John Boynton reflects on his semester on the Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program in Moscow as a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad scholarship recipient his experiences in Russia.
This past semester I and six other American students went to Russia to improve our Russian language skills and to better understand the culture in Russia where we studied in Moscow at the International University in Moscow (IUM) through the program at American Councils. As it would inevitably turn out it would be an experience of a lifetime. The experiences in and outside of the classroom that I had never experienced before helped me to grow as a student and as a person. The experience I had in Russia was unlike anything I had ever experienced with the culture being so different from my own. Whether it be the rules that my host family had demanded of me to walking the iced streets of Moscow, everyday was a challenge but a challenge that was well worth it as the food, the history, the scenery, and the friends made along the way are priceless.
When I first arrived in Russia I wasn’t sure how people were going to react if they had learned or found out I was American with both our governments not seeing eye-to-eye, but I quickly became engaged with the help of my wonderful host family and the professors at the university making me feel comfortable even though it didn’t take people too long to find out I was American with my strange accent and improper grammar. But I would say that more than 90% of people who found out that I was from the States were very receptive and welcoming.
Just like getting to know people, one of the best experiences that I had in Russia was the food. Russia has a wide variety of food to offer from the traditional blini to the shashlyk in the Caucasus with food from the ex-soviet republics such as Georgia (my personal favorite), Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan also being extremely popular for everyday Russians. For those who are on the go and need to grab a quick bite as in Moscow time is always of the essence, I would recommend Tepemok if one is to be craving traditional Russian cuisine. For those who are not in mood or are sick of eating Russian food every day, McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC are everywhere and the best part about Russian food is that it’s quite cheap even in big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg.
From my experiences in big cities including New York, London, and Shanghai, I would say that the transportation, in particular the Moscow Metro, is the best I have ever experienced. It is also very easy to get used to as well. But if the metro is packed in either in the morning or the evening no need to worry as Moscow has a fantastic bus system as well or download the app for Russia’s variant of Uber, Yandex, as the Moscow metro closes at 1:00am. In comparison to other big cities, the museums in Russia, particularly in Moscow and St. Petersburg, are some the best I have ever seen as there is a museum for about every and/or anything that a person can be interested in with my personal favorites being the Hermitage and the Kremlin museum for those who are interested in Russia’s rich history.
Finally I cannot forget about Russia’s beautiful scenery whether it be watching the snowfall on Red Square in Moscow or watching the sun set on the Black Sea while skiing the slopes in Sochi it is a sight that is like no other and one that I will never forget just like the rest of the great experiences that I had in Russia.
About Fulbright-Hays Scholarships from American Councils
American Councils for International Education has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad, to provide scholarships for advanced overseas Russian and Persian language study. Learn more about the eligibility requirements here.
About Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad
The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, commonly referred to as the Fulbright-Hays Act, was made law by the 87th U.S. Congress under President John F. Kennedy on September 21, 1961. Senator J. William Fulbright and Representative Wayne Hays introduced the legislation, which represents the basic charter for U.S. government-sponsored educational and cultural exchange. 2016 marks the 55th anniversary of this landmark legislation. More information about Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad can be found here.