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Kathryn Kuna - Russian Summer

Kathryn KunaThis summer, I had the privilege of studying abroad in Moscow, Russia, on the program Arizona in Russia. While I had already wanted to study abroad, it was amazing to find out it was actually possible. To make this more exciting, my eight weeks in Russia would concede with the FIFA World Cup. While I didn’t end up going to game, I remember the wild reactions of the city as Russia won against Spain. The streets were filled with people cheering and honking. As a Chemistry/Russian major, it can be hard to balance both, so it was exciting to have a summer solely focused on Russian.

My classes in Russia were largely focused on improving my Russian, as well as a culture class once a week. Learning Russian in Russia was very helpful, as I learned a lot about which contexts to use certain words and constructions. I also got a chance to practice my Russian every time I went to the grocery store, which forced me to ask for a bag or else try carry all my yogurts in my arms. During the culture class, the professor often stresses how similar Russia and America are. Many Russians are concerned about the growing tensions between the US and Russia, and want Americans to know that they are the stereotypical villains that are common in movies. For the program, breakfast and lunch were provided, so I got to try traditional foods like kasha and borscht. The woman who ran the cafeteria would yell, in Russian, “Eat, eat, why are you not eating?” if you weren’t eating enough.

When I wasn’t in the classroom, I was visiting museums and historical locations around Moscow. I was able to see a ballet at both the Kremlin theater and the Bolshoi theater, both of which were amazing. I took a day trip to a Vladimir, a suburb of Moscow, and got to see a 800 year old cathedral. Even though I spent eight weeks in Moscow, I still felt like I still had so much to see. These visits served as complement to my lessons, as I would try to puzzle out the vocabulary from an exhibit on 400 year old icons. 

One of the highlights of my time in Russia was celebrating Russia Day. Russia Day is a relatively new holiday, created in 1992 to commemorate the adoption of a new constitution. We visited Samovarfest, which featured free tea, and traditional Russian dancing. The instructors were very patient as we struggled to learn the group dances. After Samovarfest, we visited another celebration in Sokolniki Park, and by the time it was raining heavily. We ducked under a pavilion to find several babushkas singing classic Russian songs. They kept telling us to join in and sing but we didn’t know the words!
After my time in Russia, I was ready to go back to the US and see my family and friends. Plus, I missed chemistry. Visiting Russia was an amazing opportunity, and I feel like I truly understood more about the Russian mindset and culture. I do want to return to Russia someday to visit, but for now, I think I’ll focus on enjoying my senior year at the University of Arizona.

Kathryn Kuna