Making friends in Russia is hard. It’s hard everywhere, as a matter of fact, for an introvert who only has two or three close friends and absolutely despises small talk and struggles to come up with even a single topic of conversation in the face of any prolonged interaction with a stranger. Naturally, these difficulties compound when confronted in a foreign language. It’s a lot easier to go back home, sit in my room, and text one of my friends in the US (sometimes in English, sometimes in Russian) than to go out and try to meet new people. Where would I even find fellow youths to befriend? The friends I have in the US I met at school: in class, in the dorm, or at the dining hall. But my classes here are with Americans, and I don’t live or dine on campus with other students. Do I just hope that one of the faces I see on the metro sees me back and decides to be my friend? Do I force myself to go out to a bar late one Friday night—despite hating every aspect of nightlife, from the noise to the cost to the drunkenness to the stress of prolonged social situations—hoping that I overcome all of the odds and manage to seem interesting and nice enough to an unknown and likely much more gregarious youth than myself, ending up with his number and, along with it, the promise of a new friendship?
In reality I don’t do those things. So, you’ll probably understand how excited and amazed I was when I finally did make a Russian friend (more precisely, a Yakut friend): Volodya. And like with my friends in the US, this only happened when I was herded into a large group setting with unknown students and told to get to know them (in Vyborg, as it happens). To be honest, since I made my first real friend in Russia—excluding the other Americans that I’m here with—I’ve felt much happier and more comfortable being here. Although I’d met a few other young Russians before him who I know are willing to talk to me and help me out if I need it, I haven’t felt a real connection with any of them; I talked to them because they were available and willing. I’m just not the kind of person who can open up and be myself with anybody; I can only do that with certain people, and Volodya is now the first and only one among that category that I’ve met in Russia.
It’s really nice to finally have a Russian friend. I just wish I would have put myself out there sooner and tried to make some friends on my own. It truly is a special feeling, and one I never would have experienced if I hadn’t gone abroad.
By: Dylan Charter
Program: Advanced Russian Language & Area Studies Program, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Term: Fall 2019