Since my last entry I have been spending a month at home, meeting up with friends and family, drinking English cider and complaining about the cold (when the temperature was still above freezing, which just seems bemusing now I’m back in Russia). However, by the end of January I was more than ready to fly the nest once more. I wasn’t just facing a return to Russia, but the start of life in a completely new city. A really big city. St. Petersburg has nearly 5 million citizens compared to the 1.1 million of Kazan.
Unlike Kazan, I have visited St. Petersburg before. On a school trip in 2012 I was lucky enough to spend a few days in St. Petersburg; this unnatural and unnaturally Westernised city has always fascinated me. For those who don’t know, Peter the Great basically decided to build this city in the middle of nowhere; before it was a city, it was just marshland. He recruited serfs from all over the country and it was officially founded in 1703. He is famous for his interest in ‘the West’, i.e. mainland Europe. He styled his city according to European trends and there are still many signs of this influence in the architecture. St.Petersburg carries a mysterious air, which has been vividly captured in a number of key works of Russian literature. Whether in Gogol’s short story ‘Nose’, in which a man loses his nose only to find it strolling around the city the next day and gaining success where he himself had always failed, or the oppressive atmosphere of Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, St. Petersburg has always entranced and estranged those within it. I was looking forward to gaining my own impressions of this unique city.
The night before leaving, like most people travelling, I reflected on my destination. Instead of going back to a city where I had made great friends, I was jumping once more into the unknown. I would be facing a strange city, confusing public transport, a whole host of unfamiliar faces, a new course with new teachers and, most likely, a few days of the confusion and loneliness that comes with moving away. I have always wanted to travel; the Year Abroad was a huge reason why I chose to study languages. But you certainly have to gather up some courage before you go; not only to face the unfamiliarity of your new home, but to face the potential disappointment and trials you might face there.
However, I should point out that this is all written retrospectively. I have been in St. Petersburg for six days now, and am finally settling down into our accommodation and using the newly bought internet connection. I still have moments where I worry if I have done the right thing, but each day they grow less intense and less jarring.
Once again, I am going to validate a tired cliché. ‘Do something that scares you every day’. Well, as I said on the phone to my dad in a moment of tiredness-induced anxiety, ‘I’ve already done THREE things today that scare me!!!’. Taking the first step into the unknown is horrific – but once you’re there, it certainly pays off. I’ve pushed myself in so many respects in such a short period, and I’m proud of my progress.
Whilst I’m glad that I finally have a chance to breathe now, I look forward to throwing myself into the next adventure / argument with someone working behind a desk / unplanned party.