First Week in Vladimir

        I have been taking classes at the KORA Russian Language Institute for a week now and I LOVE IT! I am taking six subjects, which are all taught in Russian: Grammar, Russian Literature, Russian History/Historical Linguistics, Russian Phonetics, Speech Practice, and Mass Media, which consists of reading and presenting on Russian news articles. Each of my teachers is excellent and clearly loves his or her job.
       On Saturday, we signed our language pledge, which entailed that we speak only Russian on campus, on excursions, and with our host families. This has been one of the most frustrating, yet exciting challenges I have ever undertaken. Like I mentioned in my last post, now that I can only speak Russian, I realize just how little I know. But at the same time, I am astounded by the improvement in my listening skills after only being here one week. I have been pretty hard on myself this week after realizing just how far I have to go before reaching fluency, but as I reflect on my short time here, I feel encouraged when I note the many small linguistic victories I’ve had.
       I’ve asked for directions and actually understood the person answering me.
       I have been able to understandwhat is going on in my classes.
       I’ve been able to (for the most part) understand tour guides, teachers, and my language partner.
       I listened to the radio and understood what they were talking about (it was an interview with a psychic advertising his séances)
       Yes, my victory for the week has definitely centered around understanding. No, my tongue still doesn’t want to cooperate, but I am encouraged as every day the world around me opens up more and more as I adjust to the cadence of a new language.
       In addition to classes, we’ve been given the unique opportunity of working with a Russian language partner, someone our age who helps us with our language on a more informal basis. I have had such a great time so far with my language partner, Alyona.
        Alyona worked in America last summer through a Work and Travel Program and shares my love of peanut butter and Dunkin Donuts. Last week, she and her friend Zhenya took me on a picnic in the beautiful Russian countryside outside of Vladimir. So far, this is one of my favorite parts of being here, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know Alyona and her friends better.
        Finally, today we went on an excursion to my favorite church in all of Mother Russia, the Church Pokrova Na Nerli. Built in 1165, this church is rich with generations and generation of history. Set in the unspeakably peaceful, pristine Russian countryside, it has a magical feeling that speaks of centuries past while seeming frozen in time.
This first week in Vladimir has been challenging and exciting, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the summer unfolds. Da Svidaniya!