Saturday, October 27, 2012

10/26 - Halfway Point

It's hard to believe that I've already made it halfway through my study abroad experience in Moscow. It's already October 26, and my departure date is scheduled for December 18. Midterm grades are starting to come our way, and I've been extremely satisfied thus far. I have mostly A's (5's in Russia) and B's (4's in Russia), and my professors have taken note of my progress thus far. I'm humbled by their remarks, since I've been logging in a ton of time outside of class to do homework, and work on vocabulary without being asked to do so. Even my host mother, Elena, has been mentioning that my speech has quickened and my vocabulary has grown substantially. In this post, I will talk about two excursions, since I did not post last week. 

First, on Friday, October 19, we went to the Museum of the Great Patriotic War (Великая Отечественная война), which is named as such to commemorate the victory of the Allied Forces and the Soviet Union during World War II (1941 - 1945). Soviets take great pride in this war because millions of their forefathers sacrificed their lives to defend the homeland. Moreover, the Nazis had invaded some of the USSR's largest cities including Moscow, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), and Stalingrad (now Volgograd). Our tour guide took us on a tour of these dioramas, that depicted the sights and sounds of the war. It was extremely interesting, but also disturbing at the amount of death that occurred during that time. 

Statue in Victory Park (Парк победы) of a Soviet Soldier slaying a Nazi dragon

Diorama of the Battle of Leningrad (Битва ленинграда)

Last weekend was also a great time because I celebrated two birthday parties with my friends Bridget and Dan, who both turned 20 on back-to-back days. Seeing as I'm almost 22, this made me feel old! However, we went to a few bars around the city and had a few drinks. 

Yesterday, I had one of the most exciting excursions to date (besides the Volga River Cruise), and the location might surprise you. Not Red Square, not the Kremlin, and not some historical Russian cathedral - it was a Middle School or Средная школа (srednaya shkola). Unlike American schools, these middle schools usually host children that are aged equivalent to elementary age all the way up to senior year of high school. We had the unique opportunity to attend three classes, and essentially audit the students. Well, we thought that we would only sit an listen but, it went almost exactly the opposite in two of the three classes. I'll outline the happenings in detail.

Class 1: English (Английский язык) - Grade 9

To the surprise of Bridget, Brooke, Amanda, and myself, we were going to be the highlight of this English class. Primarily because the professor wanted us to speak about the United States to the class, and then engage in dialogues with the students individually. I had the opportunity to talk to two students, which was highly enjoyable. They were given a short script (in Russian), and they had to start the dialogue with me - it was simple things - like playing sports, going out to eat, etc. The students that talked to me had excellent conversational skills and grammar, even after the teacher warned us about simplifying our vocabulary and use of slang words. It was the favorite part of the day for me, and it made me want to teach English to Russians someday!

Class 2: Mathematics (Математика) - Grade 4

It was a great experience to see elementary age children learning math skills early in the Russian classroom. The teacher even wanted us to take a short exam with the students on writing out numbers and doing obtuse/acute/right angles! Thankfully all 4 of us received 5's (or A's in our system). But the elementary-age classroom is much more participation heavy, and students are highly active. They had to draw the problems on the board, and were active in singing songs/doing small activities amongst themselves. 

Class 3: Russian (Русский язык) - Grade 7

This class kind of scared me in a lot of ways. The Russian students (around middle-school age) were working on Russian grammar, and doing really well at it. In fact, they were working on techniques that English-speakers often take years to master. However, our resident director, Jon, warned us that oftentimes it will take years to achieve fluency, and to not be discouraged when you hear children speaking better Russian than you. Regardless, it was a great experience, and I learned some grammar techniques myself. 

Snow on Leningradsky Prospekt

Lastly, yesterday was the first snowstorm in Moscow this season. It was freezing, but the snow hardly stuck to the ground. As per usual for a first-of-the-season snowfall. I missed it though. Thanks for reading, and I'll continue to post these on a weekly basis.

Countdown to returning home: 52 Days

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