Upon landing at Domodedovo International Airport, I quickly became aware of the fact that I was indeed very anxious – almost to the point of shear fright. I couldn’t seem to understand why, though. After months of anticipation, excitement, and preparation, I was finally here – in Russia. In Moscow. This was the culmination of my study of the Russian alphabet, language, and culture over the past semester. Why was I so troubled? Perhaps I hadn’t fully come to terms with the reality that I was no longer in the United States. No longer in my comfort zone. Looking back, it may have also had something to do with the fact that I spent the last 12 hours in Austria, 11 hours on a plane, 2 days at orientation in D.C., and nearly 48 hours without sleep. All of this coupled with the fact that it is my first time traveling outside the United States, maybe a little emotional unrest was expected. Nonetheless, I would soon learn, once all my agitation transformed into eagerness, that it was absolutely unnecessary.
After settling in with my host family and traveling all throughout the city, I can say with complete certainty this is one of the most astonishing cities I have ever visited – period. I initially thought, though, that all of my excitement and intrigue regarding the beauty and bustle in the city was the direct result all of the World Cup festivities – I could not have been more wrong. The World Cup may definitely have played a role in my initial impression but after having lived here for almost two weeks, there’s something more; something intrinsically unique about this city that makes it so special. I’m not sure whether it’s the constant sound of car horns, the warm smell of bread or the historic buildings as you stroll through the streets that make this place exceptional. I do know, now, that my preconceived notions were actually very far from the truth. Contrary to popular belief, Russians do in fact smile often, are not always angry, and are undeniably very kind people. I realize it’s not always best to generalize, but in this particular instance I feel it’s justified to say that almost all Russians will go out of their way to help one another and are quite possibly some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever met.
Given the brief amount of time I have spent in country so far, I’ve gained a new appreciation of the importance of fostering meaningful connections with individuals of separate ways-of-life, experiences, and beliefs. From this, it seems as though I have learned more about the United States and the English language after leaving and studying a different language than I ever could have at home. Furthermore, I’ve also arguably learned more about myself within these last few weeks than I have in the last 3 years of university. It’s something I wasn’t expecting, but am forever grateful for the experiences and the life lessons this opportunity has afforded me thus far. All in all, I can say that Russia is one of the most special places I’ve ever visited and has certainly affirmed my desire to continue studying the language and culture.
By: Chase Neese
Term: Summer 2018