Grab your Ushankas because we are going to the Motherland, comrades! I have waited the whole week to make this joke, so don’t you dare not laugh. Last week we stopped at the moment when I was making the decision of going to Russia for my language course. Fast-forward a bit to the days nearing my departure. Naturally, there were a lot of things in my mind at that moment and I couldn’t hold back the anxiety (pretty much like now. I’m about to go back to Russia, but this is something I’ll talk about a few hundred episodes later). Would I like that language course? How would I endure the Russian winter? What would I do far away from my family? I am a very anxious person by nature and was very curious about many things. Luckily I wasn’t the only one. There were other anxious people from all over Brazil who also were going on the same flight to Russia. Some of them would study international relations in the small Russian city of Belgorod and some of them would go to Kursk for a medicine course in English.
The day of the flight
I remember the date very well — 4th of May. There were so many first times then! The first time I left the country. The first I saw an international airplane (one of the big ones, you know?). The first time I heard a waiter swearing at me in Spanish (this one was simply unforgettable). The first time I got to Russia, and too many other things to talk about right now, so let’s focus!
That flight took a while, I have to admit that. And it was not without casualties, either. At the Barajas airport, I was verbally abused by a waiter. Or he was trying to show me the menu, I really couldn’t tell.
Then, we finally landed at the Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow. Yes, Russian border control can be as frightening as in the movies. I didn’t believe that until I lived it. That day was a cold, cloudy day. One of the many cold, cloudy days I would experience in Moscow. I can still remember looking at the pine trees and realizing how Russian cold could be different from Brazilian cold. (A 20°C difference, I would say)
After I and all the other students went through the passport control, we left the airport with merely psychological scars. There was a magnificent soviet bus waiting to take us to Kursk and Belgorod, where our language courses would take place. You might remember from last episode when I said that this program was done through an “agency” of sorts. I will not name the agency here because I don’t recommend it at all, and I do not want to get a lawsuit, of course. One of the reasons to hate this agency is I that I had to pay US$300.00 for a 8h bus ride to the city where I was supposed to start my course. Three hundred dollars. For. A. Bus. Ride. An airplane ticket to Belgorod, where I would study, would cost me half of that price. Either way, after 8 long hours of a very tiring bus trip with other students that were also tricked into wasting US$300 for a bus ticket, we made a stop in Kursk. Most students left our fantastic circus carriage of Brazilians at this point, and then went on to party far away from their parents. They call it “studying medicine” there. Interesting fact: at that time, Kursk had around 300 Brazilian students. I and the other 4 students continued on our way to Belgorod for another hour.
Belgrade Belhorod Belgorod
And there we were! Finally arrived in Belgorod, which I can honestly say, is a very charming and beautiful city.
So the driver carefully left us near the dorm with our bags and drove away. At 5 in the morning. The dorm was closed, because it was 5 in the morning. The university was also closed because it was 5 in the morning. I and the other students just stood there contemplating our beautiful dormitory in the cold (About 15 °C, pretty cold for me back then. Don’t forget, we can fry eggs on cars where I come from), wondering if anyone actually was informed that we would be arriving. Ok, that lasted 3 minutes. Shortly after we arrived, someone opened a window in the 6th floor and screamed “Brazil!!!” at us and a few minutes later some old ladies opened the main doors and waved at us to come inside. From now on, these Russian old ladies will be called the fearsome, the dreadful Babushkas.
Some Brazilians were already waiting for us to help register in the dormitory. Some of them would become my best friends, and we still talk even today. One of the first things I noticed in that area in particular is how babushkas loved paper cuts. There was not a single computer in that first floor, and they registered all information about students in old logbooks, all handwritten. 100% safe from hacker attacks, though! Our dormitory passes were paper as well. To be honest, these babushkas did have a good memory (you might think I’m kidding, but I am not!), so every time we needed to get into the dorm we basically had a face scan.
One thing I can tell you. For someone used to see Brazilian universities and their state of decay, the Belgorod State University (from now on to be known as BelGU) was a marvel. Such beautiful buildings, such pleasant atmosphere, even with the grumpy old ladies! This was something that I was definitely not waiting for when I decided to go to Russia. Of course, many of the Brazilians that come to Russia don’t get to enjoy Belgorod, so I think it was prudent to not have big expectations for this place, but I had the luck of making the right choice!