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Graduate studies in the Russian Federation: Mixed emotions

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Hi, Everyone!

in a few months (if all goes well) i should be entering graduate school in either one of Russia's largest cities (Moscow or St. Petersburg). I study and love Russian history, you see. So, to finally be going there is absolutely amazing. not only that, but there's been quite a mess in my family lately. so, going to school (anywhere really) acts as a kind of reprieve from the madness. Also, i should mention that going to school abroad has become more and more attractive to me as i've become more and more bored at home -- i feel like i'm in a rut and studying abroad could fix that. Plus, all of my former Russian history/politics professors studied in Russia.

But, and here's the problem, i'm also really, really scared: I'm leaving the security and comforts of home (for the very first time in my life) for a very different country. Now add to this, the absolutely terrifying pep talk my mom gave me. My mom kind of worried me the other night by warning me of the possible dangers lurking in the city -- stuff that could happen in any city, really. Because the picture she painted was so graphic, i fear for my safety (none of this stuff crossed my mind before. I guess because i earned my Bachelor's degree in a city close to home without any problem). she thinks that because i'm a shy person i won't be able to survive or defend myself, if need be.

I'm scared. I'm afraid of leaving my mom and home. i'm afraid that something terrible will happen to me (and i'd have to return home a failure). i wake up like a million times a night fretting the day i have to leave. i'm terrified, absolutely terrified. have i made the wrong decision? its too late to apply closer to home. what do i do? what would you do? have you studied in Russia? how'd you like it?

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Leaving home for the first time is scary for anybody, at any age. The best you can do, really, is embrace the fear and keep on, or quit. In the end, millions of people leave home every day, and most of them end up alright, and so will you. It was pretty shitty of your mother to freak you out like that, but I suspect she's doing it because she, too, is very scared for you, because she knows about as much about your future as you do. 


As regards Russia, I'm not really sure what the question is. Are you asking about studying in Russia or living in Russia? If the latter, you need to give us more information about what and where you're studying. As regards living, Russia's a pretty closed society (as all European societies are, compared to the US), and you will struggle with daily life if you don't speak Russian, but that aside, people are generally friendly and there's a huge expat community in Moscow (don't know about St. Petersburg), and all the shit you hear in the west about homophobia and sexism and violence is at least 60% exaggerated. Just, you know, keep your mind and eyes open, and you should have no trouble at all. All the expats I know who live in Russia love it there.

Edited by ExponentialDecay
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Leaving home for the first time can be scary. It will probably feel weird and take time to get used to your new city -- but that's true for any big life change. There are a lot of big and small things to learn, including anything from what streets are safe at night to using the local transportation system to what brand of toilet paper is your favorite. You'll figure it out. It's just important to remember that it won't happen overnight, but within a few weeks or months things will look different. When you first arrive you'll want to take measures to stay safe, which might include reading up on the city before you arrive, talking to local foreigners about their experiences, getting involved in the expat community once you arrive, and generally erring on the side of caution until you are better acquainted with your surroundings. None of what I'm proposing here is specific to Russia, they are general things you should do any time you are in a new place.


I understand your mother's fear. Any mother would be worried the first time her child leaves home and goes to live far away, and I am sure this fear is compounded by the fact that the only things she knows about Russia are what she reads in the newspaper. I know nothing in particular about Russia, but one thing I do know is that the news likes to reports on bad things that make good headlines; no country I actually know anything about is anything like what you might imagine from just reading the news. So, as suggested above me, keep your mind and eyes open, and I am sure you will have a great experience.

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Hello,, Elle473

I totally understand why you feel uneasy about going to study abroad, especially to Russia. I myself actually was born in Moscow and lived here for most of my life, including undergrad years. Perhaps, I've just been so lucky, but I've never got into any kind of trouble on the city streets in Moscow, not even once. Certainly, like in any big city (think NYC), there are places to avoid, but it is all about common sense. i can't tell much about St.Petersburg, though.

Many foreigners are worried about homophobia and sexism in Russia. Certainly, media reports make an impresion that it is dangerous for LGBTQ individuals just to appear on Moscow streets. In reality, of course, it is not the case. I have to admit that most of Russian population still does not approve homosexuality, but most people also think it is unacceptable to interfere into affairs of others. So, homosexual behavior in public can be silently frowned upon, but no more than that. The situation keeps improving, especially among younger Russians.

Concerning the recent homophobic legislature, it is important to understand that legal system in Russia is very subjective. It's a defeciency, but in this particular case it is a positive thing, Of course, Russian officials know that Western countries are sensitive about homophobia, so there is zero chance that any foreigner would be prosecuted for so called "homosexual propoganda" or staff like that.

Sexism, unfortunately, is also a part of our life, but it is also pretty harmless. In majority of cases it shows itself as chivalrous behavior of men towards women, for instance opening doors for them.

Many foreigners describe Russians as unfriendly, but that is also not the case. It is just that showing emotions in public makes many people here feel insecure. So, if someone does not smile back, that does not mean she is hostile toward you.

In general, if you speak Russian, you will be fine in Moscow. If you do not, just ask some of fellow students, I am sure there'll be lots of people willing to help out a foreigner.

If you have any questions, feel free to PM me.

Edited by J.Makarov
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