The End

My time in Kirov has come to a close and I honestly can’t believe how quickly it went by. It truly seems just like yesterday I landed in New York for orientation. My last week here had been filled with a plethora of unforgettable memories and it was definitely an amazing way to spend my last week in my now second home, Киров. It was a week filled with a lot of studying and preparing for our final exams that we were taking on Thursday and Friday, but some of the host siblings still planned great activities. On Monday Masha, Nick, Nastia (nicks sister), and Meesha (my sisters boyfriend), and I all went bowling and it was very fun, I’ve never been that good at bowling if I don’t have the bumpers but I think I did alright. It was very enjoyable to get to spend qualify time with the people I’ve grown very close with here.
On Tuesday some of the host siblings took the Americans to a BEAUTIFUL park outside the city and we rented bikes and rode around. It was so beautiful and would definitely have to be one of my favorite places. It was without a doubt one of the most scenic bikerides I’ve ever been on. There was a beautiful small lake with flowers surrounding it, aisles of beautiful trees, and everything about that place seemed too scenic for it to be real. I definitely experienced one of those moments of pure happiness where you just look at your surroundings and can’t help but smile because of how great life is. Once my host sister and I returned home we changed briefly and got ready for horseback riding. Our mom drove us our to a ranch outside the city and we met one of my mom’s good friends. Once we got there they told the me basic commands in Russian so I would understand while riding. We went on a long leisurely ride through another beautiful forest and enjoyed nature and laughed throughout the ride. One of the men from the barn walked on foot for our entire ride and took pictures of us with my camera throughout the entire ride. Everyone was so cheerful, nice, and welcoming. The people at the ranch were very amused at the fact that I was American and we had some really funny half English/half Russian conversations. Once we got off the horses my sister, mom, mom’s friend, and I all went on leisurely walk and took some more photos. Finally, we ate at the little local place at the ranch it it was delicious! I have really grown to love traditional Russian cuisine and I’m going to have my mom write down some recipes for me so I can try and make some dishes at home!
Wednesday was a very bittersweet day because it was our last day of official classes before our final exams. It was hard to believe that it had really come to the end so unbelievably quickly. I truly couldn’t have asked for more amazing teachers. Larisa and Anna were truly two of the best teachers I’ve had in my life and hands down the greatest language teachers I’ve had in my life. I came to Russia barely knowing the alphabet and how to say ‘goodbye’. With their amazing instruction and patience I can now read Russian very well, speak it well, and understand it well. I’m nowhere near fluent but I definitely achieved my language goal which was to know enough to hold conversation and get around by myself here in Russia. I knew I was going to learn Russian, but I honestly didn’t think it was possible to learn as much as I did. I think I mentioned this previously, but anyone interested in an a language immersion program should really apply for NSLI-Y. If you get in, I promise it will be unforgettable and you won’t regret it. Anyways, after testing some of us walked our AFS rep from NY around parts of Kirov since she had just arrived on Tuesday.
On Thursday we had final exams which were difficult but we got through them! On this day my host sister wanted me to get home by myself to kind of test me in a way so I was excited for that. Once I got home we were going to go souvenir shopping. Hannah ended up coming with me because she wanted to come souvenir shopping with Masha and I that afternoon. We were going to take the bus, but it was so nice out we decided to just walk all the way home and it was a lovely walk. I was also proud of my sense of direction because I had never walked home from school before so it could have gone one of two ways….. So then that afternoon we got tons of shopping done for friends, family, etc.
Friday came around and this was a very bittersweet day. We took a short placement test in the morning, a writing exam, and then we had to give our final presentations that we had all prepared. We talked about our time here in Russia, host families, new friends, and our plans for the future. Once the presentations were over we all shared a lunch together and then everyone went their separate ways either to rehearse for the talent show that night or to do something else. My sister and I went home and rehearsed our play/opera performance with our mom and dad countless times. My host parents decided that for our act we would do a short Russian opera based off of a cartoon. Naturally, when they first told me this I was terrified because I can’t sing the ABC’s much less and opera. Nonetheless, I learned my part and we practiced in the living room I think at least 20 times. That night at the talent show some people sang, played games, danced, and one group even made a “How to Make Blini” video. Our opera ended up going pretty well, despite the fact that I couldn’t sing. I think everyone was just amused with our idea and how much effort it took. We were the only family that performed all together with every member of the family. That night also consisted of getting my final certificate with score reports. I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised when I received my results and I actually did very well! After that, we watched a surprise slideshow video the host siblings made us and it was very sweet. After the slideshow we all drank tea and are sweets until it was time to clear out. Once we did clear out of the school, the majority of us went to an anticafe for a few hours after to hang out and relax with one another.
On Saturday my family and I went to a lake outside of Kirov and met up with some of their close friends and it was a lovely day filled with smiling, swimming, tanning, and of course, eating food. We were there basically all day and then we came home and rested for a bit. After the rest I was called down for dinner and to my pleasant surprise everything was set so nicely and they had prepared a goodbye dinner for me. They all said a toast (which nearly brought me to tears) and we all ate and talked throughout dinner. It was truly a blessing to spend one of my nights in Kirov with my lovely family and their amazing friends I had been lucky enough to meet. My family then gave me some lovely gifts which I will always keep with me to remember them. I truly couldn’t have asked for a better host family. They really treated me like a member of their family and opened their hearts to me and I love them to death. My host sister became very dear to me over these three weeks and I will miss her so much. She became not only a best friend, but a true sister and I am so thankful for her. She was the one that would stay up late with me and help me with my homework, make me laugh until my stomach hurt, and she helped make the transition into host family life extremely simple. I know that we will meet again someday, and I can’t wait until we do!
Now it’s Sunday and I am packing up my things and getting ready for another 12 hour train ride, this time to Moscow. I don’t know where the time went and I wish I had more of it. This has been the experience of a lifetime and easily the best summer if my life. I learned more about Russian language, culture, and myself in the past six weeks than I think I have in my entire life. The connections I’ve made with the people here are indescribable and I know I will stay in touch with all of them forever. I can still remember back to when I first found out about this program back at the end of August and I jokingly suggested I apply thinking there was no way I’d get in. Thankfully, I have amazing parents who have always encouraged me to shoot for the stars. I have also been blessed with parents who allow me to try anything as long as I put in the time and effort. A couple essays, and a long application process later, I submitted my application having no idea what was about to happen. When I got my semifinalist and finalist notifications I was honestly at a loss for words. Now, I am also at a loss for words because it is hard to find the perfect ones to describe this experience. All I can say is I am so thankful to have received a language scholarship from NSLI-Y because it not only changed me in ways I cannot describe, it gave me countless memories and an experience that will undoubtedly stay with me for the rest of my life. Спасибо!