Добро пожaловать to Life Abroad written by Natasha Bluth, a Brown University Junior studying this fall in St. Petersburg. Concentrating in International relations and Slavic studies, she has joined the blogosphere to her share cultural, political, and psychological musings, brought to you all the way from Russia with a splash of Soviet humor.
Celebrating Thanksgiving away from home for the first time, I experienced an unprecedented feeling of internal disequilibrium. My biological clock (which is ticking, by the way) launched into a sort of frenzy. It whispered in my ear, berating me for my evasion of the blissful boredom that is “family time,” the inevitable “So what are you doing this summer?” and the surreptitious wine consumption. As I sat in my classes, time and space pulled my subconscious across different planes, trying fruitlessly to chart it’s accustomed course. Why was I learning grammar? More importantly, why was I sitting upright? And where did that pang of melancholy come from? It seems that distance really does make the heart grow fonder. It can even bequeath one with sentimentality.
Thankfully (pun intended), we pot-lucked a colorful smorgasbord of autumnal favorites at my director’s apartment that night. The spread even included turkey, at the perplexity of our Russian guests who had “only seen it in the movies.” The night was weirdly cathartic. In a petit epiphany, I realized that traditions I accepted as insignificant had more meaning than previously accredited. My typically subdued prefrontal cortex spun into overtime. I waved the minor cuts on my left hand from apple pie-induced kitchen toils patriotically, as a proud American. Never mind what really happened on the first Thanksgiving.
My biggest concern before leaving for Russia was founded entirely in narcissism. More than anything, I was worried about the incapability to express myself in a foreign language. Mysteriously (and fortunately), it seems that people can generally tell what kind of person you are behind the veil of a language barrier. But what persists, nagging and weighing on your psyche, is the challenge of expressing the parts of yourself you didn’t know existed beforehand. Especially if you aren’t yet ready to admit them to yourself.
Questions, comments, concerns? Email Natasha Bluth at Natasha_Bluth@brown.edu to learn more about studying abroad in Russia.