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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Subtle social idiosyncrasies stun student

    If there are any basketball players reading this, just know your fan base has now become international. I had Russians, whose names I couldn’t even properly say, toasting to you after Saturday’s excellent win at Mac Court. So, from here on out, just know that besides representing our school and city well, you are slowly keeping one detached Wildcat (and many random Russians) alive with hope.

    If you can understand what a Russian saying “”Go Wildcats”” is like, then you can understand how I felt like a UA missionary last night at home after a long and interesting night on the streets of St. Petersburg.

    First, you should know that I live 20 minutes away (by subway) from anything, and that at midnight the subway closes and doesn’t reopen until 6 a.m. So, it becomes very easy for a long night to become a really long night. Just imagine a handful of American’s running down the equivalent of Fourth Avenue at midnight, and that’s what we looked like.

    After being invited to a birthday party by a Russian friend of mine, I got an opportunity to see a Russian apartment firsthand. The apartment belonged to a six-and-half foot tall Egyptian masseuse named Karim. Why he was in Russia was something I probably wouldn’t understand even if he told me in English. His apartment, however, was one of the nicer ones – around the size of a room in the Modern Languages building – where he lived with his girlfriend.

    Also, for anyone who smokes, Russia would be a haven. Everyone smokes, everywhere, at all times of the day. So, as the party continued and the Russians and Fins and Americans became increasingly drunk, the apartment turned into a hotbox of nicotine.

    There is no question: Russians, and many Europeans, live differently than most Americans. The idea of personal space I think is a very American one – and not necessarily a better one, despite what many readers might be thinking. Culture here is different, but one thing is certain, all humans are essentially the same, regardless of where someone was born or where someone lives. Politics aside, Russians have been friendly toward me (with the exception of cashiers and those riding on the subway) and interested in where I come from.

    Certainly, things are different here than they are in America, but that shouldn’t create any unnecessary prejudices. Unfortunately, it does all the time. Many people, Americans and Russians alike, are xenophobic, wary of foreigners, or of being foreigners. Culture is something to share and to explore, not to horde, covet or exalt.

    As more time goes by, and it does, sometimes fast, sometimes very slow, I become more adjusted. For any interested in studying abroad, or learning a language, I can say with much certainty that in the week I have been here I have already learned more than I could in class. Sure, class teaches academics and grammar, but being in the city teaches necessary phrases, expressions and conversation skills that are seldom learned in the classroom.

    But, I am not here to preach. Studying in a foreign country is definitely not for everyone. Regardless of what anyone says, foreign countries are dangerous for foreigners, particularly Americans. Whether that is because Americans are easy targets to spot, or because of economic motivations for thieves, many people are subject to more danger than they would be at home. For some, this is an experience worth the danger, but for others, it is not.

    But when it comes down to it, it’s like the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books you used to read when you were a kid. Go to Russia? Choose page 15. That’s where I am, and so far it’s looking pretty good.

    Hopefully the same can be said for the ‘Cats; sweep the Los Angeles schools at home, choose page 20. Something tells me it won’t be that easy, but I’ll be hoping, and watching no matter where I am.

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