If my suitcase were alive, it would be laughing at me. For a few days now, I’ve been gathering all the items I was planning to pack for my semester abroad. The piles are slightly larger than I imagined. I could have sworn this suitcase was bigger. Naturally, I’ve decided to procrastinate instead by writing my first blog post. Здравствуйте! My name is Alex Bird, and I’ll be spending my semester in St. Petersburg, Russia. You’re
probably definitely asking, why Russia? I’ll do my best to explain my fascination with this enigmatic culture and complex (and to me, often mystifying) language throughout this blog.
I’m half-Russian (наполовину русская). My mother was born in Lithuania and lived in Moscow for the first half of her life. As of yet, she is the only member of her family to have left Russia to live in the United States. On her side of the family, I have grandparents, an uncle and aunt, a few cousins, a half-brother, and a nephew… and they all live about 4,700 miles away. I’ve met them all once, during a brief visit to Moscow when I was 14. My half-brother visited the US for the very first time this year. When I first visited, I barely spoke any Russian. Hello and Goodbye. Squirrel. Apple. You know, the basic need-to-know words. But I left knowing that when I returned (and I knew I would), I would have a normal, unimpeded-by-the-language-barrier conversation with my family. It’s been almost six years now, but I’m finally going back, and I have five semesters of college Russian behind me. Am I fluent yet? Not even close, but I’ve learned so much over the past two and half years. The foundational knowledge that I’ve accumulated will (hopefully) lead to marked progress while I’m abroad. I’m going for total immersion; I’ll be living with a host family, and all five of my classes will be taught in Russian. I’m pretty anxious. I’m fairly certain I’ll have numerous dumb American moments during which I will feel like an incompetent slacker, and while I know experiences like this are necessary for learning, I won’t say I’m looking forward to them. Generally, I know I’ll be fine. It wouldn’t be a true abroad experience if I weren’t stepping out of my comfort zone.
Back to my dismal mess of a room. Suitcase is still barren. Packing for a Russian winter is proving to be slightly hellish. I’d like to return with all ten of my toes but simultaneously maintain some sense of put-togetherness while I’m there. Is this even possible? Maybe now you understand my dilemma.
More about me: I’m a junior, and I’m double majoring in psychology and, you guessed it, Russian studies. I grew up in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, and my family moved to Lewisburg when I was 15. After promising myself I would never go to Bucknell because it was so close to home, I ended up applying Early Decision. Go figure.
At Bucknell, I’m involved in a few different things. I’m a member of the Russian Club, Psi Chi, and the club soccer team. I’m part of a lab team that assists with Professor Ruth Tincoff’s research on child language development. I’m also in a sorority. I work in the Admissions Office, and have worked for the Residential Colleges program as a Junior Fellow. I love to read as much as any book geek.
I love to travel. I’ve been to a few different countries, but there are many more on my list. In the past few years, I’ve become interested in the idea of teaching English abroad or working for an NGO in a foreign country after graduation.
Well, I think this is has been a sufficient get-to-know-me post. Though my suitcase is still empty, I feel slightly more prepared to go abroad after writing this. I hope you find my Russian adventures interesting! Feel free to leave comments or email me if you have any questions about anything you read in my posts or see in my pictures.
Всего хорошего. All the best.