It happened again- one of my fellow university students turned around, and in a confused and slightly agitated voice asked- ‘but why Russia?’. An attempted explanation…
My dear Moscovites, why do you find it so strange that I want to experience your country? I made the decision for the study programme before I decided on Russia- I decided on the programme because it was unique, and because it had UCL’s name attached to it. But why Russia?
How do I explain that most of the decision was an impulse- a desire to see something that according to everything I knew was ‘different’ ‘unexplainable’ and ‘not like us’, without sounding like I came to stare at you like people go to stare at animals at the zoo, or like I’m trying to take the leading role on the show ‘Mythbusters’?
Honestly, half of the time I’m not sure why I am here- specifically here. It had to do with the size of Russia, the knowledge that like the US, it is always going to think itself in the middle of world events, and therefore knowing a little about its people and geography and just in general a little about it seemed sensible. A lot of it is precisely because I knew so little about it- before heading to UCL to start my Master’s degree I would have probably forgotten the name of any city in Russia other than Moscow, and I would not have been able to tell you anything about the countries political state other than parroting information from some questionable media sources. Moscow for me was not even an image- St.Basil’s, the Kremlin, Lenin’s tomb, all of these icons on the Red Square were only consciously taken note of once I knew that I was going.
And the other reason?
After seven years of living in the UK, I wanted to live somewhere with snow. Real Snow.
It’s as trivial as that. Yes, I have found many more reasons, many more people, many more questions that have made my stay here more interesting, that have given me something to research, that will hold my interest for a lot longer. But I had the luxury of dropping myself into the deep-end of a year of studying abroad without knowing if I was dropping myself into a kiddy- pool or an ocean, or if I even liked to swim.
Please, don’t look so confused when you ask me- why Russia? Because you live in a beautiful and unique country, with lovely people and customs that can teach me more than just my sterile, institutionalised academics can.