How (And Why) I Learned Russian, Part 4

I just realized I forgot to finish writing this series. I know at least one reader is waiting in eager anticipation for the continuation of this story. (Thanks for the support, Claire!) Without further ado, here is Part 4 of the saga. See also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

The first college class I ever went to was first-year Russian. I registered for classes a couple of days before the semester started and went to a “Russian open house” the day before classes started. My school’s Russian program was cut and subsumed into another department at the end of the Cold War, so there were only two professors at the open house. I was the only student who showed up. I spent over an hour talking to the man who would be my future professor and the single biggest influence on my Russian. (МГ, спасибо за все!)

On the first day of Russian, we learned the alphabet. Not just a few letters, but the entire thing. As you can see MG (my professor) has never believed in slacking off. Luckily for me, I had done some prior work on learning the alphabet. If I hadn’t, I don’t know how I would have kept up. I was so overwhelmed right away.

During the first week of classes, I went to office hours for Russian multiple times. I didn’t understand how to make nouns plural (it’s not actually that hard). I knew the letters of the alphabet but I had trouble reading words and sentences. I think it’s safe to say that first-year Russian was one of the hardest classes I’ve ever taken. I wasn’t the only one who thought so, as it had a high attrition rate: we started off with nine people and lost two or three after first semester. By the time I was in advanced Russian during my final year of college, there were only three of us left.

My most salient memory from that first year of college is Russian homework. I did so much Russian homework: handwriting practice, verb conjugations, noun declensions, vocabulary practice, you name it. We finished two workbooks that year.

When I went home for spring break during second semester, my mom and I booked a trip to Russia. I hadn’t expected it to happen, but I was hugely excited. I spent March onwards in eager anticipation of the upcoming journey to the motherland.

(To be continued…)

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