University Students to Take a Trip to Russia

A few individuals will have the chance to travel to Russia and Ukraine on a 13 day trip with Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Thomas Pearson, this spring, from May 25 to June 7 of next year. The group that goes will be touring through Kiev, Moscow, the Golden Ring (a series of locations including Vladimir and Suzdal) and St. Petersburg.

Pearson’s relationship to this country began when he was a student. “I’m a Russian historian by training. My perspective is shaped by my experience living in the Soviet Union for 10 months. I was one of 50 scholars involved in an [academic] exchange program,” said Pearson.

Hotel accommodations, meals and transportation will be arranged throughout the trip. Those in attendance will be led by Ms. Marina Fokina, a lifelong tour guide and personal friend to Pearson.

The tour will begin in Kiev, Ukraine, where, in addition to sightseeing, you will be able to tour the older parts of the city. Some stops include the St. Sophia Cathedral, Babiy Yar (a memorial to Soviet victims of Nazis), and the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra Monastery, all of which are widely renowned historical landmarks.

Flying from Kiev to Moscow on May 28, those on the trip will then be staying in the Pekin Hotel, which is one mile from Red Square and the Kremlin. It is also very near to theaters, restaurants and the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, which is across the street.

From May 29 to May 30, attendees will experience the Golden Ring, which was the center of Russian civilization during the 13th and 14th centuries. The group will go to Suzdal to see the local monasteries, the Nativity Cathedral and the Museum of Wooden Architecture. They will later go on a tour of Vladimir, which will include the Golden Gates and the St. Dmitry and Assumption Cathedrals of the 12th century.  Lunch will be provided on both days.

During the period of May 30 to June 2, the tour will involve sightseeing throughout Moscow, the city with the largest number of billionaires. This excursion will involve seeing Kremlin and the Red Square, the armory Museum and the Tretyakov Art Galley, among other attractions. The following day will be a free day, where one will be allowed to do anything one’s heart desires.

June 2 will end with the group boarding an overnight train to St. Petersburg where, on June 3, they’ll check in at the Oktyabrskaya Hotel, which is within walking distance of all major historical sites.

The ensuing trip through the area will include the Peter and Paul Fortress, the Hermitage Museum, and a tour to Pushkin and the Catherinean Palace, as well as an additional journey to Peterhoff, the summer palace of the Tsars. Peterhoff is known for lavish gardens and gold fountains.

In discussing The Hermitage, Pearson indicated that the group would have about two hours of scheduled time to tour the building. He added that free time is scheduled for immediately thereafter, so people who want to continue touring can do so. Pearson said, “I’m told that if you were to spend half an hour in each room, it would take three and a half years to see everything.” 

The group will then experience an academic visit to the university in St. Petersburg or the Russian Law Clinic to discuss, with faculty and students, current developments in Russia, with the specific topics to be defined by the touring group.

“I try to take groups to Russia. I see it as part of my teaching and a learning experience in general,” said Pearson.

There will be generous amounts of free time allotted so that the travelers can do their own sightseeing, shopping, or go to special events nearby, such as concerts, opera, or the Moscow Circus.

“[The] Moscow Circus is such a part of the cultural fabric,” said Pearson, highly recommending that trip-goers consider checking it out.

Group members will typically pay $2,590 if staying in double occupancy rooms and $3,420 if staying in a single. Transportation should amount to $1,500 while a Russian visa is $190. Those who go should also anticipate paying for one’s own meals on days where accommodations are not specified as being provided. All prices are subject to change with EURO-dollar exchange rates, fare expenses and other such things. The price may drop if there are more than 15 people going.

Lauren Woods, a graduate student studying anthropology, feels it’s worth the investment. “The trip is well worth the price. It was also not that expensive. With everything included (travel costs, hotels, food, and souvenirs) the trip cost me less than $4,000. So really for all that we did while on the trip it was actually pretty cheap,” said Woods.

Suzanne Moore, an alumnus who went on one of Pearson’s past trips to Russia, commented on the uniqueness of the experience. “I never would have thought I would have the opportunity to tour the Kremlin,” said Moore. “Another favorite moment was enjoying the countryside of Suzdal; it’s just so beautiful and peaceful.”

“One thing, however, some have to realize is towards the end of the trip, in St. Petersburg, we were staying practically in the ‘land of the midnight sun.’ The sun stays up to the early hours of the morning.” added Moore. “As a matter of fact, I am going to be a part of the 2013 group.  I have a few places in both Ukraine and Russia I still need to see.”

Any person interested in going should contact Provost Thomas Pearson at or Kathy Snedden at 732-571-3405 or to confirm their intention in going, or to ask additional questions. The provost’s office needs a list of travelers and a $300 deposit by February 8.