Laura Brouwer, third year student International Development at the Leiden University College (LUC).
Accompanied by chilly winds and rays of sunshine, a group of us from Leiden University College spent the week of April in St. Petersburg, hosted by the NIP. The weeks advancing our arrival we were prepared and warming up with lectures on cultural interaction, the political economy of Russia, the origins of the city and its art during the last century and with a crash-course Russian. I arrived full with excited anticipation, but not with any clear expectations, apart from that we would explore ‘St Petersburg’s vibrant subcultures, creative spaces, and citizens’ initiatives.’
The week’s program progressed such that we were shown different faces of the city with each activity.
The first day we had a tour in the monumental, grotesque center of the city, topped with a visit to the Hermitage the day after. The Sputnik8 guides highlighted the more rundown and private side of the city behind those beautiful facades. Moreover, as we went to the Kitchen Space, Etagi, Pushkinskaya-10 and Manifesta 10, it amazed me how many creative and innovative initiatives are taken there as well.
Throughout the week we also attended lectures that predominantly pertained to public life in the city: what does it look like and how can it and the spaces in which it takes place be improved? Particularly inspiring were the students of the Research University ITMO following the masters’ program on the design of urban ecosystems, focusing on Kronstadt which we had a chance to visit ourselves that morning. The program truly allowed us to experience the dynamics of a city and its people.