At times I find myself wondering why I ever came to Russia—not in a negative way but in an introspective way. Before I came here, I really didn’t know too much about the country besides the obvious, Dostoevsky, Putin, unicycle riding bears, and lots and lots of snow. Now that my first semester here is beginning to come to a close, I’ve realized things about this country, this culture, and myself that really never occurred to me before. One of the most interesting things I’ve realized is the separation of identities you make for yourself while abroad, your American self and your foreign self. I experienced a little bit of that the last time I lived abroad in Spain. There are mannerisms you take on that you don’t even realize until you go back home, in that case, being a bit louder and more straight forward than I normally am in the US. My Spanish self was a different person than my American self, similar, but someone who dealt with the world differently than the American self. So what is my Russian self? She’s much quieter and thoughtful and not just because of any sort of language barrier. Russian culture requires a much more subtle approach to dealing with people than in the US. Being as assertive and goal oriented as I normally am back home comes across as overly aggressive and impatient. Here, it’s much better to sit back, listen, and consult before making a decision or really doing much of anything for that matter. Life happens at a much slower pace. When I first came here, I could barely contain my exasperation when sitting in a restaurant or café and waiting upwards of an hour to get my check after finishing my meal. Now, I find myself really enjoying a good two hour plus dinner or coffee break with friends without a waitress hovering over me. The same goes for social life here. People are much more willing to make or break plans on the drop of a hat. At times it can be frustrating how little planning goes into things but on the flip side, it’s really liberating to just wherever the day takes you and not worry about it. Life in general here is taken at face value and people do their best not to worry about it, what will happen will happen and there’s not too much you can do about it. Жизньтакая, life is such. This was one of the hardest lessons for my American self to learn and my Russian self to adopt, but now that I have, I realize that it’s much easier to do as the Russians do and take life as it comes, at least while I’m in Russia.
By: Kelsey McPherson
Term: Summer 2011