A year at the Crossroads of europe and asia in kazan, russia
My year-long stay in Kazan was for many reasons an eye opening experience. For one, not only was I exposed to the true variety of cultures and people within Russia, but also to the many voices, opinions, ideas, and aspects of Russian life. Also, in this instance, I wasn't studying abroad, but rather teaching English abroad, as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. I wasn't surrounded by other Americans as I had been in Novgorod, but I was rather constantly interacting with Russians, Tatars, professionals, teachers, and students, and people from different walks of life in the Russian Federation.
I was given a choice as to where I would live for my year in Kazan and so I chose to live in a Russian apartment, where I would be completely independent, and pretty much on my own when it came to day-to-day survival. I had no one watching over me, and no one would be waiting for me when I came home, as my host family had graciously done in Novgorod. This meant I had to buy my own groceries, pay my own rent, ask my Russian-only speaking landlord, Airat, for help with the apartment when I needed it. For example, my refrigerator had stopped working within a week of my staying there, and Airat had the refrigerator was replaced without any cost to me, (and without a single exchange in English).
The independence I found through this program was such that when the university classes ended for winter break, I was able to make my own travel arrangements, and travel throughout Russia. With the ability to create my own plans, and because of the lack of time constraints, I was able to literally ride to the other side of Russia, from West to East, into Siberia. Here, I was exposed to even more of the various peoples and cultures living in Russia.
The knowledge I gained from the experience of interacting with Russians in Moscow and Izhevsk, Tatars in Kazan, and Buryats in Ulan-Ude and around Lake Baikal is invaluable, and the impression of Russia that I left Kazan with was a dramatically different image from the one I had arrived with.
— Omar Mohamad