One Week? Already?

Tomorrow will mark my first week back in the states. It’s kind of weird how quickly I have adapted back to life here. Although staying busy helps that quite a bit. I was ‘home’ Friday, Saturday and Sunday last week and then I went to Indianapolis with my little sister for this week. I have a habit of going on spur of the moment trips…so….I’m in Indy! And I’ll be here until Friday. I feel like I’m getting an overdose of family time. This weekend we’re going on a family vacation. Although it is the first year since I started college that I’ll actually be able to go on almost all of the family vacations.

I guess that’s the strange part about coming back. More family time. I appreciate my family a little more since I didn’t see them much over the last semester. The last semester also taught me that I can live anywhere. I know that knowledge doesn’t make any of my family members very happy. But it is true. I can live anywhere, as long as I can visit family. 🙂

I also have more experience with people and dealing with problems that arise in relationships. It’s easier for me to deal with other people’s problems still, of course, but I have more perspective now. Cultural differences help that one.

I never ever thought this would happen but thank you Russia for giving me racial fear. I wish I was kidding. I’m literally freaking out by the different colors of people. Sometimes with irrational fear but sometimes I’m just plain excited to see people of different races. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be around all different kinds of people at school and home until I went abroad. I just it would have left me with a better sense of security. Thank you Russia for giving me stupid fears.

I will also never ever ever like the phrase, ” tell me something in Russian!” ” uh…like what?” “Anything!”. For the record, I may just answer with the word anything from now on. Not that giving me something specific to say is helpful either. Nothing seems to work well. In addition to that, “How was it?” Is the absolute hardest question to answer. There are so many aspects of my life abroad to cover. So if you would like to know, start with school, or friends, or the other Americans, or travel, or my host family. And give me some time, I did have four months there. It will take me a while to remember everything. And it was great, by the way! I loved being the and I love being back. And yes, I do hope to go back someday. Or go somewhere else 🙂

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Still Learning

Studying abroad has been the most insightful experience for me. I have learned so much about myself and about other people in such a short amount of time. For one, I now fully understand that I am a generally curious person, but taking action in order to get answers is one of my least favorite things. When uncomfortable, I take initiative only when it is absolutely necessary. As awful as it sounds, it happens with everything I want to do. At the beginning of the semester I was planning on taking pictures of the outsides of all the churches in Vladimir. There are 20-some churches all slightly different, and although this was a goal of mine, I did not follow through, because I did not want to do it by myself and rarely wanted to go out and take pictures. My justification was even worse: “No one is going to want to look at the outside of these churches anyways because the pictures are not going to have people in them…” But what about for me? Why didn’t I take those pictures for myself? Lack of initiative.

Another thing I learned, I listen more than I speak.  I already knew this to be true before studying abroad, but now I fully understand why it is. Honestly, I have the hardest time hearing people, especially when they are speaking a foreign language. Listening is the more important than giving a quick answer. My time in Russia has been well spent, in that I have increase my ability to understand what is being said to me. My reaction time in answering, however, has a long way to go. That takes time, and four months is definitely not enough. Additionally, I rarely answer quickly in English, because if I do I have a tendency to end up with my foot in my mouth.  Another reason I listen more is because sometimes the situation calls for listening rather than talking. People need someone in their life to listen and I am totally fine with being that person. And finally, I don’t talk because I’ll probably complain. Seriously, if given the chance I complain more than I talk about useful information. I still haven’t figure out why that is… Oh yeah, I also can’t keep conversations going for the life of me. I always feel really bad, but I am slow under pressure and rely heavily on the other person to keep the conversation going. I have great ideas, they’re just hiding and don’t usually find their way to my mouth until the conversation is over and two days have passed.

Being in Russia has solidified how dumb I act in public. I can and will dance when I feel like it, even if there isn’t any music playing (because there’s always music in my head). Hand, arm, head, and any other body motions that can be made to express emotions, I’ll use them. In Russia I get stared at anyways, and I realized that the same thing happens back in the states. So I’m different, and I’m ready to fully embrace it. Be ready! 🙂

Topic change…and go!

When I first heard the song “High School” by Superchick I was in middle school and had yet to experience the ups and downs of it.  Who knew that I would be able to experience those ups and downs all over again while studying abroad…

Oh how wise Superchick is, high school really does continue forever and ever. There will always be that one competitive person, someone one step ahead of you, someone always talking about someone else, someone always out of control, etc. Forgetting their wisdom as I travelled abroad, I reverted right back into a high school state of living. The pettiest of things have made me mad and I have complained about everything, including people. Why? Because I could and it was easy. I took my college environment for granted. I hang around with like-minded individuals all of the time and avoid those I will argue with, just like everyone else in this world.  The only problem I realized on our train ride back from Sochi, is college is the only time that it is possible to actually avoid those you don’t like. Think about it. I don’t have the same classes or practice every day. I choose to see who I want every day of the week. After graduation the workforce is going to become high school all over again. Every day I will work with the same people, many of whom will not share the same ideas or insights into life. And what am I going to do? How will I survive? Complaining will not get me through it, and neither will isolating myself. I’ve done both and neither work out in the end. I need someone to confide in and to give me strength. And I know who that person is. Have I given them the time of day lately? Definitely not. It’s been a really long time and I know that it’s wearing on me. So where do I go from here? No idea, one day at a time.

Sochi

What an expedition Sochi was. But really, Sochi was less of a vacation and more of an expedition. A fantastic expedition that included hiking up mountains, swimming in waterfalls, gondola rides up Krasnaya Polyana (where they’re holding the winter Olympics in Sochi), fish hatchery, tea plantation, honey farm, and exploring the city of Sochi. In Sochi, I was a bundle of emotions. Everyone can tell you that. Unfortunately, I had reached the threshold of my patience. Seeing people every day for four months will take a toll on anyone. Sochi was a great place to relax, but I brought those emotions with me. Looking back on it, I wish I could have just let everything go and relaxed. Another emotional trigger was the destruction of nature on Krasnaya Polyana. Sadly, due to the Winter Olympics, the area has become a major construction site. It is absolutely disgusting how a completely new tourist area has been built (and is not finished), while the streets around Krasnaya Polyana have recently been torn up leaving residents infuriated at slow rate of construction. On the drive to Krasnaya Polyana, a new highway and railway is being built, IN THE RIVER (obviously both of those structures are above water thanks to support beams which are planted in the riverbed), meaning the river has been slightly rerouted due to construction.  All of this is due to the Olympics, and it makes me both angry and sad. I understand that Sochi has to undergo this construction in order to host the games, but I do not understand why another place was not chosen. Why would a place that can barely hold the number of tourists be chosen for the games? I’m not sure anyone can answer that for me.  I can say that I am grateful for some of the construction, due to the fact that the gondola ride enabled me to see the extremely gorgeous mountains from an unbelievable view. The view was absolutely breathtaking. I may actually say that Krasnaya Polyana is more beautiful than the Rocky Mountains.

I wish I would have appreciated the excursions more and in addition, would have understood more. I realized, yet again, that my vocabulary is very, very small. I also wish that this trip would have come sooner in the semester, because the time I spent with my tutor Nastya was great! I want more time to get to know her better, which I obviously should have done already. I told you I was a bundle of emotion. Nastya and I are similar in the sense that we are both very curious about life and other people. We want very different things and the same things in life. Our favorite color is the same, but unlike me, she does not want a tattoo.   She keeps telling me that I’m young and therefore I can keep experimenting with my hair color and length, but she’s not old and could do the same.  Actually here’s the silly part, by Russian standards, Nastya is old enough to already be married and have at least 2 children.  However, Nastya has decided that she does not want to rush into marriage, which is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. In Russia, waiting for marriage is taboo.  I still cannot imagine being married and already having a child. I would not have been able to study abroad! I really hope that Nastya gets the chance to visit different countries like she hopes to.  Exploring different cultures leads to a fuller life, at least that’s what I’ve experienced.

All in all, Sochi was great! Now it’s time to enjoy my last few days in Vladimir.