Author Archives: Sean in Russia

Traveling Outside of Moscow

Russia is a very interesting country to travel in. Withholding the fact that the geographic area of the country itself is the largest in the world, there are a variety of other factors that debunk a lot of American perceptions of the Russian people and the communities foreigners find themselves in. I have found the Russian people to be quite caring and have helped me on number of occasions. They have helped me when I was lost and even paid for me to take the metro.DSC00033

I believe, most American perceptions of Russian people based off of Cold War culture. Moscow is just like any other Cosmopolitan city in the world. There are a lot of different personalities in one place, and usually people living in big cities are quite liberal, open-minded, and very curious about America. I have been asked WAY too many questions about the government shutdown, all which lead to Russian students telling me, “Now we can tell you guys to get your act together.” Politicized culture itself only leads to jokes here. The Russian ability to care about national politics is mostly defined by apathy, just like in America!

One example I can remember was our trip to St. Petersburg. We all slept in bunk beds right next to people we did not know, some of us did not speak any Russian before attending this study abroad program. However, everyone was very courteous and even shared their food with us. Most people in Russia travel by train because it is cheaper. I can say being in St. Petersburg and Moscow is as much of a dichotomy as being in San Fransisco and New York. Again, Russia is a very large country and there are many differences between the city one travels to. “There is life outside of Moscow!” One student told me this, and he was right. It doesn’t take smartphones or computers to peak our interest here. There is a vast world of endless experiences surrounding us 24/7. They are hard to miss and experiencing them is a 90% positive way of spending our time.

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Russian Food

There are many similarities between Russian and American food culture, however, some differences make themselves apparent. For example, food is mass-produced in the United States. Therefore, a lot of extra chemicals and preservatives are added to keep them up to Federal Health Standards. Russian food however, is always shipped as raw materials, so everything ordered at restaurants is made from scratch. It took a couple of weeks to adjust my stomach to eating the food in Moscow because they use so much butter and raw ingredients. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. People from the west do not have this kind of eating experience so it naturally takes some getting used to.

Borscht

Borscht

My favorite Russian foods so far are blini (like a crêpe served with condensed milk), perogi with pasta dough, and shwarma (though technically this is Uzbeck food). There are food stands all over the city and buying food from here is actually cheaper than going to international fast food places such as McDonald’s and Burger King. It is about 34 rubles to a Dollar in the current market. So a meal at McDonald’s would cost about 400-500 rubles. At a stand on the street that serves traditional Russian food, you can get a bigger meal for 135 rubles (tell me a place in America that will serve you an entire meal for 4 dollars….).

 

Cooking Russian Food russian_food1

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, it is very important to Russians to dine with family and/or friends. In America, we generally eat when we are hungry and often by ourselves when we are on the go. In Russia, even the foreign students use the consumption of a meal as an excuse to socialize, sit around and table, and talk about their day or simple things. The social aspect of a meal is a custom that I grew accustomed to right away. This is something that I hope to be able to incorporate into my life back in the States.

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Sean’s Route to Class

Meet U.S. Department of State sponsored Gilman Scholarship recipient Sean Deegan. Sean is a Gilman Global Experience Correspondent for the Fall 2013 semester in Moscow, Russia.  The Gilman Global Experience allows Gilman Scholarship recipients the opportunity to record videos around academic and cultural themes to share with other students interested in studying or interning abroad in the featured country. For more videos please visit the Gilman Scholarship’s Official YouTube page.

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Reverse Culture Shock; or Expanded World View?

Honestly, I have to say that the only difference I see between America and Russia currently is that both countries speak different languages.

The more I think about it in-depth, the more I begin to realize that separation is an illusion. Obvious differences are on the surface. Cultural customs and political structures function much differently in Russia than they do in the United States, as a matter of practicality.

However, I have to say that I have met a lot of people here. The only ones I absolutely could not stand the company of for more than a minute and a half were one or two of the American students.

I have also met many people from around the world studying the Russian language at Moscow State University Russian Language Center (MGU). We all have more in common than we originally thought. Despite the language barriers, communication was a recurring circumstance between all of us. Ultimately, and I know this sounds cliche, but my experience abroad has proven what I knew deep down to be true my entire life.

Political structures, borders, countries, and governments, are nonexistent at the end of the day. We as people made it up, “Just like the boogie man! (George Carlin)” Differences are only skin deep. Everyone of the students and people I encountered, whether they were from Russia, America, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, or Mars had all of the same problems and obstacles to overcome that we in America experience. We attach too much stigma to people according to the country printed on their passports. It doesn’t matter! None of it does! To me, it is almost completely illogical (outside of the reasoning of practicality) to attach such labels to people in an increasingly growing global society.

Very rarely do people look at someone who is different and ask the questions: How was your day? Is your family okay? Do you miss home? Are you having trouble in class? Do you feel sick? Wanna get some lunch? More often than not, they are always asked: What’s it like in Ireland? Is the IRA still a big problem there? What do you think of the Queen?

When living with a very diverse group of people for so long, I realized that the separation illusion was as much a myth as Big Foot or Santa Claus.

The main thing I am taking from my study abroad experience is this: no matter what city you are from, where you were born, what country you hold citizenship in, or what your skin color or sexual orientation is; we all experience more of the commonalities than we might think. Additionally, we mostly live in a global village. Separation is an illusion, and perhaps the more that this is realized, the better understanding we have between one another can be achieved in promoting cooperation and curiosity in other cultures across the world.

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Meet Gilman Video Blogger – Sean

Meet U.S. Department of State sponsored Gilman Scholarship recipient Sean Deegan. Sean is a current Gilman Global Experience Correspondent for the Fall 2013 semester in Moscow, Russia.  The Gilman Global Experience allows Gilman Scholarship recipients the opportunity to record videos around academic and cultural themes to share with other students interested in studying or interning abroad in the featured country. For more videos please visit the Gilman Scholarship’s Official YouTube page.

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Culture Shock? You have no idea…

I cannot say that I have experienced culture shock per say. I have studied Russian Language and Culture for two years before coming to Moscow. I also live and work with many Slavic people in Philadelphia. I knew what I was in for.

The hardest part for me was the brief period of home-sickness I went through for one week. I was at a cafe with a friend. I had Wi-Fi, so naturally I kept receiving phone calls from my family and friends. It had been a very hard week of adjusting, and honestly I began to miss the conveniences of America and the comforts of my hometown(s). The phone calls from my family were not helping, and very subtly I began to tear up. The only thing my friend could think of to say to me was: “Dude, do you have allergies or something?”

I was so angry at him. I went to the bathroom to compose myself and continued cursing the whole situation under my breath. Our visas were getting extended in November, with multi-entry privileges. He had the means to travel back and forth to the States, I do not. I began to realize that I was in this for the long haul. I was not able to spend Halloween with my little cousins. I was not going to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I was not going to be able to eat the greasy central Jersey style Italian food, which my Step-Mom cooked for us every night. You have no idea how much of a tragedy this was at the time!

However, another thought occurred to me a week later, this is only temporary. I am here for a finite amount of time, I’m going home in 20 days (currently). I must adapt and overcome. It was not worth missing home, when I already had the return ticket in my desk ready to go. While I am here, I might as well enjoy having new experiences. Everything is temporary, especially the bad things. I can honestly say that this little mantra has allowed me to enjoy my time here to its fullest. It made me glad I came and made me grateful to have had this opportunity. So far, no regrets.

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