Greetings from Moscow! My name is Schuyler, and I’m a Russian major at Carleton in the class of 2019. It’s been a little over two weeks since my arrival here and the change in setting, from Northfield to a metropolis of over 10 million, has been exhilarating. From classes and student life, to the differences between Northfield and Moscow, there is so much to me that is new here.
Perhaps the most important difference I want to write about is the aforementioned change in setting. I was born and raised in Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago with about 35,000 residents, before enrolling at Carleton in Northfield, Minnesota, where there are approximately 20,000. While Northfield is a more rural community and further away from the Twin Cities than Highland Park is to Chicago, this change in scenery wasn’t too drastic for me. My high school’s enrollment is even about the same as Carleton’s. It comes as no surprise then, that making the leap from Highland Park and Northfield, to Moscow, is much more so.
Although I’m only a couple of weeks into the term, life on a day-to-day basis is vastly different at MSU than at Carleton. Every morning, afternoon, and evening presents an opportunity to go somewhere in the city and discover something new for myself. I see that everyone in our program, sophomores and juniors alike, is equipped with the linguistic know-how to get about the city. Most of us travel using the metro, which is a ten minute walk from where we live in the dorms. It is the iron-clad troika upon which we can explore the expanses of Moscow. Like Carleton, the Northfield Lines bus stop is never too far away, waiting to whisk you away to your Twin Cities adventure!
Once on the metro, though, the entire city is at your fingertips. The Moscow River is one stop away, and Gorky Park, one of a couple of Moscow’s Central Park-esque fixtures, is three stops away. Red Square, the Kremlin, and the Bolshoi Theater, to name a few, are no more than a twenty minute ride away, only six or seven stops from our station. And to top it all off, a lot of the metro stations look like marble carvings! The change in background, as a student, has changed so much about my experience between Carleton and Moscow.
One of the things I value dearly about Carleton, as do so many other Carls, is our beloved arboretum (known to us as the “Arb”). The Arb is a versatile student resource: in the fall and spring you can do homework there, in the winter its landscape becomes even more beautiful, and no matter what season, walking through the Arb is always refreshing and relieving, even if there isn’t a purpose for it. Yes, my fellow students and I treasure the Arb. This new urban setting, however, is enthralling. I’ve touched upon Moscow’s landmarks, but it’s helpful to look at some numbers as well. A quick search on Google reveals that Moscow’s total area is 2,511square kilometers, about 1560 square miles. That’s just the city on its own, not its regional district! A similar search will tell you that Northfield’s total area is 8.61 square miles, Rice County’s 516 square miles, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, 1,021 square miles. If there are there any students with a quantitative-based degree that are reading this post, please comment below how many times Northfield fits into Moscow.
I don’t have that number prepared, but what I can report, is that the feelings and experiences between these two cities are worlds (4900 miles) apart. On campus here, for instance, I am afforded a degree of anonymity which I have previously never known. I miss my friends at Carleton, and I miss seeing familiar faces, but there is something about being one person in an unknown crowd of students who don’t know each other that is pacifying and relaxing. If I keep my mouth shut on the city streets, I sometimes manage to blend in to such a degree that a couple of Russians have even asked me for directions to this or that place.
The differences between Carleton and MSU, in my experience so far, are best encapsulated by the change in scenery: from Northfield, to one of the largest cities in the world. Stay tuned for more updates!