Students return home after Middlebury College suspends Russia school

Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 11:50 PM EST
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MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - Students participating in Middlebury College’s Russian Exchange program are on their way home.

The college announced they’re suspending its study abroad program following Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“I woke up on the 24th like nothing could prepare me for what that happened then.”

Zavier Ridgley planned to finish his senior year studying abroad in Moscow. When we spoke to him Thursday night, he was at the Moscow airport, waiting to board a flight back home.

“Interesting to imagine that I’m probably one of the very last Americans in Russia right now” says Ridgley.

Gusts Peterson, another student in Middlebury’s program says his last few days in Irkutsk differed from the rest of his time there.

His host family included an older couple.

“The conversations we were having with my host family were very emotionally loaded. I saw a different perspectives among younger people as ever ranging from 20 years old to 35 year old.”

Both students say day-to-day has changed very little for the people of the Russia. Although impacts of the sanctions are becoming more noticeable. Ridgley describes one of his last trips to the bank.

“There was a long line. People were afraid that the ruble was dropping in value so people wanted dollars. Apple eventually or Apple pay stopped working here so I saw really well as you people in like the Metro is trying to get like a new method of payment.”

Ridgley and Peterson say they never felt unsafe and would be willing to go back one things calm down.

“I remember just being just totally shocked and I think that that’s kind of the impression that I got from a lot of people here as well.”

“People are not necessarily the problem and that’s we should really discern the difference between the Russian government and the people that” says Peterson.

A spokesperson for Middlebury College says all of the students should be out by Saturday afternoon at the latest. They’ll be able to finish their semester online.

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Middlebury College suspends study abroad program in Russia

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