Riley participated in the 2013-2014 Russian Academic Year program.

When I got off the bus at the place where our host families would meet us, I was pretty nervous and of course a bit shell shocked after a day’s worth of airplanes and airports, but as I first met with this family I would be living with for the next nine months, I knew it was going to be a good fit. It was a quiet ride back to their apartment, but upon arrival, my host dad who had been waiting at home decided to change that. After finishing the meal they made for me, we went through maybe fifteen minutes worth of conversation in about an hour and a half before we all decided to call it a night.

Just a little over two months in and we seem to get along together just like any family with two parents and three ‘obnoxious’ sons would. Both of my host parents at this point have nicknames for me; my dad calls me “our sportsman” in reference to me doing basketball and judo several times a week, while my host mom calls me “Railka.” My host brothers and I are always having fun with each other some way or another, whether we’re hanging out with their friends, or watching Russian-dubbed movies at home.

Living with a host family, and going about my day in the same way they do has given me an insight into Russian culture, and has allowed me to learn the language in context. For me, the experience has really transformed the two different ideas of culture and language into one thing, which I think is what we all came here to learn. I am constantly learning about this thing even when I’m not aware of it. Whether I’m shopping with my host mom in the grocery store, at the country house, watching Swan Lake, or chatting with the whole family over tea, this combination of culture and language is being soaked up all the time.