Health and Nutrition Information

Foreigners resident in Russia for more than three months must have proof of AIDS negativity in advance of visa application. Students may have the test done at Colby’s Health Center.



Students should be alert to the great differences between the typical American diet and the typical Russian diet, specifically the Russian diet is low in fresh fruits and vegetables, high in fat and dairy products, and lacks the daily variety that Americans are accustomed to. At the present time the prohibitive cost of many foods virtually eliminates them from the average Russian's diet. The dietary differences make it necessary that students, perhaps for the first time in their lives, pay attention to healthy eating. Buy fruits and vegetables at markets to supplement your diet. Cook foods that you like in your family. If there are foods that your family cooks that you do not like, tell them in a polite way that you do not like/ cannot eat that food and offer to cook something American for them . A typical complaint from Americans is that Russian "mothers" insist that young people eat constantly and in great quantities. Eat as much as you want, and then politely decline extra portions. Your families may be perplexed at first, but they will get used to your having smaller portions. Be adventurous in your diet and try Russian foods, especially the food that is well-prepared for you at home. Remember that food is a major part of Russian hospitality, and Russians can be offended by impolite or insensitive remarks about meals.


Drinking water in St. Petersburg and in Central Asian locations should be carefully and completely boiled or treated with water purification tablets, which you must bring with you. Most families boil drinking water as a matter of course ; if your family does not boil its water, be sure that you boil water for yourself. When you make tea or coffee, be sure that you boil the water well and for a longer than usual time. Some people also recommend that you brush your teeth with bottled/boiled water as well. Many Americans have trouble with the bacteria and parasites in St. Petersburg water; you may not have trouble at all, but better safe than sorry because a long bout of cramping and diarrhea is far from pleasant. Russians drink large quantities of bottled mineral water, but many Americans do not like the salty taste of mineral water. You may buy bottled spring water in many stores around the city.



Alcohol is another matter of recent concern because of the very high cost of vodka and the resulting proliferation of "home brewed" vodka. If you drink alcohol, be sure that it is factory produced and not made in someone's back room. Do not buy vodka in sidewalk kiosks, which may be selling "home brew." Drinking these home brews is very dangerous and the poisoning can have fatal results.


In St. Petersburg the Gimnazium has excellent personal contacts with private physicians who handle general medical needs such as allergy injections, ear and throat infections. In the event of very serious medical needs, the Gimnazium will immediately contact Colby and, if possible, the student will return home to the US.


Colby recommends that students see their physicians prior to departure. Physicians sometimes recommend shots for tetanus, hepatitis, etc. Colby also recommends that your physician provide you with prescription medications for severe cough/pneumonia, ear infections, strep throat, urinary tract infections, vaginitis and yeast infections with clear instructions for their use.

Recently enacted Russian legislation requires that foreigners, who will be resident in Russia for more than three months, have proof of a recent AIDS test. If you do not have such proof, you may be required to have an AIDS test in Russia. Colby requires that students have an AIDS test in the US in order to avoid testing in Russia. Your personal physician can arrange for you to be tested and will write a letter, testifying to the results.

Medications may be in very short supply in Russia, so students should take with them an ample supply of usual medications such as Tylenol, cold medications, non-prescription allergy medications, throat lozenges or spray, all feminine hygiene products, birth control pills, condoms, diarrhea and constipation medications -- any medications that you usually have on hand.

Students should also take with them a full supply of a favorite soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss, razor blades, talcum powder, moisturizer, bath oil-- all your usual toiletry articles. All these items are very costly in Russia. There are, however, high quality ( and expensive) hard currency toiletry stores in St. Petersburg when you want to treat yourselves to some special cologne or bath oil.

If you take a hairdryer, electric shaver, or any small electrical appliance, you must have the appropriate wall plug to fit the Russian current which is 127 & 220 volts. European plugs and convertors or dual voltage appliances are required. You may purchase these plugs at some electronics stores or at larger hardware stores.

Students should take a multi-vitamin each day, even if they do not normally take vitamins. Vitamin C is also a good idea because the Russian diet is poor in fresh fruits and vegetables.


In the matter of all sexual relations students are strongly advised to be extremely careful and wary in order to protect yourself against all sexually transmitted diseases. It is assumed that you are mature and smart enough to take necessary precautions at home; in Russia multiply your caution tenfold because you are ten times more vulnerable as a foreigner, particularly as an American. (Please read carefully the section on SECURITY.)


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