In a few hours, I’ll be on the plane to St. Petersburg (well, technically to Munich first). For the past two days, I’ve been at my program’s pre-departure orientation in D.C. I’m one of 17 students going to St. Petersburg – seven are academic year students, so they spent their fall semesters in Petersburg as well. Brave souls! I envy them, they’re already past the initial struggle stage that is soon to come. Most of us are Russian majors, but a few are minors. I can’t really explain how gratifying it is to meet everyone on my program. Everyone is so into Russian – it’s pretty great.
For the past few days, I’ve been checking the weather forecast somewhat religiously (honestly, it’s borderline masochistic). It is absolutely freezing there. But, that’s to be expected, I guess.
The week before I left for orientation was a whirlwind of last minute good-byes to friends and trips to CVS. Being in Lewisburg made it twice as hard to say good-bye… because I said good-bye to a bunch of people twice. I also had to take an online pre-test that assessed my reading and listening comprehension in Russian – it took about two hours and may have been the most difficult/hilarious test I’ve ever taken. A few days later, I had a telephone interview that was conducted entirely in Russian (30 minutes of my life that I’m actively trying to repress) – my program is is apparently very serious about measuring my proficiency before I get to Russia, and honestly, I think it’s great. It will be rewarding to see how much I’ve learned by the end. I hope.
So, I’m finally packed. I’ll save you the sordid details and instead say that packing for this semester abroad was a lovely experience and that I wish I could do it more often.
I am very wired and little punchy, but I am very, very excited. The next time I write, I’ll be writing from Russia. Oh! I almost forgot to tell you about my host family. I will be living with a woman, her 17-year-old daughter, and their two cats. I love cats, so this is an exciting development. Their flat is about 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles) from downtown St. Petersburg and Herzen University, where I’ll be taking classes. Google Maps tells me that my commute will be 39 minutes.
Alex (or, as my host family will call me, Sasha)
Edit: This hasn’t been published yet, so I’ll just give a quick update – I’m here! I am exhausted and maybe a little delirious, but it is amazing here. Incredibly cold – it was about -15 Celsius tonight, but we decided to walk around after dinner to acclimate ourselves a bit, and the city is absolutely gorgeous. We’re staying in the dorms for a few nights for in-country orientation, and on Sunday, our host families will pick us up. Very exciting. A more detailed post will follow soon. I’m about to go sleep as long as my body will allow.