A (George Mason!!!) student of Russian who will be on the ACTR's summer Moscow program e-mailed me. Going with the theory that we learned in grade school, of, "Don't be afraid to ask a question... If you have a question, someone else in the class is probably also thinking of the same question, but they're too afraid to ask." I have decided to post her e-mail below and my response. Hopefully another reader will also benefit from this discourse:
Actually, I only have dorky questions about Moscow - how much are things like shampoo and bread, will mp3 chargers or hairdryers start an electrical fire in my host mom's apartment (I have a huge converter and a variety of interchangeable prongs, seems to do ok in europe) , can you receive international calls free in Russia... The good thing about only staying a summer is if I have issues with these things I won't have them very long if I can't resolve them, yeah? As a result I'm a little blank on what to ask.
Though, Dr Levine said that if we wanted to stay longer we could apply for the next semester while in Russia, is that true? On the ACTR website I only see deadlines which have already passed (like it says apply for the Fall semester by April if you are on the Summer Program... a bit weird). I am looking into semester programs. I think starting out with summer is a smart move although I feel I easily adapt to strange environments. :)
The price of things in Russia varies considerably if you buy the Russian product, or its western competitor. As an example: Russian shampoo will run you about $2. The American shampoo is probably around $6. Toothpaste is about $1.25. Oddly, a Russian friend told me recently that Crest brand toothpaste is not sold in Russia because Russians didn't want to brush their teeth with something that means "crucifix" (i.e. Crest = crucifix). I will say that when I first got here I only bought the Russian products... I wanted the "real experience". Well, I found that the "real experience" is your teeth falling out if you use the local toothpaste: Buy the American product.
Same goes for a lot of other, general products. Russian clothing seems to deteriate rather quickly. Will overdoing the electric plugs cause a fire? Probably. It wouldn't suprise me. One of the things that I will not miss about Russia is the complete lack of emergency fire escapes.
When we were in Sochi last week, I noticed that the fire escapes were all securely locked with a large master lock. Though there was a sign on the doors that indicated that if their is an emergency, the woman at the front desk (in the building nextdoor) has a key.
The ACTR gives you a fire extinguisher and a smoke detector for your apartment. I have already concluded that if their is a fire in my apartment, we are all going to die, so it doesn't really matter if I have a smoke detector... That being said, the battery to my smoke detector is currently powering my radio.
Russian electrical outlets seem to shock people a lot, so be careful. Additionally, they often times don't work... Especially in older homes.
To the best of my understanding, you can apply for the next semester while you are in Russia. Though you should contact the ACTR now to confirm that.
You can recieve international phone calls for free. It is free if you get them at home, or on your cell phone. Though if you get a phone call on your cell, while you are away from the city where you bought the phone, you get charged (i.e. my phone is from Vladimir, if I am in Moscow I get charged for recieving a call. Not a lot. But their is a charge).
I hope that this helps!