Sunday, September 24, 2017

Московский жизнь / Life in Moscow

Всем привет!

As of this post, I have been in Russia for a little over two weeks. Which paradoxically like it has contained at least month's worth of sensory processing and new experiences, and yet seems to have flown by in the blink of an eye.

In a few weeks I'll publish my "things I've noticed" post about Russia (my policy is that if I'm staying in a country for more than a month, I wait until I've been there at least a month before writing such a post). For now, I will be telling you all a little more about the academic and everyday ins and outs of my life here at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow.

The way that things have changed even just after two weeks has honestly stunned me. Though I still do occasionally find myself suffering from the homesickness that I mentioned the last time I wrote, it has subsided in an immense way compared to where I was even just a few short days ago. The greater  familiarity I've built up with the university environment and my surroundings has greatly helped in this regard, and beginning my classes, as well as switching them around a little (more on that in a minute), has given me a greater sense of routine and stability.

It's interesting, because in some ways, I feel like I understand and can move within some of the rhythms and structures of this university and my life within it as if I had been studying here all along. I know how to twist my key in my door just right so that it makes the least noise possible when I'm coming back to my room late at night, so my roommate doesn't wake up. I recognize and chat with my neighbors more and more when I run into them while cooking in the kitchen. I know to go to my Beloiter friends, Brett and Qiao's floor to shave and shower because there's a mirror and hot water up there, unlike the second floor where I live. I've reconciled myself to the somewhat bizarre ritual of signing up to do laundry every week (at least we don't have to pay for it though, which is something that has always filled my heart with irrational rage since starting college).

In other ways, it still seems...not necessarily unfamiliar anymore, but I feel as though I'm starting to identify more how it differs from the college experience that I'm used to, and what I miss about it. I chose to study in the United States, and more specifically at a small liberal arts school, because I wanted to be part of a community, a place where I could find dynamic and diverse opportunities, but not lose myself as a statistic in a giant crowd, and I definitely found that at Beloit. And miss it. I miss all my close friends, club meetings, the familiar and fun activities. And the simple, more intimate, like the starry skies that would smile down on me during my night walks across Middle College.

But with the greater comfort that I've built, and what I've overcome, even just two weeks after my arrival, I'm confident that I will build an experience in and relationship with this place that will make me miss RSUH just as much.

It's interesting as time moves on how I'm starting to gain a greater appreciation for just how particular the existence I lead here in Russia is. I live in the center of this great city, one of this country's two main beating hearts that most people from other areas look to with awe and envy, and the locals proudly praise and cherish (the other being St Petersburg), a microcosm of the world's largest country that is governed from beyond its borders. But the center of my own residence and experienced is ensconced within a bizarre pocket of foreignness nestled within the city, as I live in a dorm and attend classes with a community of mainly international students. I've noticed, however, that perhaps consciously as a result of this degree of removal from the direct experience of local culture, people attempt to compensate by making Russian the de facto lingua franca of communication within the dorms, regardless of nationality or English knowledge, resorting to English only for crucial situations or when there is otherwise a complete lack of comprehension. Something feels bizarre but satisfying about chatting with Canadians, Czechs, Serbs, Germans, Japanese, and Chinese in Russian, and I hope that we can continue to reinforce and build up each other's linguistic foundations by practicing together. Through both pre-existing friendships with former Russian exchange students to Beloit and casual happenstance of standing around in the right place at the right time during the smoking breaks between para (lessons - I don't smoke, as a clarification, but sometimes accompany my friends outside when they do to socialize), I have also been meeting and practicing with more local students as well, which is nice.

Not too much more to report in the way of big news. Last night I went to a Festival of Lights where cool light shows were projected onto the Bolshoy Theater, and then went out for pizza afterwards with Brett, Qiao, and our new Serbian friend Jelena who lives on their floor. I've dropped my language of mass media class (thankfully, as I was not enjoying it at all), and replaced it with a course called "aspects of history and civilization," which I'm extremely excited for. I'm still in a passport-less no-man's land for a few more weeks here (I mean I do have my Italian passport, but that doesn't really count since Italians also need visas here and I don't have one in it). And I'm finding it kind of crazy that the last week of September is about to start.

That's all for now.

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