I’ve been home for almost two weeks now. Lots of relaxing, hanging out with friends and family, and looking forward to what this new year is going to bring. I still cannot believe that I spent the past 4 months in Russia. Never in my life did I ever expect to do something like that. As I’m sure you’ve all expected, this is the super self-reflectiony post.
I am having a hard time describing what I learned over this past semester. I’ll put down what I have identified, but I think that the magnitude of the impact that my time in Russia had on me will only become clear in the coming months. Of course, I learned a crazy amount of math. This is exactly what I was looking for, something to really push me and to give me an idea of what grad school will be like. If graduate school is anything like what I experienced in Moscow (math wise), I am very excited to begin my graduate career. I loved the collaborative atmosphere, the struggle to learn the material as a group, and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the semester when you realize how far you have come.
The biggest thing, as far as I can tell, that I learned is this: there is so much more out there to experience and to do. Since I returned to school in 2012, I have put all of my energy and time in to studying, doing homework, and trying to maximize my chances of getting in to graduate school. I thought that I wanted to be all about math, all the time. But while in Moscow, I realized that that is not the kind of life I want to lead. That is not the type of man I want to become. When all I do is math, it feels like something is missing. I love math, and certainly want to continue working in math, but this is not all there is for me and I am glad that I learned that now.
Russian people have taught me a tremendous lesson. To give 100% in whatever you are doing at the moment. Kind of a cliche, but this really impressed me while I was abroad. Maybe it was just the subset of people that I met, but it seemed to me that everybody was very intense. The math students I met were amazingly advanced, and most were only in their second year of their undergraduate degree. I met some music students that practiced 7 or 8 hours a day, language students that were well on their way to fluency in a third language, etc. I think part of this is cultural and part of this stems from the fact that there is just so much competition. In Moscow State’s math department, people are weeded out every single year, just kicked out of the program because of their unsatisfactory performance. I’ve never heard of someone being KICKED OUT of my school’s math department. I think that maybe there are not as many opportunities, so for what opportunities do exist, the competition is extremely fierce.
In summary, I loved my time in Moscow and I cannot wait to go back.