From Russia with love: diary of a school trip (part one)

Today, three A-level students from a specialist centre for visual impairment travelled to St Petersburg for a trip of a lifetime. The students, from the Wesc Foundation in Exeter, are accompanied by their teacher, Huw Hennessy, who will be blogging throughout the trip. Here, Hennessey explains how the group prepared for their Russian adventure.

We are finally en route to St Petersburg. This is the trip of a lifetime and our school’s first visit to Russia.

Julian Davey, a history teacher at Wesc, came up with the idea of visiting St Petersburg after teaching the Russian Revolution to the three young men in our group as part of their A-level history course. Julian thought it would be an exciting opportunity for the students to visit the city where it all began.

Now, after a huge amount of planning ─ and a last-minute dash to London for our visas ─ we are all set to go.

To pay for the trip, the students raised funds through a variety of activities and events. Tom did a sponsored swim, George washed cars and Harry, the unofficial bard of Wesc, composed tailor-made poems to order.

Earlier this year, we held a Russian-themed concert at an Exeter pub, with Tom as DJ. And last month we put on a “Russia Day” at Wesc. This involved hosting a concert performed by Olga and Dmitry (Russian musicians from Plymouth), a Russian crafts stall and a special Russian lunch prepared by Wesc’s ever-versatile cooks.

The University of Exeter has also helped us to prepare. A student gave us a whistle-stop language course and the university’s Russian studies department invited us to a cultural day, which gave us lots of useful information.

We are spending a week in St Petersburg, visiting its most famous historic monuments, including the Peter and Paul Fortress, the Aurora warship and the Finland Station. We are also going to the Constantin Grot School ─ the oldest and first school for blind children in Russia ─ and touring the world-famous Hermitage Museum.

Tom, George and Harry are looking forward to the trip but are wondering how the Russians will welcome a group which has varying levels of visual impairment.

Tom wants to meet the Russians and ask them questions about their lives, while George is keen to visit the architecture and monuments. Harry simply wants to soak it all up.

We’ll be reporting on our adventures from St Petersburg, so watch this space over the next week to see how we get on. Da sveedaneeya!

Pictured: The Wesc group outside the Russian Embassy in London.

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