"You probably will never find another place as extreme, in many aspects, as Russia."Sergey Kiselev/Moskva Agency
The end of the frosty winter student session in Russia coincides with the Feast of St. Tatyana on Jan. 25, who is the patron saint of universities, and Student's Day just happens to fall on this day. Parties are a fun way to end the semester, but if you’re a foreign student you must first familiarize yourself with local traditions.
"I had never heard about Student's Day until my Russian friend told me about it," said Djiran Noimani from Thailand who is studying Computational Science at ITMO University's High Performance Computing Department. "We plan to celebrate it by writing our research plan! The rest of our student life in Russia will be packed with many things to do besides studying. I got many ‘F’s in Russia! Food, Friends and Fun."
"You probably will never find another place as extreme, in many aspects, as Russia," continued Noimani. "When I was in Thailand I could not have managed my time like this. There, you must study hard, play harder and eat the hardest, but still have time to go to the Buddhist Temple. In Russia, I can do whatever I want - it’s like a dream! I love my student life in St. Petersburg."
"Before coming to Russia I constantly heard that everyone drinks here, which is why my parents begged me to be a teetotaler," said Monalisa Nothando from Zimbabwe, who studies medicine at the Novosibirsk State University. "I was also almost forced to believe that racism is rampant in Russia. But I find that Russians are the friendliest people I've ever met. I feel at home here."
"Of all the university traditions I am captivated by the student custom to light a fire on the shore of the Ob Sea, [the water reservoir in Novosibirsk’s educational district, Akademgorodok], and then sing and dance together," continued Nothando.
"One of my most vivid moments was during the student's initiation rite on Freshman Day. Senior students hold it for novices every year in the dormitory. The rite has the format of a quest. You do a certain task on each floor, and if you solve it then you go up to the next floor and so on until you reach the twelfth. Tests including eating an apple without using your hands when blindfolded. If you don’t succeed, you do pushups," said Shukhrat Akhmedjanov, a student from Tajikistan who studies at ITMO's University Department of Food Biotechnology and Engineering.
"I had heard about Students Day, but the exam session ends on this day and usually I go home without celebrating it," he said.
The feast of the martyr St. Tatiana falls on Jan. 25 according to the Russian Orthodox calendar, and colloquially it’s known as Tatiana Day. On this day in 1755 the Empress Elizaveta Petrovna signed the decree, "On the establishment of Moscow University," and so Tatiana Day became the university’s official day. Since then St. Tatiana has been the patron of students in Russia.
Originally, the feast day was celebrated only in Moscow, and the entire city came out to mark the festivities. Official ceremonies were held in the university building, and loud and joyous events took place throughout the city. Since 2005, Jan. 25 has been celebrated as The Day of Russian Students.
On Tatiana Day, the rector of Moscow State University (MSU) offers students mead, pouring it into glasses himself. Mead is a sweet alcoholic drink made mostly of honey. It not only warms you during the winter but also contains many ingredients that can cure your cold, bronchitis or sore throat.
MSU's traditions have been adopted by other Russian universities. The Ural Federal University (UFU), for example, also offers students the traditional Tatiana Day drink, although its mead is non-alcoholic.
"The university makes the non-alcoholic mead because many students are still taking exams on this day," said Marina Sannikova, head of UFU’s public relations department. Students, however, say that the non-alcoholic mead is just as pleasing and has a strong warming effect.
Students in Russia, however, are always keen to find any occasion to party when their busy schedule allows it. A holiday doesn’t even have to be their own and can be borrowed from other countries.
"In 2017, the Chinese New Year and Student's Day are only three days apart, which is why students at the Novosibirsk State University will celebrate two holidays simultaneously," said NSU's press service. "They plan to make pelmini in the dormitory, as well as eat Chinese dishes."