I will only briefly discuss my time in Izhevsk, for a more detailed take on the volunteer experience I encourage you to consult Seth?s (volunteer from England) information on this website ? it is in depth and informative.
I am not going to go into too much detail, or give you a chronological retelling of my time there, but I will briefly cover some key points that I think everyone should consider before and during there time in Izhevsk.
Your time in Izhevsk will most likely be spent with a host family. It is indeed true what everybody says - this is probably as close as an average outsider will get to real, contemporary Russia. One will have to prepare for a little bit of adaptation upon arrival. Hospitality can seem a bit overbearing from time to time, but try to remember that the host family feels responsible for you. Not only because they have agreed with the travel agency to host you, but also because Russians are remarkable and generous hosts.
One should prepare to be fed with a lot of food. If you hang out with friends or their families before returning to your host family it is quite possible that you may have two or three dinners in one evening. I returned home after midnight a couple of times only to find my hosts preparing a meal for me, despite my protests. Remember also that Russian meals, even if they tend to be small on average, may not be small for you since you are considered a guest. Russian food is fantastic, but if you are into the ridiculous low-carb craze in the United States, or a vegetarian, you are in for a rough ride.
Most volunteers stay in Izhevsk for three months or less. It is very important to remember that this time will fly by very quickly. The first week or so may seem long as you adapt to the new surroundings, especially if it is your first time abroad. However, as you get to know people and begin to make friends (or girlfriends/boyfriends) then the time will pass faster then you realize.
If you are in Izhevsk when there are many other volunteers then there will be no problem to take some time off and spend some time wandering around Izhevsk or visiting neighboring towns. Remember that your time is short and even though you are obliged to spend time with the school and the evening classes, make sure to make time for yourself to spend with your host family and friends.
I would like to discuss my time in Russia more in depth, but I have to run now. I have been lots of places but Russia was certainly one of my best experiences. If you want to hear more, or have any questions, please send me an email.
Volunteered: February 1 - May 1, 2004