Study Abroad


Semester/Year Abroad

Colby in St. Petersburg

  • Student Photo Gallery

      St. PetersburgColby in St. Petersburg, established in 1992, offers students from Colby or other colleges a semester of Russian language, history, and literature study in Russia's second largest city, built by Peter the Great in the early eighteenth century. It is a glorious city of bridges and canals, whose western European architecture and geometrical street plan stand in sharp contrast to the sprawling traditional Russian architecture of Moscow. Students live in carefully chosen families and attend courses on a daily basis at the St. Petersburg Classical Gimnazia, where they can also participate as teaching assistants in the English language program. In most cases, with prior consultation, a student may enroll in an additional individual tutorial in a non-Russian subject matter, eg. anthropology, mathematics. A distinguishing feature of the Colby program in St. Petersburg is its size; by being small (no more than five students per semester) it can offer individualized instruction and a chance to participate fully in the life of a Russian school, as well as in a homestay.

      The program is under the supervision of the Department of German and Russian at Colby College. A Colby Russian professor visits the program each semester; on-site administration is handled by Russian teachers and administrators who have visited Colby and maintain close contact with the college.


      The program has a fixed academic curriculum of three courses: Russian language classes, (10 hours per week); Russian literature class (3 hours per week); and Russian history (3 hours per week). Successful completion of the program earns 16 Colby credits, distributed as follows: Russian language, 3 credits; Russian Conversation and Composition, 3 credits; Russian phonetics (2 credits); Russian literature ( 4 credits); and Russian history ( 4 credits). All classes meet at the St. Petersburg Classical Gimnazia, the students' host institution in St. Petersburg, and are conducted entirely in Russian by instructors from universities and institutes in the city.

      The academic program is unique in that the class size is very small, ensuring maximum, daily participation from each student. Students' work is very intensive and they normally progress at an accelerated rate. In addition to the group classes, each student has individual classes with instructors of phonetics and composition throughout the semester.

      Students on this program must be ready to participate actively in the classroom and must be able to take initiative with requests and suggestions for the instructors. The advantages of personalized instruction are many, but the small class size works well only when students are well-prepared for each class, active in each class meeting, and willing to ask instructors for more or less difficult work.


      A special feature of Colby in St. Petersburg is the opportunity to live with Russian host families, carefully selected by the Gimnazia staff. Host families take very seriously their responsibilities for the well-being and security of their guests. Students will take their meals with their families and are encouraged to enter into the life of their families totally and actively. Students go shopping or strolling with the family and are introduced to relatives, friends, and neighbors. Family residence is the single best way to get beneath the surface of Russian life, to be a resident of the city and not merely a tourist or visiting student.


      Participants in the Colby in St. Petersburg Program may arrange to teach English at the St. Petersburg Classical Gimnazia. If students are interested in seeing a middle school on the inside, trying their hand at teaching, and meeting Russian children, this is an interesting and challenging part of the program. In consultation with the English language instructors at the Gimnazia, students will select the grade level at which they want to work and appropriate materials for that grade.


      A representative from the Gimnazia designs and coordinates a varied cultural program throughout the semester. During the first month of the semester students have many guided excursions to museums and historical landmarks, which include the Hermitage, Peter and Paul Fortress, Ethnographic Museum, St. Isaac's Cathedral, several memorials to the victims of the German blockade of Leningrad during World War II, and the summer residences of the tsars located outside the city. In addition literary tours to the apartment-museums of Pushkin or Dostoevsky will complement readings in the literature course. A variety of theater and concert tickets will be purchased for the students throughout the semester.

      The usual travel itinerary includes a 3 day weekend train trip to Moscow and another 3 day weekend trip to the ancient city of Novgorod, a treasure house of old Russian architecture. Students have a week-long mid-semester trip to a destination which they will choose in advance from among a list of possible trips prepared by Colby and the Gimnazia. Students often choose to tour the small towns and monasteries of the Golden Ring around Moscow.


      The cost of the Colby in St. Petersburg program is equivalent to a semester's comprehensive Colby fee. This fee includes: round trip airfare (arranged by ColbyÕs travel agency) to St. Petersburg, invitation and visa preparation, tuition, room and board, the cultural program, and the planned excursions. It does not include personal travel, laundry expenses, books, and other incidentals.


      All travel arrangements must be made through the Colby Travel Office. The fall semester program typically begins in early September and concludes in the third week of December. The spring semester program begins in early February and concludes in the third week in May. It may be possible for some students, after consultation with the Colby Russian staff, to add the month of January in St. Petersburg to the spring semester program.


      Colby in St. Petersburg is open to any currently enrolled student at a US college or university who has a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.7 (on a 4-point scale) and who has completed at least two years of college-level Russian language with at least a B average. Students should also have taken a course in Russian literature and Russian history.

      Applications for the Colby in St. Petersburg program may be obtained from the Off-Campus Study Office at Colby College (tel. 207-872-3648; email More details on the program are available from the program coordinator, Professor Sheila McCarthy (tel. 207-872-3602; email Students may also consult the Off-Campus Study Office


        Colby JanPlan

        Saint Petersburg

        The January program in Saint-Petersburg offers students the opportunity to study Russian language and culture during the Russian winter. The program consists of two tracks, depending on a student's proficiency:

        RU113 The Literature and Art of St. Petersburg
        A three-week intensive course in St. Petersburg, Russia. Students read Pushkin, Dostoevsky, and other major St. Petersburg writers, study the imperial and revolutionary history of the city, and learn about the city's art and architecture in classroom lectures and museum visits. Students also receive a brief introduction to the Russian language. The course includes theater and concert performances and residence with a Russian family. Conducted in English; no knowledge of Russian required. Nongraded. Estimated cost: $2000.

        RU114 Russia's Transition Economy
        A three week intensive course in St. Petersburg, Russia. In daily class lectures and planned site visits, students are introduced to the Soviet centralized economy and its evolution since the 1950's. Topics include: militarization; industrialization; collectivization; economic stagnation; price liberalization; budgets and taxation; inflation and currency reforms; banks; investment; small businesses; export and import; the new Russian entrepreneur; stock markets; the bank crisis of August 1998; the oligarchs and "natural" monopolies. The course includes a cultural program and residence with a Russian family. Conducted in English; no knowledge of Russian required. Nongraded. Estimated cost: $2000.

        RU125 Elementary Russian in Saint-Petersburg
        Students will acquire an overall knowledge of the structure of the Russian language and develop skills in spoken Russian, listening comprehension, and reading and writing basic Russian. After initial intensive instruction at Colby, the course will travel to St. Petersburg for daily language classes and city excursions. While studying in Russia, students will live with Russian families.

        RU371 Russian Language and Culture in Saint-Petersburg
        Intensive sessions, conducted entirely in Russian, on phonetics, continuing work on selected grammar topics, and discussion of literary and historical readings. The course includes theater and concert evenings, tours of historical sites, and residence with a Russian family.

        For more information please see the Student Information Booklet or contact the program coordinator Professor Shiela McCarthy.