RICHMOND, VA – In the ending hours of a muggy summer day, where even the fresh rain baked itself over the concrete streets of Broad street. Sitting in my leather chair, and surrounded by an arsenal of keyboards, guitars, and assorted instruments crowded by a mass of twisting cables of the carpet – a computer screen sat alight, humming. Maybe any day that summer could have passed with little to no significance, but today was different.
Shining alight on my computer screen stood the course list of my fall semester of my sophomore year. I realized my ambitions to become an artist that propelled me to apply to an art school had run dry. I was never accepted into the program – I had a problem with starting things and finishing them; let alone rubrics, selected mediums required in my portfolio, and overall sense of ambition that trickled into just a few piles of half finished, pen and pencil sketches of abstract and cartoonish art. I was never going to be an artist. I was undeclared, and my first year was clearly over. I needed to find a solution.
The ending of my first year in college brought with it, many new experiences. Of course I began the new journey of [trying to] become a music producer – I dabbled with electronic audio production software, in addition to personal recording, writing, and what I thought was a future in composing music. I never mastered a single instrument, but I recall hundreds of hours that year spent created music loops, layered with drum machines, and thousand selections of musical variations that entertained me on end. But I was not going to become a musician, either.
THE BEGINNING OF THE INTERNATIONAL
The end of my freshman year instigated the declaration of International Relations. There was a requirement however, over language. I glanced over course lists of Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Russian, English, Chinese, Arabic, and German. I thought the best language to help me find work in the future, would come through the establishment of fluency or operability of a critical language. Therefore, gutting the rest of the languages in the list, I used my judgement to scan through alphabets of Russian, Chinese and Arabic. Coming from a former backround beginning in Greek life, as a founding father of my chapter, I was familiar with the Greek alphabet. The Latin Alphabet and Greek alphabet respectively compose much of the Russian alphabet – about eight letters in the Russian alphabet are solely Russian. So this caught my eyes.
THE GAME CHANGER
The rise of Arabic in focus in a post-9/11 world made me consider the possibility this rise in popularity could best be countered by languages perhaps overlooked in their importance, at least at that time. Though I completely threw Arabic off the list, Chinese was even more complex. Like Sun Tzu drunk on rice wine recreating the hieroglyphics; it wasn’t going to happen. I chose Russian.
DEGREE: INTL RELATIONS, RUSSIAN
SHORTLY THEREAFTER, NEW ACQUAINTANCE, RANDOM PARTY AFTER HOURS, RICHMOND, VA
Friends’ Reactions (over a few beers)
Upon the ending of my junior year, I had four semesters of Russian under my belt, I had fallen in love with the challenging process of using mediums of media, music, and film, to propel my immersion. I decided I was going to study abroad once and for all – at the advice of my mother, which I strongly was hesitant at first. Not to mention, a little nervous at such a jump.
First Jump to ‘The Great Other Side’
MOSCOW, RUSSIAN FEDERATION– My first time studying abroad could not have occurred without the help of a close friend who studied alongside me. Thank you Emily. My first time in Moscow will surely be chronicled in future posts – in much depth. Here’s a highlight of studying abroad in Russia.
And it wasn’t long before the journey was over, and an idea set hold – If I could not become fluent then, I must become fluent later.
Upon coming back from only a five week study abroad in Moscow, I was emboldened, to say the least. The weeks following my return were spent in a manic manner of planning various scenarios to return to the Russian Federation following my graduation. It was constructive for the long term, and surely destructive for those weeks after I was home. Hours and hours of planning, obsessing, and pitching various options drove myself to the limit. It was as if my passion sought to override every waking moment, to just be sure that there could be a solution. Perhaps this manic trait I possess is exactly how I get myself to such places in life. Like manicured planning schedules months ahead of the times. More importantly, I still had school left.
I was credits behind where I was supposed to be, and in turn, registered for two summer classes, a full fall semester of upper level Political Theory, International Organizations and Institutions, Russian, and World City courses. I found myself a decent paying job at a Fondue restaurant, and began working, studying, and in that fall semester alone – knocked out my international relations degree requirements, and completed nearly 60 pages of college papers. Additionally I was involved in Student Government as an advisor to high-level meetings, and held a position on the executive board of my fraternity. I was burnt out for sure, but I didn’t stop.
I never had a choice
The end of the fall started with the holiday season, and I, of course, took it upon myself to take some winter classes, thus mapping out a meager nine credit semester for the spring. My spring semester was glorious – I had much free time, which was spent planning, applying to language programs and internships, in addition to work, and student organizations and relationships. Following the acceptance into the School of Russian and Asian Studies programs’ in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, I quit my job and began a selling spree.
I figured the return to Russia to establish language proficiency wouldn’t be a short one, or perhaps even temporary. I quit my job. I stopped going to classes all the time. Hell, I recall being so motivated and gung-ho, that I felt that there wasn’t much importance to attending my classes, than there was to planning, liquidating my possessions, and formulating my own master plan.
Those two hour lectures in my Senior Seminar were a bust – I didn’t read the books, and I often hit up Roxy’s happy hour specials before the 4pm lecture even began. Though this didn’t stop me from writing my final Seminar Research on Russian State Power Ascension and World Power Status: 19 pages of writing
My meeting with my professor upon leaving the semester was the longest conversation we shared. Dr. Wikstrom was a bright old guy with a great sense of humor. It was his last semester before he retired, and I feel we shared a lot in common in that moment that we spoke to one another. Despite my lack of dedication to class discussions, he commended my work, and analysis of Russia as an emerging power. Thanks, Professor.
Perhaps I wasn’t the best student, but my heart was where it has always been – following my passions at any cost, and for as long as it takes. I figured I had an ace in the whole. The establishment of a six-month journey to intern with an NGO, and to establish experience as a young translator were enough reasons for me to begin neglecting the norms that I was living by. Even though I went on to ditch the translation internship for a Policy and Conflict region-wide study program. But that comes later.
So that was it. The final days of Richmond, VA and college trickled down. There was graduation, there were much celebrations. There were the good byes to old relationships, and the promises to my family that I wouldn’t let them down. I brokered a deal with a fellow friend I’d give him all of my furniture, my remaining possessions – and I have never felt so free.
UPON LEAVING, RICHMOND, VA
I had in my possession
- One suit case, backpack, and handbag.
- One way plane ticket to Moscow.
- One debit card with 9 months of hard work, and liquidation.
And on I went.