It seems that I am doing the same thing I did nearly a year ago- sitting on my couch, listening to the overplayed radio “hits” of the summer, and scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed. Yet, there are a few key differences. This year, I am sitting on my couch cozied up in my Moscow State University sweater, listening to the top 100 Russian hits of the season, and I am uploading all of my photos from my USF in Russia study abroad program. In retrospect, I am thankful for the boredom that came with last year’s summer. If it hadn’t been for those “lazy days” of summer, I would not have committed myself to the USF in Russia Study Abroad Program.
During my month abroad, I took advantage of every cultural experience offered. Our group visited the most infamous destinations in Russian including St. Basile’s Cathedral, the Hermitage, Petergof, Pushkin’s home, and countless others. While we were galavanting from destination to destination, we were not “just sight-seeing” as other tourists, but we were learning –as students. Students of Russian language, culture, art, food, and history. Aside from our scheduled cultural excursions, my peers and I fully immersed into Russian culture as we dabbled in Russian Folk dancing, gathered around a traditional samovar for tea, raced throughout Red Square on foot pedaled scooters, and practiced our language skills on the streets and in the classroom.
Through each of these cultural experiences, I came to a deeper understanding of Russia as a whole. The people are not stern, cold, and unkind, but rather, they are warm-hearted and friendly. For example, the students at Moscow University welcomed us into their classroom for tea and conversations. Over a few shortbread cookies, I realized that these students were not much different from myself. We liked similar music, fashion, poets, authors, and celebrities. If a USF and a MSU student could break the so-called “Cold War” animosities, then maybe the rest of our countries could too.
I am forever thankful for all of those who made this experience memorable and possible! To the donors of my scholarships, without you I wouldn’t have been able to begin understanding my role as a global citizen. To my newfound friends, thank you for encouraging me to try new things, to embrace spontaneity, and teaching me things about myself I would not have discovered otherwise.
While До свидания is often translated to goodbye, the literal translation is “until the next meeting”. With that said, До свидания Россия!