A Russian Milestone!

In honor of today marking one year of living and working in Russia, I decided that it would only be fitting to write a commemorative post of sorts. While I have occasionally written about my time so far, over the course of the year I’ve been lucky to experience both highs and lows; I wouldn’t have it any other way. I realize that while I’ve tried (and mostly failed) to keep a journal chronicling these events, I may be forgetting things-I hope to edit this post as I remember them. So, sit back and enjoy some of the memorable moments that occurred from September 8th, 2014 to today!

  1. While I don’t intend to rank every single one of the experiences/highlights/moments, this deserves it. Just getting the opportunity to teach English abroad has been an absolute gift. Coming straight out of university, finding a job was a serious struggle, and while it may not be as conventional as some of my peers, I’m glad that I took the road not taken. In one year, I’ve grown up, gotten to see many things I was only able to dream about, and have met a ton of fantastic new people. Even one year after stepping off the Transaero plane at Vnukovo Airport, I still pinch myself from time to time, as it’s hard to believe my path has taken me. If you told me five years ago as I was starting my freshman year of university that I’d be living almost independently in a country I’ve had a longstanding interest in, I’d tell you that you’re really yanking my chain. I’m just glad I can make that pipeline dream a reality!
  2. I’m cheating by coming up with a second ranking, and I promise I’ll stop after this. While preparing materials for my classes generally is the only thing I’m worried about, 5,000 miles away my parents are worrying about me. It was one thing being about an hour away at school and having the ability to drive up home in case I needed anything, but being on another continent with basically only moral support from them is an entirely different beast. So, I’d like to thank my parents for helping me as best as they can, as that support got me through on the occasions I was feeling down and/or doubting myself. Love you to the moon and back!
  • Just meeting as many amazing people as I have has made the world. From all my colleagues and fellow teachers to the friends I’ve met at language exchanges to the boys from Australian Rules Football, every single new person I met has made all the world to me. I really hesitate to dwell on how radically different my experience would be if I didn’t try new things and meet others.
  • Work itself. I admit to being a bit scared of what I’d run into while teaching, but thankfully I have been blessed with two great schools (with the same company, EF English First), fantastic colleagues, and awesome students! In prior posts, I mentioned that I initially started out as a bit nervous and green, but over the duration of an entire year, I’ve reached the point where I found a rhythm and am prepared to handle everything. Without a doubt, it’s been rewarding to see the growth in both the students and me as a teacher! On that note, I cannot wait to see what this new year will bring!
  • Surviving a Russian winter. I was told that it was a milder winter, which, at a low of -4 Fahrenheit, is admittedly very relative, but nevertheless I feel happy that I made it. My body also was able to get adjusted to the weather, so 30 degrees Fahrenheit was warm and 60 degrees felt hot.
  • Breaking out of my shell. I’m pretty introverted, but I have been taking big steps to put myself out there. While I’m still inclined to stay in and spend Saturday nights watching YouTube videos, I’ve been going out more and more and taking advantage of all the Moscow has to offer. They’re baby steps, but I feel more and more comfortable in myself.
  • On that note, finding new things in Moscow. Sure, there are touristy things to see, do, and eat at, but there’s just a simple joy in finding a new museum or a place to grab a bite to eat and drink at. Even when friends are in Moscow, we somehow find things and places that I’ve never been to, which is a delight for both parties.
  • Learning that my confidence has increased. Despite still feeling a bit intimidated by the language barrier even though I’ve been learning Russian, I’ve gotten to this point in one piece. Yeah, I may automatically mark myself as a foreigner/American with my atrociously accented Russian accent (or lack thereof), but I’ve long since shaken off the feeling of nervousness when ordering food or when I’m at the stores. Even when things get rough, I’ve been able to remain calm. It really is amazing what your mind can do when you’ve survived living in abroad for a while.
  • Being able to see cultural differences. As the quote goes, “All the world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only one page.” Living abroad has made me more cognizant of both positive and negative aspects of both home and in Russia, though admittedly Moscow may not necessarily be definitively representative of the entire country. Life as a whole seems a bit more laid back here, whereas life in America seems overly concerned with working too much. There are a ton of holidays here, which don’t dispel that notion, but it’s nice having more days off!
  • The opportunity to travel more has been something I definitely take advantage of! Not only have I traveled to places I normally wouldn’t be able to, but I’ve done so for cheap! As I recounted during this summer, I traveled to Estonian, Latvia, and Bosnia, and I look forward to traveling around more!
  • I was able to witness a pretty opulent Victory Day parade in the spring. Given that it was the 70th anniversary of the ending of World War 2, Moscow went all out to promote/make it super special.
  • Finally, just being able to make plenty of memories has been worth the entire experience. I most likely will not continue teaching for the rest of my life, so I’m just enjoying what I have right now. I’m young, so I’m milking this for all it’s worth!
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