What’s it like studying Modern Languages and Cultures? (Russian and Spanish edition)

Lily Best

I chose to study Russian and Spanish within the Modern Languages and Cultures course at Durham University because I wanted to broaden my horizons in terms of job opportunities. Languages are valued highly in the world of work and help with interpersonal skills in general. Not only this, but I didn’t want to do just a language degree without the cultural side of things. I think that having knowledge about someone’s culture and way of life can make communication much more effective.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this course so far. It is engaging and suitable for anyone up for a challenge! It combines teamwork, such as regular oral classes and group presentations, and independent work, like reading and essay writing for cultural modules. This has helped me make some amazing friends and has given me so many opportunities – from taking part in a Russian poetry competition to being a volunteer at the Spanish Apprentice event in Bishop Auckland.


When I came to Durham, I knew no Russian at all! I think the Russian Language ab initio course is excellent because it pushes you to learn quickly and efficiently, through mini tests every other week. Now, I can have a conversation in Russian, which is something I never imagined I’d be able to do. I also like the way my weeks are structured. There is a lecture at the beginning of each week, outlining what will be covered, and after the daily grammar classes and tutorials, there is a workshop which summarises all of this.

my Russian vocabulary lists in Russian cursive

I have particularly enjoyed learning how to write in Russian cursive! We spent the first two weeks mastering the technique.

On top of learning the language, I am doing a cultural module called Introduction to Russian History and Culture. This covers, in breadth, Russian history, and then in a bit more depth, the Russian Revolution.

Also, I have taken part in a Russian poetry competition. I had so much fun learning a Russian poem off by heart and then getting creative with presentation and recording it. Doing this has really helped with pronunciation.

Studying with friends…

What I love most about my course is how the daily classes allow me to socialise with friends. We learn from each other in lessons and converse in the language whenever we can.

Outside of classes, I usually sit in the Student Union with friends from my Russian classes, often to get some work done before the next class or lecture.

Studying Russian with friends


I am carrying on Spanish from A Level so the focus is more on learning about Spanish culture. The cultural modules consist of interesting topics like Conflict and Violence and Identity.

Studying this language gave me the opportunity to volunteer to attend Bishop Auckland for the Spanish Apprentice event. I had a team of secondary school students who were studying Spanish GCSE, and I took them on a tour of the castle and museums surrounding it, helping them note down Spanish words they didn’t already know. Then, I helped them put together a speech in Spanish.

There were many schools competing at the event, and my group was awarded second place – I was very proud of how much they had improved throughout the day.

For lunch I had some tasty tapas and after the event I got to visit the Spanish Gallery.


There is so much to look forward to in Modern Languages and Cultures – with the chance to study Catalan in Year 2, alongside other exciting modules, and the year abroad in Year 3.

Discover more:

With Complete University Guide 2022 as high as 3rd for Arabic, Chinese and Japanese Studies and 5th for Italian, German and Hispanic Studies, the School of Modern Languages and Cultures offers expertise in a wide range of subjects, including language, literature, cultural history, cinema and visual culture, and translation. 

The School also hosts the BA in Visual Arts and Film and has forged a ground-breaking partnership with the BFI bringing students the unique opportunity to learn from industry experts along with University-wide access to the BFI Player. 

Feeling inspired? Visit our Modern Languages and Cultures webpages for more information on our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

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Lily Best

Hi, my name is Lily! I am a first year Modern Languages and Cultures student in South College! In my degree, I am studying Russian and Spanish. My free time consists of rowing for my college, singing in the Durham Gospel Choir and I am also part of the Pole Dancing society!

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