Home is where the heart is, they say

Life just keeps going.

In about two weeks I moved my life back from Poland to Belgium, and I’ve done my last exam here. For this year, at least. As soon as I settled down a little here, I had to start studying again. Let’s just say I jump from one thing into the other without catching a break. Right now, I’m working on my bachelor thesis as well – because that thing has to be finished as soon as possible, before I start working.

I’m one busy creature. Maybe it’s for the better, so I don’t get all too nostalgic to Poland. During the last weeks, I felt as if my life there had finally become the life I wanted to have there. Leaving that country was not something I was looking forward to. Things were going well, my Polish was improving, life looked good, but then I had to return home.

Which of course isn’t so bad either. I’m happy to see my family again, that’s for sure! And when I was at a cafe with friends, I had to admit that life in Belgium has its very, very good sides. The biggest downside is that everyone speaks Dutch. What am I doing here if I can’t improve my other languages? I’ve never felt so sure that I want to go to Russia. Despite all the effort and stress and waiting, I have to go to Russia. I want my Russian to become even more fluent than my Polish, and I know that it’s possible. Also, I know that after two months here, I will be longing to something different again.

I can notice that I have changed these past months. (Luckily – what is the point of doing something like this if you don’t notice any difference?) In short, I think it is independency. I don’t need people to feel at ease, I don’t need people to cook for me. It’s very much appreciated if I have them around, and having my parents helping me out is great, it’s awesome! But my point is, if they wouldn’t cook and wash and do stuff for me, I would be able to do it for myself. That is a great feeling. Also, try to impress me – I speak Polish and Russian and traveled on my own with two heavy suitcases to Poland. You won’t knock me off my feet all that easily!

If home is where your heart is, then I will have many homes. I think my heart will be shattered all over the world. I went to Poland and made it mine. A little piece of my heart is still there.

And that’s how I like it. These five months have made me more independent and more fluent in Polish, and at the same time they made Poland like a second home for me. It’s not always been easy and fun, but in the end it was worth the effort. This is an experience I will always carry with me.

Now who wants some pierogi!

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Team building with Igor

I started Slavic studies at university quite out of the blue. There was no clear reason, no Russian grandmother of Polish boyfriend, it just seemed nice to me. Actually it went like this: I was browsing through a brochure of one of the universities and eliminated negatively. Medicine? No. Law? No. Science? No. Engineering? NO. Communication sciences? Perhaps… But there are already so many people doing this. No. Art sciences? Perhaps… But as soon as I discovered this also included knowing what copper is exactly made of – no no no. Japanese studies? Naaah, I have nothing with Japan. Slavic studies? Yeah, why not?

Considering how hard it is for me to take decisions, this was fairly easy. After I had found that and did some research, I stopped looking for other things. Partially because I felt this was a good choice, but probably also because I was lazy and I didn’t want to end up in a giant dilemma. So after let’s say searching for two, three months, I had made up my mind.

I went to university unprepared, and ended up in a class where everyone seemed to be passionate about either Russian or Polish. There were people who had family there, others knew the Russian alphabet and some grammar, some knew the history. I knew nothing. It was a bit ridiculous. But I went to university to learn all these things – I assumed it had no use to learn them in advance if I’d be learning them there. Call it lazy, but it paid off. Never do too much effort.

“Russian language to the best” or something like that. Source.

I quickly fell in love with both languages. I enjoyed the worlds opening up for me since I now understood some words. Love at first sight. Never did I regret my decision – it was one of the best I ever made. But this year, things changed. After a billion trillion exercises I knew nothing of, I kinda broke down and started hating Russian. Let me put it this way: let’s say Polish is a guy named Jacek, and Russian is a guy named Igor.
Jacek and I would be sitting in our garden, reading poetry together while listening classical music and some ’80s music. We’d have calm conversations and make delicious pierogi in the evening.
But Igor and I… We would be throwing plates at each other, screaming and raging, ignoring each other a few days and then slowly make up with a bottle of vodka and a balalaika playing in the background. For me, Russian has alway been the language of passion and heavy feelings- both good and bad…

You see, Igor and I, we need team building to keep the bond strong so we can be buddies for the rest of our lives. Which might sound ridiculous, but really, team building with your language is very important in case you want to graduate in it.
So here are a few steps in order to keep the love burning.

1. Fall in love

If you don’t fall in love at least once, it will be very hard to maintain and keep on going. Fall in love once and you’ll always know what made you start this – even when you almost throw up after making all the exercises.

2. Find a music band that sings in your beloved language

You will hear the sounds of your languages, which is great, and you’ll want to know what the lyrics mean. You’ll get used to certain ways of saying things, certain phrases and so on. (Warning: it is possible that sometimes in classe, you will feel the need to sing out loud when someone uses a phrases from a certain song.) Music really helps me getting a grip on Russian. The band I’m at the moment crazy about is Louna.

I love their jackets in this picture! She’s totally badass and has a very, very good voice. A crush on the second from left is optional (but kinda inevitable).

3. Buy a good grammar book

In case your syllabus isn’t all too clear. And honestly, chances are high. But a good grammar book gives you a feeling of certainty. You can always rely on it and all the information is nicely put together. I myself was lucky enough to buy one in a group purchase. I’m very grateful to the older students for organizing that purchase. My grammar book is my best friend at the moment.

4. Find an idol who speaks your beloved language

I found one, and guess what she does for a living! If you guessed ‘ballerina’, you’re very right. Ekaterina Kondaurova is my current girl crush because she appears to be an amazing dancer and smart, kind woman. In fact she has many things in common with who I am and above all who I want to be. Though there are many good, great, astonishing dancers, she caught my eye with her maturity and attitude (not only the ballet attitude). It would be totally awesome to meet her in real life!
The best thing about this, is that I watch her talk in videos on YouTube. By that you get to hear the sounds of the language again. Understanding natives speakers is the aim, so listening to them is a good exercise. It will only get more fun to hear your idol talking when you understand him or her.

5. Use it

Talk. Try to find people who speak the same language. Write. Listen. Do something with it and you’ll feel how much fun it is – regardless of all the frustrations it caused you to have, it will feel good once you can use the language. Then it becomes worth it. That’s what you want!

So, in case you want to learn a new languages, keep this in mind, and you will succeed.
I hope.

FAQ to the Slavic studies student

So, what are you studying?

Slavic studies. (Note: in Dutch it sounds more like ‘Slavistics’.)

Statistics? Really?

No, Slavic studies.

What is that? (with a confused voice)

Russian, Polish, the history, literature and so on.

Why have you chosen that? (with a ‘I don’t get it’ voice)

Because I thought it would be boring and nothing for me at all, that’s why.

What will you then, as a job? (with a ‘I don’t understand’ voice)

You guys always make it sound as if these are the most worthless studies one could do. There are many options, they told us, but they never really gave examples. But there is a future for us. Don’t look like you don’t believe it.

Say something in Russian!

Вы всегда хотите что мы говорим ‘что-то’ по русски…

***

A few weeks ago, I had a little crisis about my studies. I had been doing so many exercices I didn’t feel capable of, it was exhausting. And then it seemed as if something snapped. Last year I was so convinced that this was perfect for me, but now I wouldn’t understand that feeling anymore. It was tiring, boring, hard. Why was I doing this again? The point is that there is no real ultimate reason for me to do this. I don’t have a Polish granny nor am I born in Russia. It just sounded good. But is that enough? Plus: this year I’ve got some courses that aren’t really my cup of tea. IT for example. Drama. Just drama.
But by now I start to be proud of this again. It starts to be an important side of me again. Somehow, the snapped thing got together again. I’m not as convinced as I used to be, but at least I don’t tend to feel something closer to hate anymore. Which is good, I wouldn’t know what to do if not this… But it will be a hard, hard year. I seriously need to work a lot harder.
I’m too tired now though, because luckily I can still go out as well every now and then…

Good things

Because good things must be appreciated.

– Some angel from heaven gave me great resumes of a very difficult subject we’ve got. I didn’t know how to start learning this stuff, but the resumes definitely make it a lot easier. I’ve started spreading them amongst my classmates, who are very grateful to me now, though I have said I’ve got them from my angel. Still, it’s fun to be thanked.

– Next week, I’m going to Swan Lake by the Moscow City Ballet, and this freaks me out a little! I mean, a Russian ballet group coming to dance Swan Lake – who would not faint at that? I’m looking forward to it, so so much…

– Also next week, a big part of our class is going to celebrate Christmas in Poland-style at the Polish embassy. It will be so much fun! I’ve got great people in my class, and it will be interesting to see how much (or little?) we can understand the Polish people there. I mean, I don’t really get any further than ‘Hey’ in Polish yet, but we’ll see – there’s a great chance it will be a remarkable trip.

– I’ve had two voc tests now, and both of them were really really good – luckily. I mean, these studies are heavier than I could have foreseen, but it feels good to know I’m able to succeed, or something like that.

– I’ve got a duvet cover with reindeers. How awesome is that??

– Toblerone. Blue cheese. Cappuccino. All present.

– I just got  a text message. Woot woot!

I can’t think of more things for the moment, but hey, there are already many good things going on. Let’s keep it that way. What good things are happening over at your life?