Time Abroad: Academic Year 2008-09
Major: International Business
How can I appropriately express the utter contentment and empowerment that I experienced while living in Vladimir, Russia for a year? I think it is not possible to portray the way my heart soared with joy each day I walked home from school, breathing in the semi-polluted air and observing the half-way to fully dilapidated buildings around me. Staring into faces telling of different times, both good and bad, and embracing the history that Vladimir exudes, I could not, and still cannot, imagine anywhere else in the world I'd rather be (although a little more sunshine would be appreciated).
Vladimir is an ancient city, once the capital of Russia (around 10th century) and offered so much for my Russian language skills! Being away from the big, popular cities really forced me to speak Russian; I could never communicate in English on the streets, and Americans were apparently enough of a rare commodity that I often got comments such as, "Why do you speak so poorly?" One thing that will certainly help you in this country is a sense of humor! Time after time something that would happen, like taking 4 hours to buy a train ticket, that would in America seem so frustrating and outrageous, but here we laughed it off with an affectionate "oh Russia!" and continued on our way. I realized if I took things too seriously in life and stuck my American ideals on this not-American state, I would just get bent out of shape and miss out on all that I could learn. "Things are not wrong, they are just different" was a very helpful thing to keep in mind, and one I would recommend becoming all travelers' abroad personal mantra.
The academics were wonderful too, of course! I was in a class with one other person [1!] and had the most loving, wonderful, brilliant teachers! I felt like I had 5 mothers (in a good way) who spoke only Russian. We also had our weekly excursions to museums and other points of interest, all only speaking Russian. Each semester we had a long excursion. In the fall we went on a cruise down the Volga River, stopping in amazing historical cities in the day, dance lessons and games at night, and in the spring we went to the resort town on the Black Sea and future Olympic site Sochi. How amazing is that to visit so many parts of this vast, glorious country, I ask you? Very. I am quite convinced that not only is study abroad an absolutely wonderful, life-changing, empowering, experience all should have, but also that Russia is pretty much the Promised Land.