It’s hard to recommend studying in Yakutsk. The city could be described as cold, remote, unattractive and dangerous. But then again, maybe I don’t have to recommend it. If you want to come here, you probably know it already. It is challenging, different, and interesting.
In winter, you will see fish and chunks of meat sold at the outdoor market in –45 °C. You will have boring foggy days. Grocery shopping makes you think Finland is a country of good service and lively small talk. You will study at a university, NEFU, which is famous for its studies in Yakutian culture and history and has its own institute for Olonkho (the national epic of Yakutia, “their Kalevala”). You can spend hours in Russian sauna, баня. If you visit the countryside, you will see dogs and horses that spend 24/7 in a temperature you can tolerate for an hour. There, the locals want to take a photo with you, and you might meet a shaman.
I have not regretted coming to Sakha Republic, and I’m privileged and grateful to experience the place through university context. Other students and the employees of the International Relations Office are very friendly, and I felt very welcome from the first day. Exchange students are treated as individuals, and Russian language is taught in small groups. The dormitory is well-equipped and comfortable. I couldn’t experience this without the great exchange program north2north. (You can read more about n2n in the intranet or on the program website.)
Obviously, if you know Russian language already, you will have much better chances at getting to know the people and the culture. I recognize that I am still very dependent on the safety net of the university. Getting through the day with the language barrier is a humbling and healthy experience. But there are other students like me, who come here to learn Russian and start from the beginning. Yakutsk is a good place for that. Maybe not the best place, since you hear a lot of Yakut language too, but for me, that just makes it more interesting.
It keeps surprising me how much exchange programs can teach you. In the best case scenario, the semester is not only about taking language lessons but also life lessons. A good investment, I believe.Liisa Lundell North-Eastern Federal University (International Business, 01/2014-05/2014)