Mistakes to Make/Avoid While Abroad


“Thanks to my time abroad, I came to understand perspectives I’d never considered and make connections with others in a whole new way! I can only describe it as life changing.”                ~Elana Spivack ’17 after taking a picture with this cat in Morocco

You just came back from abroad. We get it. You’re a different person. You had an amazing experience. You expanded your horizons. You really grew as a human because now you know that you’re allergic to octopus. None of those testimonies will help me figure out whether I should hook up with the pretentious albeit hot local from my clase de filosofia, eat borscht before or after drinking vodka, or try to raise a stray Mexican cat on the DL.

Griffin Burrough ’18 presents some of the nitty gritty from his fall semester abroad in Copenhagen–notably his trip to Russia. Learn from his mistakes: either to repeat or avoid them.

How to Cross Cultural Boundaries with Russians

When I was abroad, I had the unique opportunity to go to Moscow. Between touring the Kremlin and the IMF I spent a lovely evening with some Russian students. Here’s how I managed to break the tough Russian ice between us.

  1. Make fun of America

This should be a no brainer but remember that Russians have been indoctrinated to hate us just as much as we have been told to hate them. They will expect you to be extremely patriotic and yell: “Fuck yeah Merica” all the time. Catch them off guard by complaining about your country which should be easy because we all love America so much right now!

  1. Cook them a nice meal

What do Russians eat? Borscht. What’s borscht? Let’s just say its distinctly Russian: humorless, bland, and would be improved with vodka. Russians may think they hate Americans but that’s only because they don’t know the joys of America, namely our food. I didn’t cook a complicated meal for them, I made fajitas, but even that blew them away. A well-cooked American meal can melt the frozen Russian heart quicker than vodka.

  1. Engage in Russian culture

Did someone say vodka? The stereotype is no joke and Russian vodka is easily the best I’ve ever had. That may say more about my life choices than anything else but try and drink with Russians. Everything is a bit easier once the drinks start flowing.

  1. Let it get weird

What does an American do with Russian students after a home cooked meal and some drinks? Let them do your makeup of course. As a heterosexual man, I thought it would make for an interesting story if I let Russian women put blush on me. If you’re enjoying this piece, then my plan worked. I did get them to take it off before we went out because the anti-gay laws may not be followed by everyone but they are no joke.

  1. Avoid certain topics

Russians are people too but some things you hear about them are very true. You may get lucky and meet progressive Russians like I did but you could also meet some that drink up all of Putin’s Kool-Aid. In my experience, it’s best to stay away from hot bed issues such as their anti-gay laws, the annexation of Crimea, and any Putin related thought.

If you’ve followed these steps than maybe you can break the ice with any Russian that you may meet. Or you could get thrown in jail or exiled to Siberia.

One response

  1. I’m a gay Kenyon student who has studied abroad in Russia, and this piece is incredibly frustrating. By spreading outright false information about “anti-gay laws” and the Russian people, this piece discourages students from engaging with a culture many have dedicated their life to studying. I’m very disappointed that the author felt entitled to write about a culture he spent one evening in.

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