Study Abroad Experience of an Indian Student in Russia

Around this time last year, I was preparing to start my study abroad journey at ITMO University. As I was leaving my home, I had this fear of leaving behind my friends and family, yet I was equally excited about flying to a new country with a completely different culture and was optimistic about my future. It has been almost a year since I started studying at ITMO, and as I reflect on my journey so far, I see both the good memories and the difficult times. There were times when I was grateful for meeting wonderful people who became my good friends, times that made me fall in love with the beautiful city, and of course I can’t forget last year’s winter when I witnessed my first ever snowfall. However, there were days when I just wanted to go back home.

Photo by javier trueba on Unsplash

To be honest, the graph of my study abroad experience had its fair share of ups and downs. However, when I look back on it now, I know that it was a life-changing and enriching experience. As an international student, I was able to learn things that became an integral part of my transformative journey and gave me a new perspective on life.

These are the 6 main lessons from my study abroad experience:

Cultural immersion

Living in a different country for a year provides a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in a new culture. As an Indian I have experienced cultural diversity in my own country, however, here at the ITMO, I was often hanging out with students from various countries. I didn't just get acquainted with Russian language and culture but also got an opportunity to explore the culture and customs of other countries. I got a chance to learn about new customs, traditions, and languages, which were both challenging and rewarding. Throughout the year I was learning to speak the local language, trying new foods, participating in local customs and festivals, and gaining a deeper understanding of the Russian people and their way of life and embracing the differences between us.

Photo courtesy of the subject
Photo courtesy of the subject

Academic growth and personal development

Studying at an international university often provides access to diverse academic perspectives and cutting-edge research. This exposure can broaden a student's intellectual horizons and open up new academic interests and possibilities. A multicultural classroom promotes cross-cultural understanding and helps students view subjects from various angles. I believe that for an international student academic growth isn’t just about achieving good grades — it is a combination of educational, personal, and cultural experiences. In the last 10 months I found myself trying to adapt to a new environment, being away from home, and managing daily life in a foreign country, which was at times challenging. However, these experiences contribute to my personal growth, self-reliance, and resilience. It pushed me to become more independent and self-sufficient.

Challenges and adaptation

Moving to a new country comes with its share of challenges, such as dealing with homesickness, language barriers, or cultural differences. Overcoming these challenges can be empowering and teach us problem-solving skills. I remember during my initial days in St. Petersburg finding vegetarian food was quite challenging, therefore, I preferred cooking my own meals. I had brought a bag full of Indian spices and ingredients with me. Other items were available in the local markets. Although, in the next few months I was able to find quite a few Indian restaurants and whenever I would miss Indian food or wanted to celebrate Indian festivals, my friends and I would go to these eateries. Also, adapting to the cold Russian winter was in itself a big challenge for me and I think I should prepare myself well for this year as well.

Friendships and networking

Studying abroad offers countless opportunities to meet people from all over the world. We can use this opportunity to develop meaningful friendships with both local and fellow international students. Despite the language and cultural barriers, I have been able to make friends from different parts of the world. I have always been curious and interested in learning about different cultures and traditions. So, I often participated in student club activities, got involved in speaking clubs, and celebrated local festivals, which was how I was able to explore new friendships and connect with people. I consider myself lucky to make such genuine friendships in such a small amount of time.

Photo courtesy of the subject
Photo courtesy of the subject

Travel and exploration

Living abroad opens up opportunities for exploration and travel within the host country and neighboring regions. Exploring new places, trying local cuisine, and engaging in adventure activities — this all creates memorable experiences that last a lifetime. Living in St. Petersburg, the cultural capital of Russia, provided me with an opportunity to witness the magnificent architecture and stunning artworks of Russian history. I have visited more museums and theaters in St. Petersburg than I did back in India. I also watched my first ever ballet, The Swan Lake, a couple of months ago.

Photo courtesy of the subject
Photo courtesy of the subject


One of the best ways to deal with financial stress is to learn the art of budgeting and sticking to it. There were days when I struggled with the urge to spend money on unnecessary items and found it hard to manage my finances. With time, I started sticking to my monthly budget, making sure I stopped overspending, and gradually things started working out. Avoiding unnecessary spending, managing your finances, using student discounts wherever possible, attending events and visiting places that are often free of cost for students (or are very reasonably priced) for entertainment purposes will not only allow you to be in a better financial place but will also let you enjoy these experiences without any guilt of overspending.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Thank you so much for reading! Feedback is always appreciated.

Master's student, Business Transformation Strategies and Technologies