Three weeks until take-off.
I’m an expert waiter. The whole Fulbright process up to now has been full of mystery and waiting—waiting for a yes or a no, waiting to find out when and where I will go, waiting for details and knowledge to know… Now I’m just waiting to go.
I’ve had to find creative ways to distract me from my waiting. I used to look up random Russian cities on Wikipedia, trying to picture myself spending a year in Murmansk or Magadan. I read a lot of former ETA blogs, trying to find out what to expect. I looked up flights. I devoured everything I could find on Ulan-Ude and the Republic of Buryatia. Right now I’m even reading a travelogue on Siberia. I’ve thought about packing. But mostly, I’ve waited. In suspense.
Slowly but surely, though, the details seeped through. Finally, I think I know roughly how this whole thing is supposed to work—and the rest I will figure out as I go. My flights are booked, and the Fulbright people in Moscow will arrange transportation from the airport to the hotel we’re staying at for orientation. Over the course of five days, we students will become teachers. Then, an overnight flight will put me in Ulan-Ude, and someone will meet me there. The university will have taken care of housing for me—I’ll be living in the dorms, and I will have a room with a bed, a desk, a chair, a TV, a fridge, and a closet. I even have a pretty good idea of what my days should be like. My host contact, Darima, says that I will have six classes a week to teach (this apparently includes English Club and some kind of extracurricular activities with a group of adorable local 6th graders). I’ll be teaching “English speech practice” to students whose specialties are “Translator for professional purposes” and “Public relations specialist.” These lessons will fill up my afternoons, and Darima says I can take Russian language classes (or whatever other classes I want) in the mornings—fulfilling the terms of my Critical Language Enhancement Award. So I will be student by morning and teacher by afternoon! And soon!
It still feels like I’m not prepared, like I don’t know what I’m doing or what to expect. But I guess that’s kind of the point. This isn’t exactly the kind of adventure that can be planned to the tee—and if I learned anything from my first Russian experience, then it was that nothing goes according to plan anyway. The whole thing will be a process of growth, learning, and discovery, and the resulting experience will be truly and uniquely mine.