Final thoughts and Last Words…

May 20, 2012

It’s been a great year on the blog – but, like all good things, it has come to an end.

Here are some final reflections on studying abroad in Moscow: the good, the bad and the simply excellent.

The best part about living in Moscow: is a toss up between the metro and being a 20-minute walk from the Bolshoi. In short, quick and easy access to operas, museums, soccer games, café hangouts with friends… There are always a dozen things going on – new art exhibits, theatre festivals, you name it!

A favorite memory: A week before I left Moscow, my best friend from the soccer team called me up. I was in a noisy café, and I couldn’t really hear or understand exactly what she was saying, but I understood that she was proposing meeting that evening before soccer practice to do something. Do what, I didn’t know until I showed up at MGU for a guided tour of the main building – the highlight? The best view of Moscow from the twenty-eighth floor. Most people, Russians and tourists alike, don’t get the chance to enjoy this, since you need an MGU student ID to get in. Good thing Masha has a short, blonde friend willing to lend me her ID… I was so touched that my friend wanted to show me around and share this experience with me.

In a nutshell…

The best parts of studying abroad this year include:

  • Playing soccer (and not playing soccer) with some wonderful new Russian friends;
  • Celebrating one evening at a soccer friend’s house in Domodedovo;
  • Gaining confidence and noticing my progress in speaking, reading, writing, and understanding Russian over this past year;
  • Travelling to the Baltic states, Ukraine, Georgia, Istanbul and St. Petersburg in my free time;
  • Eating way too much Georgian food, and learning how to properly eat khinkali;
  • Enjoying the real Russian banya experience;
  • Perfecting homemade pizza crust in my missing-home-food periods and trying Kim’s Korean food in her missing-home-food periods;
  • Seeing Swan Lake and The Magic Flute at the Bolshoi;
  • Reading Master and Margarita and Dostoevsky’s Idiot in the original.

The worst parts of studying abroad this year were, thankfully, few…

  • Russian winters really are long – so despite all the resistance I’ve built up in Vermont over the years, I had a hard time staying positive and energetic when I hadn’t seen the sun in several weeks. Be prepared for this, and make sure you plan some trips, theatre outings and other adventures to get yourself out of the apartment.
  • Missing a year with my friends at Midd – but since most of my friends also spent at least a semester abroad, this is certainly not a reason not to go abroad. And thankfully, there’s always skype!

If I could go back in time, I would still choose to come to Moscow, without question. A full year in Moscow has meant that I’ve gotten really close with my soccer friends, but a semester is plenty of time to sample the museums, theatres and other adventures Moscow has to offer. I’ll wait and see how Nate and Sarah felt about their respective years in Irkutsk and Yaroslavl before saying which I would pick, but if I chose again I would go to a different city for the first semester and then come to Moscow. If you can get to know two different cities, why not?

The only (and best) advice I would give to students studying abroad in Moscow applies to students studying abroad anywhere – find a club, a sports team, or a poetry group and make friends with Russians and find a fun way to spend your time. You’ll feel more at home in your new city (especially in a city as big as Moscow), you’ll have new friends in a new place, and your language skills will improve in leaps and bounds. Moscow-specific: See a ballet at the Bolshoi, check out the Mayakovsky Museum, sneak into MGU and check out the view of Moscow from the top floor, walk around Sparrow Hills in the spring, try чача and хачапури, and get a вишневый пирог (cherry pastry) at one of the Братя Караваевых cafes.

Last words – Thanks so much for reading Troika this year! It’s been great to have a motivation to record my adventures, and I’ve really enjoyed being able to share Nate’s and Sarah’s experiences as well. I hope it’s been an interesting ride, and that our musings will be helpful to future students planning to study in Russia or tourists planning to visit!

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