club, or contact the Office of International Programs for more info.
· It is now very easy to make your computer suitable for reading Russian texts and web pages, and for word processing in Russian. If you are using Windows, setting up the “multi-lingual” components may well be enough. Bear in mind, when web browsing, that sites in the Cyrillic alphabet may use one of a number of different encodings – so you may have to change the encoding setting of your browser several times, until you get it right. You can find some basic information at Russify Your Computer, and one of the best general sites for the undergraduate Russian student, the web site of the Russian Department at Bucknell College.
· A great place to browse lots of links is within the Wyoming-Saratov Study Abroad Program website. Scroll down for a list of bookstores and other cool stuff. Russian students can also buy books and videos through the web sites of major book suppliers, such as Kamkin, Eastview, Panorama of Russia, The Russian Life Store, kniga.com, and so on. Of course, the cheap way to buy books is just to go to Russia (see questions twelve above and twenty below). But, if you do go to Russia, don’t forget that the videos you buy will need to be converted to the US encoding system if you want to watch them on a normal American VCR and TV (and even DVDs are encoded for different regions of the world)! Some Russian radio stations are now available through web casts - if you search using the Real Audio player tuner or similar, you should be able to find something to listen to in Russian at ITuner or RealOneRadio -- try a key word like “Russia”). Russian TV is available in America from NTV International, the overseas branch of one of the big Russian networks. If you have “broadband” cable service you can usually subscribe to it, and Dish Network satellite systems offer a Russian subscription (but note that you need a different dish and receiver from the one used for English-language stations). Information at NTV World. This link should provide you with a good general guide to Russian TV and Radio available in the United States: Russian Seattle. Russian Radio and TV on the Internet. You can buy a weekly Russian TV guide at most of the Russian shops in Metro Detroit (see the answer to question 17). Coe Library subscribes to a number of Russian-language newspapers and journals. And many, many newspapers have good web sites, as do non-print media organizations. Check the Links page at the Wyoming-Saratov Study Abroad Program. Most student-oriented web sites will also have some links to newspapers and other media – try the Bucknell site, the RC Intensive Program site, or the very extensive Pitt REESWeb site.
· Travel to and within Russia is much easier and more practical than it used to be, although it certainly demands more of you than travel within the United States or in Western Europe (yet another good reason to work on that Russian…). Although you still require a visa, it is now much easier to get one. You can apply directly to the Russian embassy, but you might want to pay extra and go to a visa service, such as that provided by RussiaGateway or Russia House – you pay for the service, as well as for the visa itself (and possibly for an official letter of invitation), but then the whole business is usually relatively painless, and you should get your visa in good time.
· Several major airlines fly from Denver to Moscow (you can even fly from Laramie to Moscow!), and flying from the US to other big cities in Russia is pretty easy. If you like to travel, you won’t need any advice here on how to find the cheapest fares – the web is full of useful sites – and fares to Russia can be very low, especially outside of the peak-travel summer months.
· International chain hotels in the big Russian cities are expensive, sometimes very expensive, as are the best restaurants, but Russia is also full of cheap places to stay and to eat, and most are perfectly acceptable. One Slavic Faculty member traveling in provincial Russia last year, stayed at local, small hotels, mostly serving traveling civil servants and the like, and paid less than $20 per night in quite big cities such as Tomsk and Petrozavodsk, and about $10 a night in a tiny town near Lake Onega. The hotels were pretty simple, but clean, and the cost covered twenty-four hours in a room with its own bathroom, a TV, and a telephone in each case. Such places are best booked ahead – a good travel agent within Russia will do it for a small commission, or, if you are confident in your Russian, you can call the hotel yourself and ask to book a room. If you are planning to have any kind of official contact (for example, you want to visit a library or a museum and do some research there), ask the institutions you are visiting to help you – they should be able to find you accommodation, book a hotel room for you, and so on quite easily. One faculty member traveling in 2000 was very satisfied with the services of Maria Travel Agency in Moscow. Better guide books (for example, the “Lonely Planet" and "Rough Guide" series) often have useful information on hotels in the provinces, as well as the big cities, and lots of general information.
· Russian trains are very good, and relatively cheap. A good travel agent in Russia should be able to get you tickets in first class (ie, spal’nyi vagon -- a two-berth compartment) for travel to most cities, although tickets to popular resort destinations may be hard to come by in the summer. First-class carriages in the better trains mostly carry business people (although you might have to share a compartment with a member of the opposite sex – that is the Russian way), and many trains have acceptable food service, although most travelers also take their own supplies. Some long-distance trains, however, carry large numbers of private traders (so-called chelnoki, or “shuttles”) and their purchases, especially between European Russia and the Russian Far East, China, and Mongolia. Traveling on these trains is said to be sometimes stressful and unpleasant. So, if you are traveling all the way across the country by train, plan carefully and ask for lots of advice (in general, try to travel on the so-called firmennye poezda – they are usually clean, pleasant, and safe). Abundant information on trains is available on the web, including detailed time tables - you can start at Parovoz (the massive Paravoz railway site, where you can find more than you care to know about trains, from their history to their timetables). Another useful site for those planning rail travel is Express. Finding out about inter-city bus travel can be more difficult, but most Russian towns of any size now have some sort of web site, and if you negotiate the links carefully, you can often find out about bus services (essential information if you are heading to really small places).
· Flights between cities with thriving business communities are frequent and, in tourist class, generally cheap. Currently (as of April 2003) a flight in tourist class from Moscow to Saratov (on the Volga River, about 450 miles SE of Moscow), cost about $75 one-way, business-class about $110. However, if a city does not have a strong new-business base (often from oil, gas, other natural resources, and the like) it may not be well served by airlines, although it will almost certainly have air service with the resort cities of the south in the summer. Information on airlines and on schedules can be found on the web. You could start at Polet-Sirena.
· Driving in Russia is not for the fainthearted, and renting a car to drive yourself is very expensive. You are much better off hiring a car and driver. In the provinces that can be quite cheap (and a good way to learn about the area), and even in Moscow a reasonably new German car with a good driver may cost as little as $40 per day. One of the biggest taxi firms offering good service in and around Moscow is: Taksi Prestizh (+7-095-915-4376). If you call them from the States, they will have a driver to meet you at the airport when you arrive (if you wait until you arrive and try to negotiate with the cabs waiting outside the terminal, you will almost certainly end up paying more).
· In Moscow, you can also rent a mobile phone quite inexpensively by the day (very useful in a country where “land lines” leave much to be desired – every prosperous Russian has a cell phone). One company which rents phones by the day is Moskovskaya sotovaya svyaz' -- Skylink.
· The biggest cities have plenty of businesses that take credit cards (and charge lots of money for their goods and services), but, in general, and universally for the average Russian, cash is king. Most larger cities have at least some ATMs (and Western Union affiliates in case you need emergency funds wired to you), but it is unwise to bank on always being able to get more cash. At the same time, you would be ill advised to carry large amounts of cash with you and even more ill advised to advertise the fact.
· Traveling within Russia is not like traveling within the US or in Western Europe – it costs less, but requires more of you. But it is fun, and, if you are careful, it is generally perfectly safe. If you are prepared to “rough it” a little bit, and do without some of the home comforts, you can live very inexpensively in Russia, and still enjoy yourself enormously. However, as everywhere, the naïve traveler is likely to pay more than he or she should, and be less well served – prepare properly by reading, ask widely for advice, and make sure that you keep your eyes and ears open as you travel. You should also be sensitive to the fact that, although the big Russian cities, especially Moscow, have plenty of very prosperous citizens (living in expensive new apartments, vacationing in Paris, on tropical islands, and so on, driving brand-new luxury cars and making use of every electronic aid to life known to humanity), most Russians are not particularly well-off right now. Indeed, $100 may be a good monthly salary in a provincial city. So bear in mind that the “impoverished student” from the West is a rather privileged person in Russia, and try to take this into account in your everyday encounters with “ordinary people." Russians remain very hospitable and, for the most part, very sympathetic to the foreign traveler (indeed, it can be hard to be a constant object of enthusiastic interest when you travel even a little bit off the beaten track), but, as in any new culture, the first-time traveler to Russia should be sensible and should also be respectful of his or her hosts and their notions of what is acceptable behavior. Last, but by no means least, remember that Russian hospitality can involve invitations to drink a lot of alcohol. You will be happier, healthier, and safer if you learn to say “no,” and if you remember that almost no foreigner can cope with that aspect of the Russian table like a native.
· Of course, you should do your own research carefully and cautiously, as with any planned trip, and the suggestions above should in no way be seen as official endorsements from the Department of Modern and Classical Languages. They are simply records of individual experience, and these, as we all know, vary greatly.