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Smolny Campus. (Credit: Smolny Student Conference Organizing Committee)

Two weeks ago, I attended the annual Smolny student conference. Five days I frolicked about and ate lots and lots of pierogies. Not a single dull moment was lived. This article is a reflection on my experience of the city:

I boarded at midnight. The experience was positively surreal. I had run across Riga airport to catch my connection — a process significantly slowed down by the immigration police’s diligence in checking my passport and visa. When I ultimately reached the gate, steadying my heart rate, I saw my flight there was a tiny jetplane. The plane was crowded with a peculiar mix of people: businesswomen and football fans sat side by side. Its odor was a combination of garlic and sweaty old person. Everywhere I looked I saw  babies with the potential to spark total mayhem. The plane shook and puffed and finally got us there in one piece. All the while in front of me, a girl calmly edited her selfie for the duration of the 40 min flight, nudging the brightness back and forth to reach perfection — which of course took a while, because of the shaking and all. But there’s no questioning her determination. I had to remind myself I wasn’t on a bus to a rural town; I was flying to St.Petersburg, the country’s former capital. She greeted me with snow. Welcome to Russia!

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On April 17-18, St. Petersburg, Russia, gathered over eighty students and young scholars from Bard-affiliated institutions for a two-day assembly across disciplines. With “Science and Technology through the Prism of Humanities”  as its “umbrella topic”, the Fourth Smolny Annual International Student Conference was held at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences of the St. Petersburg State University.

Bard College Berlin was represented by Lysan Boshuyzen (BA2, the Netherlands) with the paper “Art Generating Paradigm Shift,” Dylan Davis (BA3, USA) with “Beyond Hate: Exploring the Relationship between Hate and Equality,” Lena Kück (BA1, Germany) who presented on “Focus in Fractions – The Effect of New Technology on our Ability to Focus in Social Environments,” and myself with the paper “The Relationship between Scientific Knowledge and Political and Religious Power in Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis.

After our altogether successful presentations and Q&As, we were lucky and organized enough to spend our free time traversing and wandering through the city’s grandiose boulevards, seductive avenues, and historical squares. St. Petersburg is a living architectural miracle – even mere walking feels like a visit to an open air museum. With sunset light accentuating the features of some of its most popular buildings, afternoon chats among young couples, early spring strawberries, birds on the Neva river, and some random wonders that new travelers always find a way to stumble upon, we had a kaleidoscopic experience of the city that sparked a curiosity which, in my judgment, one could never fully satisfy in a place so rich with history and culture, still in the process of building the bridge between the old and the modern. Below are few impressions from St. Petersburg, the iconic wonder of Russian aesthetics – the elegant dame of the Baltic Sea (all photos by Inasa Bibić):

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The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood I

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