Saturday, February 3, 2018

The rest of my time in Russia

Hey guys!

Let me apologize first and foremost for 1) not having the ability to come up with any more interesting a title than the one you see above, and 2) for taking so long to update.

At this point, I've been in Finland for almost a month exactly, let alone left Russia (that's been nearly two!), but I figured that it would only be fitting to include something on here to conclude a little on the craziness that was my Russian adventure.

In all honesty, as I've not shied away from mentioning a number of times even in my earlier posts about my time in Moscow, that direct exchange program with my college that I did there for just shy of three months was one of the most challenging experiences of my entire life.
I think that there were a number of factors that contributed to this fact - the intense homesickness I felt immediately upon arrival as a result of not having been back to campus for so long, the little down time at home with my family after an adventure challenging and intense in its own right in Azerbaijan, and various other more personal factors; the lack of integration between the international community and local student body which made it difficult to feel fully welcome; the frankly rather horrid conditions of RSUH's dorms; and various other little logistical and cultural hindrances that would constantly remind me of how far away from everything familiar that I hold dear, from home, from family and friends.

In spite of this, overall I would consider my time that I spent in Russia to be a worthwhile endeavor that allowed me to have some pretty fantastic experiences, and meet some incredible people.

Highlights from the two or so months following my return from St. Petersburg might include:

  • Meeting Ksenia, a former RSUH to Beloit exchange student, married to a Beloit alumnus (they're now living together in Moscow and raising bilingual children) at an English practice club for middle schoolers, many of whom were incredibly intelligent and spoke impeccable English
  • My dear friend Lea who I met on my Icelandic immersion program in the Westfjords coming to visit me, which was a crazy and wonderful week of adventuring together through the city, visiting touristy places that even I hadn't seen yet, and sharing so many incredible stories of travel, love, and life 
  • Seeing a show at one of the sister theaters beside the Bolshoi, which was an incredible architectural space and artistic spectacle, wishing my ex-ballerina mother could have come to Moscow herself to enjoy it with me
  • Skating on rinks created over some of the city's immense public parks with my dear international friends and some of their local acquaintances 
  • Forming regular and fixed relationships with various cafes and restaurants in the city that provided comforting spaces to relax, study, and work in, and delicious food and drinks to consume - special shoutout to Frau Brotchen, an adorable and delicious little cafe on the street near the university where I consumed many a cappuccino and tvorozhnoye koltso between classes and came to be very friendly with the kind owner
My time in Russia was full of surprises. One of the most truly unexpected was that, because of the friendships I made with other Italian students that were there with me, my time in Moscow helped me to feel Italian. 
I often struggle to define how exactly I feel, how exactly I identify, when it comes to nationality. On the one hand, I objectively and definitely am more American than anything else, as I have grown up, lived, and been educated in the United States for the majority of my life, and this has greatly shaped and influenced me in becoming who I am today. But at the same time, the Italian culture that I grew up with at home, my annual visits, and my five-month long stint living there in middle school has also is a giant part of who I am, and it's the duality that defines me more than any one place. 
At times, especially in the small town where my mother comes from, people tend to ascribe to campanilismo (literally "belltower-ism) when it comes to defining who is a local, and so the validity of my Italianness as someone who has grown up far away and isn't even fully local by blood can be called into question, which is frustrating. 
But with my Italian friends in Moscow, it was completely different. All of us were far from home, in a place to some extent unfamiliar, and were able to bond with each other over shared traditions and culture, similar upbringings, our ability to speak to each other in our mother tongue, and just feel at home for a moment when we most needed to. They showed me both in literal words and figurative actions many times over that they saw no differences between them and myself in terms of our validity and pride in being Italian. And that has meant more to me and been more of a positive influence in my life and identity than I can ever express. 

Quick shoutout to the international community at large, speaking of friends: to my Italians, to my two fellow Beloiters, and to everyone else from RSUH, particularly the ninth floor crew, lovely souls from every corner of the world, THANK YOU. Thank you guys so much for your laugher, your light, your support, your understanding, and never-ending willingness to explore, to have fun, to learn, and to bond together. Being a part of that group was a silver lining of my entire experience. If it weren't for you guys, I don't know how I could have made it. Be well, take care, and know that no matter where we are in the world, where I have a home, so do you. 

Thank you guys for following along with my crazy adventures. Soon, I'll talk about Italy over the holidays, and next, how it's been going so far in Finland. 

Love to all from snowy Turku. 

The theater

The crew 

A little Pitch Perfect routine with my German friend Angelina :) 

The Red Square looking festive and beautiful 

My Quebecois friend Philippe being cute with a kitten

From the Cosmonaut Museum!

Lea writing one of the dozens of postcards we sent out together, both to her family and friends and mutual friends of ours from our Icelandic program

Frau Brötchen 

Lea and I being tourists :)

Inside the Kremlin walls!

Sunset behind the Duma (Russian parliament)

No comments:

Post a Comment