9 Reasons Why Russia Is Awesome

Some of my more recent Facebook posts may have come across as negative as I try to navigate the unfamiliar territory of Russian bureaucracy and a culture and heritage that’s mine but also isn’t (first-generation immigrant problems). So I decided to make a list of reasons why I’m glad to be in Russia to clear up the misconception that Russia is bad and scary. Because the bottom line is that I do not have a single regret coming here, and all the positive experiences, which I find myself often taking for granted, far outweigh the negatives.

1. One of the things that has really made my stay here great are my crazy awesome roommates. What do you call four other girls who are laid-back, intelligent, funny, and loyal? I call them my roommates. One of them is an in-demand Italian teacher, another an intern at an IT security company, another an intern at Google, another is a creative business analyst who also finished art school. Three of them are Russian and one is Italian, and our apartment is hands-down the best in our 12-story dorm. We’re all really different and yet get along really well. We’ll go out dancing together, or stay inside with some beer and cards, or make pizza and watch Audrey Hepburn movies, or just have a chill night drinking tea and catching up on our week.
Roomies :)

2. Another positive is the fact that I’m getting a master’s degree here for free. How many people can say they’ve not a penny in debt following undergrad and then grad school? I got a scholarship from the Higher School of Economics, a national research university that’s trying to move up in the global university rankings by attracting more international faculty and students. In fact, the Russian education system provides tuition-free study for most undergrad and graduate students, so if you’re interested… :)
The Higher School of Economics has many campuses around the city. This is the one I attend (building on left).
3. I’m also basically living for free in my dorm, which is almost in the center of Moscow. To put it in perspective, it takes me about 30 minutes via metro to get to the Red Square from the moment I step foot outside my door. If I were to take a taxi, it would take me 15 minutes tops. Like, yo! I’m living for free in the center of the biggest city in Europe. And I have a super nice dorm with awesome administration and a nice cafeteria where I can get freshly-made soup, salad, main course, bread, and juice for about $1.80 every day.

4. A small thing, but one I appreciate, is that men always open doors for me. It’s a cultural expectation here—an act of courtesy and good manners. Or, for example, if I’m flying and need to put my always heavy carry-on in the overhead compartment, I guarantee you that if a man is nearby he will offer to help.
Just a few of my classmates

5. My fellow classmates are also another highlight of my experience here. These people care for you, hang out with you, and know exactly how it feels to be furiously finishing your paper the night before it’s due. We’ve been anywhere from grilling shashlik in a cottage in Moscow’s suburbs, to eating wings and drinking beer at Hooters, and everything in between. They buy flowers for your birthday and send you elaborate birthday wishes. I’m really proud to have embarked on this long journey of learning with such a stellar group of people.

6. I’ve made a bunch of new friends here. If you’re reading this, this is a shoutout to you. I literally have met people from all over the world and I plan to come visit you in your home countries someday. Taking over Moscow or playing Durak or creating elaborate birthday toasts as we drink cheap champagne. And by the way, Russian friends are like friends for life here. You don’t just send a happy birthday Facebook message. You buy this person a cake and get together two nights in a row and share meaningful birthday wishes that show you really know the person and their goals and struggles and ambitions really well.
One of my favorite paintings from the Tretyakovskiy Gallery. The facial expressions that the artist is able to render with just a few brush strokes is impressive
7. I’ve been able to learn quite a bit about history and culture here. I may be an American but I am also proud of my Russian heritage. There’s a lot of ugly, painful Russian history, but there’s also a lot of Russia’s story and culture that is fascinating. Learning about all these facets of my heritage and even being able to physically visit places monumental to Russian history is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that few people get. I’ve seen the Kremlin, the Red Square, the Tretyakovskiy Gallery, Lenin’s Mausoleum, etc. Over the next month I plan to visit Murmansk in the Arctic Circle to hopefully see the Northern Lights. I also am going on a trip to Kazan, which is a gorgeous Russian city.

8. My Russian language skills have gotten a lot better. Sure, I spoke without an accent before I came here, but I would often forget the word I wanted to say in Russian or would make errors in my writing (the Russian language has so many suffixes, it’s ridiculous). I still have much to improve upon, but I’ve gotten a lot better at expressing more complex concepts and ideas in Russian and I think I write better, too. (My sympathies if you didn’t grow up speaking Russian and are trying to learn the language, though.)
Grandma next to her kalina tree. This vitamin-filled fruit grows in the winter and you can make a delicious warm drink with it
9. Last but not least, I’m closer to my grandparents, aunt, and cousins on my mom’s side. These are my close relatives who I’ve only seen sporadically over the past 22 years of my life because they all live in Russia. It’s hard to express the joy my grandparents felt when they found out I’d be living in Moscow and would be seeing them more often. I’ve been to the Northern Caucuses to visit my grandparents three times since August, which is more than I had traveled there in the past 7 or so years combined. I love and value the time I spend together with my loved ones on this side of the world.

I could keep writing about the reasons I’m glad to be in Moscow but I like the number 9 because it’s the square root of 3 so I figure this is a good place to stop. Thanks for reading!

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