Pointer cadet takes part in Project GO in Russia
*Project GO (Global Officers) is a collaborative initiative that promotes critical language education, study abroad and intercultural dialogue opportunities for ROTC students. Project GO programs focus exclusively on the languages and countries of the Middle East, Asia, Central Asia and Africa.
By Cadet David Teclaw
Traveling through and studying Russia for eight weeks via Project GO* was exciting, challenging, but most of all a great learning experience. I not only study Russian language and learn about Russian culture, I also found myself. I learned who I am, my strengths and weakness, and how to become a better leader.
The first day of class started off with a placement test, which consisted of phonetics, grammar, practice, Russia today and a specialized course. We had class four days a week, Monday and Tuesday, and again on Thursday and Friday; from 0940 until 1515 hours. Wednesday was an excursion day; we would take trips around the city and visit landmarks that are unique to St. Petersburg or its region. The excursions were a combination of taking the classroom outside but also to give us a day to absorb everything we learned from Monday and Tuesday. After finals we had a banquet to celebrate the semester and to thank our teachers for their cooperation and assistance. For the most part, everyone was very thankful for all the help we received from our teachers. I was very thankful for our teachers and their patience with me. I was far behind everyone else in our program, but they took extra time to assist and to help me catch up. At the banquet, a teacher of mine used to be a tanker in the Red Army and we talked about the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Russia/USSR military.
I lived with a babushka (grandmotherly figure) which made it stressful, and other times was very beneficial. Aside from the language barrier which was most challenging, it was very interesting to hear her talk about politics, or the different countries she had been to. But I am thankful for living with a host family because my comprehension increased dramatically and I was forced to speak Russian whereas if I lived in the dorm/hostel I could speak English 24/7.
I believe Russians and Americans are actually very similar. Our politics are what define us to be different, but a random Russian “Boris/Olga” and a random American “Joe/Jane” I feel are more similar than they are different. However, what was a stark contrast between these two countries is the quality of living and how people act. Because I’m a social butterfly and I wanted to improve my speaking/listening abilities, I broke down (as much as I could) this trait Russians have in public. After hearing my steep English accent, many Russians wanted to know all about me; where do I live, what I study, what do I think of Russia, why study Russian? And their coldness/stand-offish attitude they carried in public melted away talking with them. Many invited me for dinner. In fact, on Navy Day the day we left for our cruise to monasteries in Russia, I was in a park enjoying sweet tea and next to us were Red Navy sailors. They asked a question and quickly found out we weren’t locals and wanted to talk to us about everything; from the weather to football (soccer) and education. For me, to toast to friendship between Red Navy sailors and Americans and myself, an Army cadet, was a memory that will stay with me for years to come. It truly shows that you can’t define a population by its government or by its political leaders. The average Russian wants the same thing as Americans–happiness, health and a good family/job with a hot dinner to come home to. That moment with them took my breath away and made me realize how small the world really is.