A lot of people ask me why I chose to study in Russia – “Are you part Russian?” I am often asked. Well, no. I don’t have an ounce of Russian blood in my body – at least, not that I know of. But I did have a small history with Russia – in fact, it was the first international trip I ever made, back in 1999. You see, my father first traveled to Russia in 1991 – he arrived in Moscow on August 18th, just in time for the coup which brought an end to the Soviet Union. My dad arrived in the Soviet Union and got to see it the iron curtain fall.
That trip he made turned into more trips in later years. One family he met – in Seltso, Russia – had a little girl named Luba. She developed an interest in studying English, and so my father told her that when she was 15, if she wanted to come and live with our family in the States as an exchange student (so she coud help improve her English), we would be happy to have her live with us.
So, in 1999, Luba came to live with us and I traveled to Seltso (which is outside of Bryansk) in August, 1999 and stayed with her family for two weeks prior to her coming to live with my family in the US. At the time, I confess, I did not have much of an interest in Russian culture – in 1999, Russia was much poorer, having suffered a huge financial collapse in 1998. I was too accustomed to the modern conveniences of American life that at the time, I don’t think I could have seen myself living there in the future. Strangely enough, the things I didn’t get about Russia then, are the things I love now – the culture, the tough nature of the Russian people, the “backwardness” of daily life (which is only backward to a Westerner), the old Soviet era apartment buildings – these are all things I grew to understand more, appreciate and find interesting.
In 2010 when I was looking into Master’s Programs, I decided to see if there was a Russian Studies program IN Russia, as it made the most sense to me. That’s when I stumbled across the European University at Saint Petersburg and their programs for international students – it was a perfect fit for me and ended up being the course I chose.
So that’s how it all began. Which brings me to this past summer when I finally got to see Luba again, after almost 12 years, and was able to meet her new family for the first time. We made a stop in Bryansk on our way back to Saint Petersburg from Kiev. Unfortunately, I do not have many photos from our trip to Bryansk and Seltso, as we were only visiting there for two days and were very busy throughout that time. But this will give everyone a tiny glimpse at our time with Luba and her family this past June. And hopefully we will see them again in the near future. Luba and her husband (Pasha) currently live in Bryansk, where Luba runs her own English language school. And she now has three beautiful children – she was pregnant with her third while we were there in June.
In the photos near the bottom, you will notice what was once a Young Pioneers Camp from the Soviet Union. Some of Luba’s family members (I believe it was family) bought the campground (in Bryansk Region) years ago and run a camp for youths there every summer. I found the campgrounds really interesting and the surrounding countryside was very beautiful.