Jessica Peck is a sophomore majoring in Communication Sciences & Disorders. She traveling in Moscow, Russia for 10 weeks during Spring Quarter.
Bustle, excitement and exhaustion. Adapting to this Moscow lifestyle has been a bit tricky. I’ve lived in small towns all my life and learning to get used to the ways of the city is a tough adjustment. There are several things that I still have not acclimatized to yet.
For example, the exhaustion! From the moment I leave my front door I have to be sure that I’m are prepared for my entire day. It’s not always possible to come back to the apartment to rest because by the time I’m able to get back from my commute it may be time to leave again for my next dinner date or personal excursion. I walk everywhere in the city and by the end of the week I am always drained of energy. Another factor that adds to the fatigue is that unlike classes at college, which are diversified and in English (unless it’s a language class of course), the only classes I am taking here are in Russian. We have intense language classes in the morning and history and literature and culture in the afternoon. When all of the classes are in a language you are still learning, you have to pay close attention to every word because your brain in decoding the language and trying to grasp the content at the same time. If you are not using your complete attention, it is all too easy for your brain to still be translating unfamiliar words on one topic while the professor already started a new one.
Another thing that’s hard getting used to is using the metro for transportation. The Moscow Metro system itself is quite easy to use but having to schedule the right amount of commute time into your schedule can be fiddly if you haven’t been to a certain station before. Sometimes a matter of leaving 5 or 10 minutes late can result in you being 20 minutes late to your destination. Also, when you are exhausted, using the metro is a pain because all you want to do is sit and rest but that is not an option because you have to walk back home after you get to your stop. Walking so much is quite wearisome! I do miss being able to hop in a car and get to where I want in a reasonable amount of time in the comfort of my own car. Although, driving here in the city would be a nightmare and I know if I ever tried I would certainly perish because the traffic here is fast, angry and aggressive. I could take a taxi but I’m still not 100 percent comfortable trying to negotiate with a taxi driver because the most convenient taxis are illegitimate. By illegitimate I mean that these taxis are not registered to one company. Instead many taxis are just regular people using their cars to bring people around for some extra income. I must mention that these illegitimate taxis are so common that if you signal for one (at any time during the night), it’s very likely that four different cars will pull up in a matter of seconds. From there, you have the ability to haggle with the drivers until you find one willing to take you to your desired location for the most reasonable price you can pay. Every time I have taken this kind of taxi it has always been within the company of trustworthy native Muscovites who know their way around the city.
The overall attitude of the city oozes an intense, hurried mindset. People are constantly walking fast, the rapidness of the metro system (a new metro train arrives every two minutes) and the roar of traffic on the city streets. The city is always a noisy place so it is difficult to ever feel at peace. Moscow is also over-populated. There are about 12 million people living in one city. For perspective, which is about three million more people than New York City. It’s easy to feel like cattle here, especially when you are in metro during rush hour.
Another factor is that nightlife doesn’t start until midnight. This makes hanging out with friends a little inconvient when we go to the clubs because if we want to go home before 5:30 in the morning we have to pay for a taxi. Since that can be pretty darn expensive, this fact forces us to stay up all night. It’s easy to see hoe all of these things combine to create an exciting yet stressful environment.
However, because of the constant hubbub, there is never an excuse to be bored. There is so much to see and so many opportunities to gain a better understanding of the culture, language and people here. In that sense, living in the city is exciting! My study abroad experience in Moscow is giving me the opportunity to take advantage of it all and that thrill is why I am here. So perhaps being ill adapted to some extent is best because, otherwise, I might get bored.