During the year, Moscow goes through a variety of weather changes, so our students get to experience all four seasons at their finest. Winter in Moscow is not as severe as some people might picture it, but still can be relatively cold, so everyone should be prepared. Spring is usually chilly and wet with all the melting snow. Summers are mild with the average temperature ranging from 23 to 27 C (~75 F), but it gets hotter at times. The beginning of fall is usually warm and sunny with the summer heat coming down. With the climate changes that have been happening over the last few years, it has become very difficult to say which month is the coldest and which one is the hottest in Moscow, the nature never stops surprising.
CLOTHING IN RUSSIA
Russian people like to dress up with no particular occasion, which is the main difference between the everyday looks of people in the two countries. It is very common to put on a lot of make-up, an expensive fur coat, shining leather shoes and go grocery shopping. Although, Russian desire to dress up should not stop American students from wearing whatever they want, no one is here to judge.
Depending on the season, you will need different clothing. Moscow winter is not as severe as some might think of it, but it does get really cold in January\February, so make sure you bring warm coats, shoes, hats and such. Spring and fall can be both warm and chilly/rainy, so keep that in mind while packing, and bring an umbrella.
Summer in Moscow is very mild and does get quite hot at times. The average temperature is about 75-82 F. Feel free to wear any kind of shoes, shirts and pants as you see fit for this weather, but keep in mind that if you forget to bring something to Russia, you can always buy it here at any of our huge malls.
Students are recommended to pack all their important items such as passports, insurance cards, electronics, credit/debit cards, and items of high monetary value in their carry-on. Also, in case of lost baggage, students are advised to pack a change of clothes and some toiletries in their carry-on as well.
You can always bring less stuff in case you're planning on getting overly excited with shopping in Moscow, but you can always buy another suitcase for that situation. Keep in mind, however, that most airlines charge additional fees for extra luggage.
As soon as Americans try Russian food, they immediately taste the drastic difference. We understand that no description can deliver the true experience of any cuisine, but it wouldn't be wrong to say Russian traditional food might taste a bit bland for a Western palate. There is absolutely no heat whatsoever, so if you're a spice junkie – bring a bottle of your favorite hot sauce.
A number of ingredients are crucial for Russian cooking, as people here tend to give them much more credit than anywhere else. For instance, beets are essential for preparing borsch, a traditional Ukrainian\Russian soup. Herbs wise, we strongly doubt there's any other place where people put dill in literally every other dish. Mayo is one the most popular salad dressings along with sunflower oil.
Traditionally Russian lunch is a 3-course meal that consists of a soup, main dish and a beverage. Soups are essential for Russian cooking, it is quite hard to get by without them for too long. Some of the most famous are Shchi (cabbage soup), Borsch (beet soup) and Ukha (fish soup).
Some of the dishes might seem a little bit weird at first, even the way they look. For instance, "kholodets". This dish features shredded meat or fish frozen in meat broth. It is considered a delicacy by many, but might seem a little bit repellent for American. Same deal with caviar, especially the black variety. Some people describe the taste as "too salty\too fishy", while the others consider it a treat and are willing to pay insane amounts of money for it. Anyway, whatever your preferences are, we encourage you not be intimidated by anything and step into the unknown.
The national currency in Russia is a Russian ruble; no other currency is accepted in the country. Feel free to exchange some money in America before coming here, but keep in mind the rate is not going to be as reasonable as here. Try not to exchange any money at airports since their rates are usually the worst.
The easiest way to get cash is with an ATM. Obviously we encourage our students to use as much Russian language as possible, but almost all ATMs support English as well. There is a number of crucial things about withdrawing cash in Russia using Americans cards. First, it is extremely important to inform your bank about the upcoming trip, so they don't get suspicious and cancel your cards. In that case it is usually quite difficult to regain access to them. Secondly, make sure you bring a credit and a debit card for the sake of confidence. You can usually pay with both of them, but you can't use a credit card for ATMs most of the time since the majority of American credit cards don't have pin codes\passwords that are required. Also, if you have chance – get cards with electronic chips in them, that way you can be sure they'll be accepted almost everywhere.
Personal spending habits and preferences will determine just how much money one should carry on a daily basis. However, we don't recommend having more cash than you are going to spend on that particular day. Keep in mind, you can pay with a card almost everywhere.
For the latest exchange rates and conversion tables, students should consult the following web sites:
ADAPTORS AND CONVERTERS
Not only is the voltage for electronics different in Russia than in the USA, but the physical outlets are different as well. Adaptors are use to physically fit your plug into the outlet without changes in current. A converter, however, can increase or decrease the voltage for the current that passes between your device and the outlet. Having at least one adaptor is an absolute must when travelling to Russia. Most major electronics can be used at either 120V (USA) or 220V (Russia). Students should check every device they are planning to use while abroad to determine if a converter is needed.
LEISURE TIME IN MOSCOW
As any big city, Moscow offers literally thousands of ways to spend your free time. The number of museums, theatres, exhibitions, movie theatres, galleries and art spaces is countless. Please, keep in mind that most foreign movies are dubbed in Russian, so if you want to watch, say, the original version of a new American movie, check out movie theatres like "35 mm" and such.
Most theatres and concerts require buying tickets in advance; it can be easily done with a credit\debit card using websites like ponominalu.ru, ticketland.ru, bigbilet.ru etc.
Information about the events that are worth your time can be found at afisha.ru and similar websites. Check out websites like the-village.ru for restaurants reviews. Also, people in Russia do not use Yelp.
If you are interested in any sort of activities including something not so common (like rock climbing, for instance) – just ask Grint staff and we will most likely find something for you.
Russia is primarily an Orthodox country with churches, cathedrals and chapels scattered all over the country, many of which date from the Middle Ages. Being a multicultural state, Russia allows for complete religious freedom. Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish and other services are available in Moscow.
Russians go crazy about sports, it's one of the most essential things in most people's lives. The most popular kinds are football (soccer) and hockey, although boxing, volleyball, basketball and some others are popular as well. Depending on the season you can watch our national/local teams play, the tickets are very easy to get and fairly priced.
As for the sports facilities on campus, there are lots of ways to exercise. We have a gym and a swimming pool that you can access with a single pass that costs about 2500 rubles/month. On campus there are also: a running track, a basketball court, various crossbars etc. Also, when the weather is nice, you can always run on campus.
We strongly encourage American students to check in advance if their phones are locked for their carriers. If they are and if they can't be unlocked, then a student usually buys a cheap (about 1000 rubles) phone and a SIM card with a plan (about 500 rubles). That provides with about 400 minutes of calls and countless text messages for a month. If a phone is unlocked, a student buys just a SIM card with a plan that has a certain amount of data on it. That is always preferable, because data gives an opportunity to use maps and other useful apps that require Internet access.
The best way to call your parents\relatives in the US is Skype. Of course, you can use your Russian phone number, but that way you will spend all your money almost immediately.
Packages usually take about 3 weeks to ship both ways. Letters are usually delivered to the school doorstep, whereas packages have to be picked up from the local post office located about 15 minutes away from our campus.
Grint Center for Education and Culture upholds Russian law in regard to drugs. If students are suspected of illegal drug use, the center will not be able to help them in any way and they will be asked to leave the country/program immediately The strictness of these laws and the severity of the sentence given to those breaking the laws, is well-known. Students who want precise information on the laws governing use of drugs in Russia are advised to contact the American Embassy in Moscow.
It is recommended that all students receive their mail at the Grint office.. Mail should be addressed as follows and should be sent as "air mail":
Russia, Moscow, 111395, Yunosty str., 5/1, block 6 , of. 35
Please, do not state your dorm building and room number in the address, as it will increase the chance of your package getting lost. You will most like have to pick it up from the post office located in the campus area, our student coordinator will gladly show it to you and help with any possible formalities.