Maggie Flaherty ’20
Chief Features Editor
I interviewed my two friends who participated in a Maymester this past summer in Moscow at the Russian State University for the Humanities. They insist on being referred to in this column by their Russian names, Vanya and Liev, but only five people went on this trip so I’m sure readers will be able to figure out who they are.
- What made you want to go to Russia on a maymester?
Vanya: I decided to go to Russia because I never pictured myself doing anything like that. The opportunity was presented to me by my professor, and I decided to go. I don’t think either of us pictured us going to Russia.
Liev: I never pictured myself going to Moscow before I heard about the Maymester.
V: The language and culture seemed cool, so I decided to get out of my comfort zone and experience it.
- What do you think of the length of your program? Was it a good amount of time to be abroad?
V: I like that it was in the summer so that I didn’t miss any time at Holy Cross.
L: I liked being in Russia in the summer and not in the winter, but it was very hot.
- Were the preconceived ideas you had of Russia true? What surprised you?
V: No one smiles in public. It’s a cultural thing.
L: Locals wear a lot of jumpsuits and canadian tuxedos. In ten minutes I saw 17 people in canadian tuxedos on the metro.
- Give me the best food moments of your Maymester.
L: KFC at 3:30 a.m. or KFC for breakfast. Chicken Kiev.
V: Borscht soup. Georgian food is really good. We didn’t really miss American food because there was a TGI Fridays right down the street.
L: But I really missed pizza, and the worst part of leaving was that I found a pizza place the last night I was there.
- How were classes different there from classes here?
L&V: 5 classes, 4 hours a day. Different class each day. Most of the work was in-class. We took Grammar, Phonetics, Russian in Mass Media, Russian Music, and Literature.
- What is your favorite phrase/word to say in the language you learned?
L: Я люблю вас – “I love you.”
V: дава́й – It was during the World Cup. It means “Let’s go.”
- What advice would you give to another student thinking about pursuing this maymester?
V: Do it. дава́й.
- What was the most surprising thing you did or saw?
V&L: We made friends with locals.
- Describe your favorite day.
V&L: We went to the Vulga River. It is beautiful. We got on a crowded train with two of our friends. It was pouring rain and we traversed the countryside for an hour on a fast train. We had a man drive us 30 minutes to our friend’s house. We sat on the Vulga river, played a little futbol, listened to music, and hung out with our new friends.
- How safe did you feel there?
V&L: I felt very safe.
- What was the weather like?
V&L: Hot, humid. Occasionally rainy.
- Did you learn anything about politics there, or here?
L: I talked with a Russian local about Kanye. He didn’t like Kanye West because of his support of Trump.
V: The younger generation, for the most part – or just the ones we met – seemed fed up with their government.
- Was there anything unique about studying abroad in that place at this time? For example, any current events that happened?
V: The World Cup went on around the same time. It was cool to see fans from all of the different countries. Everyone was really into it, there were drums in the metro.
L: Putin and Trump met at Helsinki. The tension in general between our countries at the moment made being in Moscow interesting.
- Did you listen to local music? What was it like?
V&L: We love Russian pop music (Editor’s Note: I can attest to this, they play it constantly in their room).
- What is in style there?
L: They definitely dress differently, because I noticed when people were dressing “American.” They dress in streetwear style. Lots of jeans. Overall it’s not too different.
- How did you get around/What was public transportation like?
V: The Metro. The public transportation was beautiful. So easy to understand, too. It took me a day to understand.
L: I think we were in a car twice, not counting the van rides to the airport. Trains outside of the city were easy. We took an overnight train to St. Petersburg and got to sleep on the train which was a cool experience.
- Did you find any cool places that you weren’t expecting?
V: We went to an English-American pub a lot for dinner. We went to these grocery stops every morning for breakfast to get yogurt drinks.
L: We joined a gym, which was interesting. Lots of beautiful Orthodox churches are in Moscow.
- What is one touristy thing you would not recommend doing? What is one touristy thing that is totally worth it?
L: I wouldn’t go to St. Basils or Lenin’s tomb. Stalin’s bunker is a no-go. Overrated.
V: Totally the Kremlin. If you’re looking for a hidden gem, the church outside of Vladimir requires knowledge and a walk but was definitely really cool.
- What was the hardest adjustment you had to make?
V: Besides the language?
L: The sun would set at 10 p.m. and come up at 3 a.m. so we had to make adjustments when it came to sleep.
V: Figuring out what to order was tough at first too.
- What was the most interesting thing you learned about Russian culture? What did you learn about your own culture by living in another one?
V: I want to say that they walked slower, but the locals always said we did. They have a much bigger walking culture there, as in it’s more of a thing to go for walks.
L: The cultures were pretty similar.
- What did you learn about yourself? How are you different? How are you the same?
V: It opened me up to trying new things. I think I became more outgoing, too. It’s a little easier to talk to people in America when I realize I tried to talk to people in Russian a couple months ago.
- What is one thing you would change about your study abroad experience?
V: I wish classes were broken up better. It was like elementary school, sitting there with the same teacher for that long. It’s like two back to back seminars with the same professor.
- How would you describe study abroad in five words?
V: Life-changing experience; worth it.
L: Six weeks was definitely enough.
- How much do you recommend saving for a maymester?
V: It’s fairly cheap there. I bet I spent close to $1,000, but you could easily do it in $500 with budgeting.
L: A lot is provided in the Maymester tuition.
- What advice do you have for immersing yourself in a new language?
V: Give into it. Try.
L: Don’t use the English language machines at the KFC.
V: They all speak English or can attempt to speak English, but try. If you think you know a word, say it.