Makenzie Lucas discusses facing stereotypes head on and opening her mind the while living abroad on the Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program in Moscow as a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad scholarship recipient.
Why do we believe in some stereotypes more than others? Why do we never question their origins but hold true to their meanings for generations to come? I was ready for a harsh greeting when I arrived in Russia. I had mentally prepared myself for the cold callous people that were going to bring me the biggest barrier to understanding Russian culture. Due to the rigidity in self-expression and lack of individuality, I was sure an American like me would stand out. However, I was so fortunate to learn the truth and to begin questioning every assumption I have made about cultures different from mine. Immersion isn’t just academic or social, its personal. I have shared my beliefs with strangers, talked politics with neighbors, understood the plight of Russian youth. I have bore the burden of what it means to live and study in Russia and it was hard. And every single day it was worth it. Every time I said the wrong word or misread cultural communication I took a step further in understanding international relations, domestic relations, even human relations. I do not know why I bought into all the stereotypes that were fed to me about Russian people. They were wrong and I am lucky enough to have had the opportunity to see that. Russians are warm and inviting. They wear bright colors and proudly adorn tattoos, piercings or striking colors of hair. They share absolutely everything and are patient with people like me who struggle to learn the cultural norms. From neighbors, to students and even strangers, I have not met a Russian who is unwilling to stop and help me. I learned how to redefine what it means to be happy, and it is not always based on a smile. While Moscow is a city likely to progress faster than the others, it provides a good looking glass into the acceptance that is building in Russia. The citizens of Russia have a voice and unflinchingly support what they believe in. In just a week I learned how wrong I was to trust stereotypes that were created from an era I was never alive to see and I cannot wait to learn more about the people in the Russian Federation. Maybe it was wrong on my part to believe the stereotypes I did, but I think I was just grasping at any sense of familiarity as I traveled for my first time abroad. The important part is once we get to wherever we are going to open up to the possibility of new perspectives and a changed outlook.
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.