This summer abroad program is my second study abroad experience in Russia (the first being in Petersburg), and my first extended stay in Moscow. On one hand, I feel quite adept in certain areas of language, day-to-day activities, and engaging in Russian culture thanks to my previous experience. On the other, as my continually increasing language ability permits me to enter into more complex and in-depth cultural situations, I encounter new, exciting, and also sometimes frustrating situations.
For example, when I first studied in Petersburg, I experienced typical “first-time-abroad” trials such as bus drivers yelling at me for having the wrong ticket and accidentally telling my host mom I wanted fish soup for breakfast. These roadblocks to living daily life make funny anecdotes, but also teach one about taking our ability to live on autopilot for granted. After my experience in Petersburg, I had learned a great deal about what it meant to live in an alien culture with four semesters of language instruction. Now, as I return to Russia’s capital Moscow, I find my gaze being shifted from navigating simple daily tasks to focusing on the culture, learning to appreciate the lifestyle of Russians, and gaining self-awareness about who I am as an American student in Russia in 2017.
On my program, I have the fortune of spending half of my week studying Russian language at the International University in Moscow, and the other half working at X7 Research. X7 is a 7-year-old Russian Contract Research Organization with approximately 30 employees that works with companies and individuals that develop drugs. I’m the first and only native English speaker at X7, and I primarily work in translation and business development into the European and American markets.
Working in the X7 workplace has been one of the most immersive aspects of this program so far besides social interactions with Russians. I have the opportunity to observe how Russians conduct themselves in the workplace, what the attitude toward business is in Russia, and the power structure of a small and energetic start up. One of my first impressions of X7 as a company is that it is very task-oriented. When working out my unique 15-hour workweek, X7 was not strict at all with my comings and goings. They expect that I work when I am in the office, and that I am in the office around 15 hours per week. Strict formalities of work scheduling as I have experienced in the states seem not to exist.
Another difference I notice at working in a Russian firm is the power structure difference. There is very much a vertical power structure, and each person at the company is either definitively above, below, or a peer of one another. One coworker of mine that I had thought to be quite important based upon how he carried himself in the office changed his body language completely upon the arrival of a more senior coworker. This formality is sometimes looked upon as outdated in America, especially among younger companies. While I enjoy more colloquial conduct, I did note that the definitive power stricter at X7 makes certain matters a lot less ambiguous.
As I continue to work at X7, my tasks become more meaningful and I feel more part of the company’s mission. The team-atmosphere motivates me to do quality work that will have a positive, visible effect on the company. Beyond the workplace, I am very satisfied with the knowledge I am acquiring for my own personal development not only in language, but also for entering the workforce as a useful and insightful person.
By: Zachary Brashear
Term: Summer 2017