Logan participated in the 2016 Russian Summer Program in Russia.

I grew up in Midwestern America. I had a family I loved, friends that gave me the time of my life, and I was ready to take the next huge step in my life on the way to adulthood - I had a study group with the brightest people I knew, my teachers were all in on getting me to the university of my dreams, I was musically involved in every academic aspect possible, and I went home to a warm dinner and conversation with my parents and siblings every night. Every teenager has their drama, but I couldn't imagine a more picture-perfect life for a 17-year-old from the middle of nowhere.

And then, I went to Russia, and everything changed.

logan posing in front of a building in russia with two of his friends

Russian friends don't smile or nod their head when they see you in a hallway at school; no, they run and hug you, tell you how good it is to see you, and ask if you already have lunch plans. If not, that's not a real "друг" as far as the Russians are concerned. If dinner in a Russian family takes less than an hour, then they're on their way to some museum, sports event, or concert where they can all be together.

It wasn't until I was sitting at a dinner table in a tiny apartment kitchen with my host family that I began to question what I had really been talking about with my real family back home the whole time. The Russian dinner table is a sacred place where never-burning bridges are built and social mountains are moved. We talked about the differences between our homelands and our families, the true concerns in our hearts (whatever they were at the time), and how we truly feel inside about overwhelming, even awkward, topics you simply can't talk about anywhere else. This magical conversation can last hours, and it's therapeutic to see someone you hardly know look into your eyes and show you their utmost concern and interest. What was I doing this whole time, bantering with my family about the silliest, least meaningful things in our lives when a single night with a Russian family opened up a window into my understanding of human connection? We were living in our own corners of our home, living our own lives, and we simply happened to live in the same house. It was because of those tragically short six weeks in Moscow that I learned to make relationships that would undoubtedly stand the test of time until our years on this planet are long passed.

NSLI-Y posing with peers in a selfi