Chester resident Reid Deckebach, 17, had an opportunity to travel to Russia during the summer on a school-sponsored trip as part of his language program. He is a rising senior at Maggie L. Walker Regional Governor’s School for Government and International Studies. He attended both Matoaca and Salem Church Middle Schools before transferring to Maggie Walker. His parents are Scott Deckebach and Milly Hudgins.
Deckebach was part of a nine- student delegation from Maggie Walker who spent three weeks in Russia with their Russian teacher, Michael White. During their stay, they traveled throughout the country. Each student stayed with a different Russian family for one week. Deckebach has taken two years of Russian so he and his parents thought this was a good chance to work on his language skills. Deckebach shares his experience.
When the average American thinks about Russia, I’m sure a few key things will always come to mind: communism, vodka, Putin, and probably grizzly bears. Hardly anybody knows anything about Russian culture, and for good reason; a visa is necessary to visit the country, and cultural centers such as Moscow or Saint Petersburg are very far away from the United States east coast.
I had the opportunity to travel to Russia with my Russian language teacher from Maggie Walker Governor’s School for three weeks this summer and seized it. I must give thanks to Mr. Michael White here for making it possible. Our trip began in Saint Petersburg, moved on to cities of the Golden Ring, notably Vladimir, then continued to Rostov-on-Don, and finally spent some time in the capital of Moscow.
The most enriching experience was participating in a home stay with a Russian family in Rostov. Not only did it expose me to much more Russian culture than I had experienced during the rest of the trip, but it also forced me to use my fledgling language skills constantly. The main idea I walked away with was that living in the United States is easy. Russian healthcare is incredibly expensive, along with almost everything else in the country due to the mediocre value of the ruble. Most people live without hot water in tiny apartments – my three-person family lived in a one bedroom, one bath flat.
I also learned that most Russians are fairly superstitious, something that seems odd for a second-world country. If you drink cold water, they believe that you’ll get a sore throat. If you leave the air conditioning on overnight, they believe that you’ll catch a cold. If you don’t eat all your food every night, you’ll probably starve to death; I was constantly having food pushed in front of me.
Despite what you might think about Russians disliking Americans, we were welcomed very warmly by the Rostovite students we traveled with and by everybody we met.
Traveling around Russia caused me to realize how fundamentally different daily life is, and therefore caused me to appreciate American amenities more. The experiences from this trip – the people, the food, the locations, and the culture – have most likely caused me to decide what I will study in college and beyond. If you ever get the opportunity to travel there, I would suggest you take it, because being in Russia is an incredibly unique experience.