Aaron Eisenbarth is a graduate student in international relations and public administration. In spring 2014, he is completing his studies in Syracuse.
For the fall semester of my second year, I chose to study Energy Politics abroad at the European University in St. Petersburg, Russia. The program is fairly new, but the overall experience was quite good. Professors were capable and the school brought in high-level politicians and representatives of large energy companies on a regular basis to complement the curriculum. My cohort of fifteen showed a strong interest in the subject and in terms of background and work experience was more diversified than the public-sector orientation of Maxwell. This made for rich conversations that included more private sector voices than per usual at Maxwell.
I walked away with a large amount of new knowledge and a number of skills. For instance, a general understanding of European-Russian relations, the basics of Russia Foreign Policy and some basic energy research skills that will help my career. The program provided a surprisingly robust Russian learning program as well. I spoke Russian at an intermediate-high/advanced-low level before starting the program and they provided six hours of group tutoring a week. Speaking Russian is not a requirement of the program and will not be a barrier to having a good experience at the university.
Life in St. Petersburg was pretty good and affordable if you shop around for an apartment or choose to commute into the city center. The university does a good job of providing students with information regarding possible living arrangements as well as help in other aspects of St. Petersburg life. It is a beautiful city with plenty of obvious and non-obvious activities in which to partake. Navigating the city as a foreigner can be taxing at times, but there are helpful, English-speaking locals to help you should you need it. If you are unaccustomed to the darkness that a St. Petersburg winter solstice brings with it be sure to bring some vitamin D. Safety was never an issue for me, but it is a concern just like any other metropolitan area.
I recommend the program if you have an interest Eurasian energy issues or even energy in general as it provides necessary foundation for studying outside of Eurasia. The university also provides a Russian and Eurasian Studies program (IMARES) and an Arts and Culture program (MARCA)