Trying to Take It All In

My first month in Moscow has been eye-opening, fast-paced, and exciting. I have already become close with my host family – especially with Anya, a woman with whom I share many interests, ranging from music to art, from anime to theories of ‘self.’ We can spend hours talking during and after dinner, and I often don’t realize how late it is until we finish our tea. This time we spend discussing shows or theories is so special and fun to me, and it adds to the overwhelming sense that Russians are people we can understand, and that they’re quite similar to us in many ways. Our group of American students, 7 in total, have gotten into the swing of university classes and weekly excursions. I think we’re each still finding our own way, and figuring out how we will get the most out of this experience individually.

I think the hardest thing for me to deal with so far is how quickly our time here goes. There are so many things and places in Moscow that I want to see and experience, but I have found it difficult arrange my time effectively between my classes, homework, excursions, language partner, weekly club, communication with friends and family in the States, time with friends here in Moscow, and an intern/volunteer position with an after-school English language program. I find myself becoming frustrated when I haven’t finished my homework or I haven’t completed an excursion assignment, I also become anxious and worried when I realize I forgot to meet with my language partner in a given week. However, I think I’m slowly starting to realize that I have to take each day at a time, and give my full attention to the present moment.

Being present all of the time isn’t an easy thing to do, but the more I try to truly be where I am rather than think about what I have to do or what I’m missing, the more at ease my mind is. I worry about how my language is improving, but I know that I won’t be able to tell myself how far I’ve already come. But when we were in the halls of St. Basil’s Cathedral, sitting in a 5th grade school class, and cross-country skiing, the importance of being present really hit me. I’ve learned so much already, and we’re about a quarter of the way in.

Regarding our classes at Moscow International University, I feel extremely lucky to have lectures and lessons with such knowledgeable, interesting and experienced professors. The classes are certainly challenging and being in a small group of three is new for me. In our oral speech class, we’ve just begun discussing and covering topics
such as globalization and immigration. Our literature class often turns into a discussion of history and how situations and expectations may differ or seem similar between Russia and America. I’ve already learned a variation of the Moscow Kadril (a dance), learned the song for the Moscow Kadril, and I even have a library card for the Russian State Library (formerly the Lenin State Library).

Having a membership at the Russian State Library may not sound like a
particularly interesting part of my experiences here, but getting a card and learning how to actually use it were impressive feats alone. Once I filled out a card with my official information, and after it was approved and a card was printed, I had to actually figure out how to use the card and get to a study hall. I had to get through the first gate at the front doors (which I couldn’t do until a security officer told me I had to scan my card), then through the coat and bag check (which isn’t too bad, but the library doesn’t allow backpacks and large bags in, nor other books and magazines), then the second part of the entrance where the card needs to be scanned again (I had trouble my first time because I wanted to bring my backpack, but had to turn around and take out the things I
wanted to use) and I was given a slip of paper for books to check out. Leaving the library was also not as simple as I had hoped. The slip given at the beginning needs to be filled out with your name and card number, and not only did I not know this and have to do it at the desk there, but it also took me 4 tries to get through because there was one particular number they wanted and I couldn’t understand the woman. It was smooth sailing after this, and I haven’t had problems again, but it was definitely an all-around memorable if stressful experience.

All of this to say, I am having a great time even when I have to feel my way through things and take it day by day. No day is the same, and every new experience is special.

By: Olivia Sullings

Program: Russian Language & Area Studies, Moscow

Term: Spring 2019

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