I’ve arrived! It has been a few weeks now but I have made it to St. Petersburg, Russia safely. In my pre-departure post, I wrote about the things about living in a foreign country that were giving me anxiety. Just to catch you up-to-date, I arrived here in Russia with absolutely zero Russian language experience. That was my #1 stressor pre-departure, and it still is my #1 stressor after 3 weeks in the country. Also, I was very concerned with leaving my family for 4 months and how that could take a toll on my emotions.
Before I’d experienced what most call “culture shock,” I thought it wouldn’t happen to me or at least it wouldn’t be that bad. I suppose my type of “shock” is different from what the others in my program -that are fairly proficient in Russian- are experiencing. It really feels like I’m 3 years old here because I don’t have a clue what is going on 90% of the time. For example, a trip to the grocery store quickly becomes a nightmare when someone turns to me and randomly rambles on in Russian about who knows what to me! I try to make the face that says “I have no idea what you’re saying!” and my phrases of “I don’t understand” and “I don’t speak Russian,” don’t always work. It’s a process and I am still at the very beginning.
Until yesterday, there wasn’t anything other than the language shock factor that was making me miss the comforts of America and the English language. My AIFS program took a day trip to Novgorod -one of the oldest cities in the Russian Federation- and it was a 4-hour bus ride there. On the ride, I spent a lot of time just sitting and thinking about Russia and (this never gets old, but…) how much I still just can’t believe that I’m in Russia. I started thinking about all the things back home that I miss and was getting down.
So how do I deal with it? Talk about it. We all want to look like the stronger person and not let on to our peers that we do in fact miss home or America in general. It’s also easy to get locked into my own little routine and keep to myself, because my pride doesn’t want to show through. Last night I sat down with a couple friends here and talked about the challenges with adapting to Russia that we are all facing. And it helped! Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement that others are feeling the same to give me the inspiration to keep an open mind.
And keeping an open mind from now on is what I plan to do!