So far I’ve been enjoying my stay here in Moscow. I’ve met so many people – both Internationals and Russians, I’ve seen quite a bit from the city already, and my courses have already started. There’s actually quite a lot going on at the moment. But one after the other ;)
I was really excited for my university to start, and I have heard so much from the bachelor students already (their semester started 1-2 weeks before the master student courses). Most of the exchange students had (and still have!) quite some troubles with the courses – they were totally different from the ones that got sent out beforehand, so many timetable clashes, no information on the second half of the semester and so on. However, our faculty just handed us a timetable for the first half of the semester and that was it. So actually quite different from the experience of the bachelor students, but also not perfect and it is still a work in progress. I have already sent numerous mails and have had numerous talks with my faculty coordinator that I already assume that she dislikes me. But yeah, that’s Russia! The funny thing is though – one of my courses is already over and I have my first 3 ECTS! I still don’t know yet if my home university will approve them, but yeah. :D
Moscow has turned out to be the ‘perfect’ place for me to be at the moment. It has a great size, and I have always wanted to live in and experience a huge city like Moscow. There is so much to see, so much to do! The architecture is great – I love the mix of Soviet and grandeur. The downside of the city’s massiveness is that all the places are kind of far away from each other, so you really have to carefully calculate your time. One example: my university is only two metro stations away from the Red Square, but you’d walk for more than 45 minutes to get from one to the other. But even when going by Metro it takes you around half an hour, as it takes forever to even reach the actual metro train due to the fact that Moscow’s Metro is one of the world’s deepest. Usually the Metro is always full of people and superhot. I am already predicting that I will get a cold quite often, especially during winter… yay me!
Another not so yay fact is that hardly anyone speaks English. Don’t even think about asking for directions. Most of the time they will just talk in Russian, even though that they know you won’t understand anything that they are saying. Luckily I speak a bit and understand quite a bit, so that’s okay. Also, Russia is one of the cheapest countries in regards to phone plans, so with unlimited data & so on it is pretty easy to find mostly everything online if needed.
By far the most important aspect of my exchange are the people. As I live in a student dorm near the university (quite the opposite from my ‘former’ life in Copenhagen I must say!) I am ‘confronted’ with people on a daily basis. Almost everyone on the international floors (we occupy two) is from a European country, except a few Singaporeans. There are quite a lot of French people here, but also Germans, Dutch and Austrians (I think we are 5?). (Almost) Everyone is (or at least tries to be) super friendly to each other, there’s always something going on. It never gets boring. However, the first few ‘dramas’ have already taken place, but that’s just natural in a student dorm with so many people; and you never really have your privacy or a true quiet time.
Also, the university has a great buddy systems, with buddies who are really interested in us and are doing everything in their power to make our stay the best. Pick-up at the airport, holding our hands during official stuff, planning trips, tours through the city, going to special events with us, hockey games for free, and so on. Plus, they set up a language buddy project, so I have a tandem partner who I will teach German and she will work on my Russian. Yay! :)
I can already say that I never want to spend the rest of my life in such a huge place, but for now it is great. Moscow is super interesting and very beautiful. Even though Russians don’t or hardly speak English, most of them try to help you nevertheless. Some of them are really interested in you (or foreigners in general) and want to know more about your country and why you’ve decided to come here. I’ve also learned that Russian bureaucracy is a b****, it sometimes can take up to an hour before it’s your turn at the post office (partly my fault though maybe?), and nothing’s set in stone – not even at the university :D