As the end of my program approaches, I have begun to feel strangely torn between two very extreme feelings. Having lived in Russia for over a month and a half, I feel as if I’ve gotten past the point of homesickness only to be left simply exhausted by the monumental efforts necessary for my everyday life here. I yearn for the comforts of home, in the most literal sense. In my head, there are now two versions of reality. The first is my itinerant life in Russia, which is represented by continuous growth but also volatility and difficulty. The second is what I think of as “normal” — my house, my bed, and my life, in general, in the United States.
The fact that I will soon be reunited with my family and friends who understand me (at both the lingual and spiritual levels) sparks a feeling that is difficult to describe in words. In complete honesty, I’ve found that my largest frustrations with living in Russia were all mental. My inability to express myself fully in the language has lead to the development of a very shallow set of relationships in Russia. Here, with my host parents, other Russian students, and my teachers at the institute, I discuss tourist attractions, food, and shopping. It is these types of topics that I am able to comment on in Russian because, at this point, my language ability restricts me to discussing events. Of course, in English, I have the ability to discuss ideas and perceptions at an entirely different level. I’m a strong believer that true connections and understandings are only developed through a more elevated discourse of this type. Ultimately, my inability to express myself in the language has led me to question my role in Russian society and others’ perceptions of my journey here. At the risk of sounding too superficial, I think there is something very crippling about losing control of your own image. Too suddenly, you fall to the mercy of stereotypes, especially while studying abroad as an American student. Largely due to these feelings, I’m very cognizant of a need to return to some “normalcy.”
On the other hand, I’ve already begun to miss Petersburg. Riding the metro home one night last week, I felt a strong spark of regret as I realized how limited my remaining time in Petersburg would be from that point on. I thought to myself, there’s still so much I have yet to see, or taste, or photograph. But, truthfully, there’s no way I will leave Petersburg without some regrets about how I utilized my time — this is my nature. However, at this point, I’ve already experienced almost two months of metro rides, Russian food, beautifully aimless walking, and mispronunciation. Summer in Petersburg has proven to be an extremely turbulent emotional ride through Russia’s “cultural capital” and I know that, ultimately, I’m better off for having experienced it.