I have decided to write this blog in a chronological order, so today, in the first blog article of my life, I will write about the decision of going to Russia. Look, mom! I am a blogger now!
One of the most common questions I get is “Why did you learn Russian, to begin with?” and the second most common question I get is “Why did you go to Russia?”, often followed by “You have family there? Oh, you are one of those Brazilians who study medicine in Russia because you couldn’t get into a public university in Brazil?” and “What about Russian women, huh?”. At this point I can only stare at the other person and wonder why God tortures me like this. So, let’s answer each of these questions! This is going to be so much fun!
Why did you begin learning Russian?
That is a very good question, my dear friend, and I shall continue to avoid it.
The truth is that, at the time I started learning Russian, I was only 13 or 14 years old. It was not a serious commitment or anything like that. I am a bit ashamed of admitting this, but I only really started learning Russian because I thought it sounded cool in Age of Empires III. Yep, you just read that right. I started learning a foreign language because of a computer game, but then again, I only got interested in English because of Warcraft III, so for me, it was nothing new.
So, 14-year-old Leandro decided that Russian sounded cool and started learning it. How could that not go wrong? It did go quite well, to be honest. There was a lot of content on the internet to get me through the basics of the Russian language. By the time I was 16 I was already being an excruciating prick about knowing Russian in my school.
OK, I get it, but why did you have to go to Russia?
The years passed and the dreadful end of high school neared like a black cloud of despair and doubt in the horizon. I can be dramatic, I know. Last year before college, I moved to the city of São José dos Campos in the state of São Paulo. Mostly, I did it in order to finally get away to the small town I had been living for all my life, and prepare for the admission in a renowned university. Time was not on my side then. In the first months, I had already realized I was not going to get admitted in the Aeronautics Technological Institute. I also realized that I definitely did not want to study aerospace engineering, even if I did get admitted. By the end of that year, I was completely clueless about what exactly I wanted to do with my life. I was considering everything between engineering and international relations. As anyone knows, these are totally very similar fields of study.
Which is when Russia comes to the stage! A friend told me about an agency through which I could do a 1-year Russian language course. After that, I would have the option to study at a Russian university for a fraction of the cost of a private university in Brazil. By my calculations back then, after including living expenses, it was even cheaper than studying in a public university in Brazil.
Why so? In Brazil, public universities were completely free for all who got admitted, but most students can’t, or don’t want to live in university dormitories, so they rent apartments instead. The Russian language course, though it was paid, was very cheap compared to what a private course would cost in Brazil, and a place at the dormitory was only a fraction of the cost of renting an apartment. I will probably write about this in a later article for those who are interested in details. Of course, though that was the case in 2013, prices have changed a lot since then, so if you are actually interested in doing the same, be sure to make your own calculations first.
I had a very hard choice in front of me. The first option was to try the admission exams in Brazil and get admitted in one of the zillion courses I had in mind at a Brazilian university. The second one was to spend a year in Russia deciding what I actually want to do and maybe even get a scholarship right there, in case I did well with my studies. Also, come on, what sounds cooler in a job interview: “I graduated in a Brazilian university” or “I graduated in Russia”? The choice was very clear in the mind of a 17-year-old who had never seen another country.
Any teenager can imagine this situation, not knowing which bachelor’s degree to pursue. Likely it happens every year to every student. There were so many ideas floating in my mind, and yet I had no plans for what to do next. It was all up to me to decide what my life would be from now on, I was so afraid of not having a high enough grade to get admitted in a federal university in Brazil.
Fear got the best of me, and in the end I decided to go to Russia simply because I was too afraid of not being admitted in all the best universities at my first try. And then, when I had already signed the contract to go to Russia, I found out I had passed on the first phase of the exam for the University of São Paulo. Cheers!
Next week we can talk about this language course and the first impressions I got from Russia. I have already written this article right here.