Posted by: tlnemethy | May 9, 2013

Ya Uchus V Bloomingtonia

Nope, you read that title correctly. Or at least you butchered it in bastardized Russian like I did when I spent an interesting summer in Bloomington, Indiana studying language. I had been in the Air Force ROTC detachment for a semester when I stumbled across this language immersion program through ROTC Project Go and I, of course, couldn’t think of a better way to spend my summer. Onwards to the SWSEEL (Summer Workshop for Slavic and Eastern European Languages).

SWSEEL weekendsI’ve had a fascination with words since I was old enough to recognize the characters; so it makes sense that languages might also pique my interest. German, French, Spanish, Russian—I’ve dabbled in them all at one point or another. I don’t remember why I chose Russian, maybe because in my mind it always holds so much mystery (it is written in a completely foreign alphabet you know), but it definitely wasn’t a romantic notion on my part. I suppose I chose it because, of all the languages offered through Project Go, Russian seemed like the language of the location I’d most like to be stationed in the Air Force. C’mon, if you have a skill like that the military doesn’t usually overlook it. Now if I’d taken Farsi or Arabic I would have been stationed in areas that utilize that language. Not my cup of tea, really. Fur hats and dancing bears are right up my alley, but sand just gets obnoxious.

I was eighteen that summer, one of the youngest people in my Russian class, and it was the biggest decision I ever made on my own. Moving to Michigan for school was easy because my brother was already there and my grandparent’s lived downstate, but I knew no one in Indiana and traveling by myself was just nerve-wracking. When I got my acceptance letter I actually thought about turning it down for about a week because I just didn’t want to go off on my own. But I’m a firm believer of doing things when the opportunity strikes because nothing is guaranteed in life so I ended up filling out all the forms and committing to the entire summer.

I got off the plane in Indianapolis and sat outside with all my luggage at one of those picnic tables with the rubbery mesh tops. It was sunny and I pulled out my laptop to play some solitaire as I waited two hours for my bus to show up. I kept my bus ticket in my hand the entire time I waited because I was afraid I would somehow misplace it and be trapped by myself.I relaxed once I got on the bus though;  it was gonna drop me off just outside my dorm room so even directionally challenged me could find it hard to get misplaced.

Stepping onto the pavement it became clear that I had way too much stuff with me. The information I received said I’d have to bring all my bedding and towels so I’d packed a bag just f0r those bulkiest of items. And it’s not like I packed a comforter that’s ridiculously space-consuming, all I had were the sheet sets I used in my dorm room. I had my backpack on and a large duffel bag at each hip that made it extremely cumbersome to walk up the hill towards my dorm. I began to sweat instantly under the scorching sun. New Hampshire gets warm, but not that early in the summer, and like Michigan gave me anything but snow to look forward to so I was out of my element.

Finally, I shuffled my way up the hill and into the air-conditioned lobby of my dorm only to find no reception desk or any place to get my dorm key. I wandered aimlessly and completely tuckered out from the long day, hopelessly trying to find a sign or anything of use. There it was, a little no-frills sheet of paper that looked like it had blown off the front door and lay wrinkled on the floor by the elevator: SWSEEL Participants Check In at South Tower. I was currently in the North Tower.

Gah. That was all the way at the bottom of the hill. I hoisted my gear up and began the trek for my key, the heaviest duffel wearing a red patch into my exposed skin as it rubbed me raw. My first day in Bloomington was nearing an end.


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