I arrived to St. Petersburg with the equivalent of one year of Russian at a university. Hardly able to construct a complete sentence without glaring gramattical errors, my pronunciation was practically incomprehensible and my vocabulary severely limited. My progress from incompetence, to competence, to confidence over the past six months has been an exciting journey. Derzhavin Institute deserves much of the credit for my progress.
Derzhavin's qualtity of instruction and unique atmosphere make it an extrodinary place to study Russian. After my entry tests, the staff and teachers here actively sought to meet my needs as a historian who aspired to competence in reading on historical themes. Rather than relying on one standard textbook, my teacher has ingeneously compiled a breadth of materials related to history and current events, yet she has made certain that I master the fundamentals of conversational Russian. Moreover, her incredible talent of listening intently and correcting regurally but tactfully has empowered me to become confident in conversation at a speed that surprised me. Far more so than any language teacher I have ever had in the past, my teacher at Derzhavin posesses the rare gift of insisting the student use the appropriate grammar without ever stifling the student's desire to explore new manners of speech.
Located in the historical mansion of the famous eighteenth-century Russian poet Gavriil Derzhavin, the atmosphere within the Institute is imbued with the feeling of the Russian past. Moreover, from celebrating birthdays to having conversations with students during the breaks between classes, the teachers and admistrators actively seek to create a unique environment where students benefit from conversing in Russian with the entire community of teachers, students, and administrators. Derzhavin's demand that the students speak in Russian helps make students become more confident with their respective levels of competence. I am aware of many language schools where it is the norm for students to begin immediately speaking English after class concludes. Moreover, in some language schools, students have little interaction with teachers outside of class. At Derzhavin, on the other hand, learning continues well beyond the time set for lessons.
After spending six months here, I cannot imagine studying Russian anywhere else. Derzhavin is truly a unique place and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who desires to study Russian in St. Petersburg.