AIFS Study Abroad Blog

The Right Place: How I Knew I Had to Study Abroad in Russia

Having two parents in the military, I moved a lot when I was a kid. I even lived in Japan for 4 years, and attended about 15 different schools from first until twelfth grade. Thus, I’ve always struggled with finding true home, as I could never find it my geographic location. However, after finding out that my mother’s family’s roots reside in Eastern Europe, I discovered the Russian language.

I began teaching myself and instantly felt an innate comfort in the culture and ways of Russian life. I simply knew that Russia was a place that I needed to go to in my lifetime — a calling of sorts, one which perplexes others and yet feels totally natural and ‘right’ for me.

After arriving in Russia, I never once felt out of place. I felt a sense of normalcy that I don’t usually feel in my day-to-day life at home. It sounds a bit backwards, no? The typical vision of study abroad is often one of adventure, of difference, of discovery. I’ve experienced all these things here, and yet it never felt out of place. I am in the right place for my heart at this point in my life.

Russian life has a sort of grit to it that I’ve never experienced before, and every day I open myself to it and try to feel it all. This place has a definitive soul, a nearly tangible spirit that cannot help but be noticed by anyone who visits. And the Russian spirit is cold, nearly isolating, and at once warm and enveloping and comforting. I feel like an alien and a native all at once, yet there is a sense of homely peace rather than the fear and isolation one would expect from a place so starkly different from home.

As a person who has had a rather unstable environment most of my life due to frequent moving around, I struggled with finding security and tangibility in my surroundings. I don’t know that I had ever truly achieved that before deciding to study abroad in Russia. Now that I have been here, I know that it is in fact a possibility for me, and that I can always find a way to feel at home.

So, while I’ve definitely experienced my share of hardships here, I tell others: I have struggled here and I love it. I embrace the difficulties right along with the fun times abroad, because things don’t have to be perfect to be an amazing experience. The sense of comfort that I have found in this country, its people, and myself while here are worth the world to me.

This post was submitted by Lexi Saldivar, who is spending her fall semester studying abroad with AIFS in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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