Hey everyone, my name is Jevgēnijs and I come from a small but marvelous country of Latvia. If my name sounds complicated to you then call me Eugène, Eugen, Evgeny or simply Billy Bob.
Why would I start mentioning different forms of my name in the very beginning of the post? It is essential for a person, who decides to study abroad. You first realize that people might have problems pronouncing your name once you get out of your home country. I faced this complexity for the first time when I moved for a semester to the Netherlands. That’s a funny time to remember when professors tried to murmur my name confusingly: “Dzhevg… Jevdzh… Gevg…Ahhh”. Not even mentioning my surname, which is even more complicated (Rjaščenko). So pretty much everyone gave up already on my first name and moved on calling others. More than that, these scary names continued to pursuit me in Estonia and beyond.
After my undergrad studies I decided to move on and study Baltic Sea Region studies. I really think that the region is booming and becoming more important for the EU and even on greater scale, right? And what is the best place to study Baltic Sea Region if not in the Baltic States? Hah, correct! At that point I wanted my graduate studies to be in English, wanted to live abroad for a while and wanted to meet new people of course. Furthermore, before I moved to Tartu I had been to Estonia just once. Once I walked from Valka to Valga, ghm. It is pathetic for Latvian, isn’t it? So I decided to fix the problem and moved to this wonderful city of Tartu for a semester.
At this point I will just say – you have to see it to believe it. Tartu is a perfect place not only for a student who wants to study but also for a student who wants his live to become more colorful (by color I mean all four seasons that are changing while you study, well, not only that). As soon as you enter the university you face a myriad of proposals what to do and what to get involved in. However, Tartu is also a perfect place if you prefer to be alone. You already know that Estonians are not the ones who will try to intimidate you or overburden with talking and proposals of going out. Thus you have an excellent option to go out with your photo camera and grasp all those sites around you. By the way, Tartu is a perfect city if you are a runner or a walker.
I would personally say that I’ve spent one of the best times of my live in that city despite the fact that I didn’t really look for adventures on Rüütli Street and left just after four months. The reason I left is that the University of Tartu is awesome in providing students with study abroad options. The University is so awesome that it got involved into the three-party cooperation over the Atlantis program that united University of Tartu (UT), Collegium Civitas (CC) in Poland and West Virginia University (WVU) in America.
I continued my academic studies in Warsaw and later moved on to West Virginia, from where I’m currently writing this blog entry. It is a great feeling to represent something small in something that is as huge as America. I am representing not only Latvia in my Rīga T-shirt but also University of Tartu, Estonia and the Baltic States. However, you later realize that coming from Europe you also and mainly represent Europe because mostly people don’t know where Latvia, University of Tartu, Estonia and the Baltic States are.
I’m constantly wondering of myself that I’ve made this trip from the Baltic States to the United States. Of course, it’s not a big deal anymore to fly from one continent to another; however, it brings so much joy to see things that you’d seen previously only in the movies, for instance, yellow and red water hydrants on streets, skyscrapers, cars with automatic transmissions, Ford Mustangs etc. America is full of huge trucks and big cars; almost nobody rides a bicycle and if you prefer walking then just forget about that, there are no sidewalks in America, except for big cities. But also big cities like Pittsburgh or Atlanta aren’t suitable for walking because they’re big and spread out. Thus one of the first advices I received was to get a car or to find a friend who owns a car. Second option sounded more appealing.
Talking about America is hard not to mention food. Americans are crazy about the food and sauces, BUT, don’t put ketchup on pizzas, it’s illegal and punishable by Americans around you. Fast food is everywhere and all around you. When you’re driving on interstate every city you drive by has a fast food complex with various restaurants but McDonald’s. There are lots of McDonald’s restaurants in America but there are even more not McDonald’s restaurants in America, what is obvious. However, the best part in the American restaurants is the refill. You don’t pay for a drink; you pay for a cup that is refillable every time you want. That’s a democracy a want to see in the Baltic States!
Once we decided to get some food on our way back from Atlanta. At the desk a cashier asked my name to call me later for the order, and since Americans are usually talkative, they like making compliments about the things they see around etc. If a person likes somebody’s shoes he will just shout from another side of the street: “Hey, nice shoes buddy, like them!” No, cashier didn’t make any compliments but I was forced to chat a little bit what I’m not used to do while buying fast food. Anyway, at the end of the day I didn’t tell my name: “It’s long and complicated, you won’t get it” – I said. And so I left the desk without saying the cashier my name simply because it’s alien for an American ear. To fix the problem we decided to come up with an American name for me for buying fast food in America – now you can call me Billy Bob, not Dzhevgeni, Jevdzheny or Gevgeniy anymore.
My American experience doesn’t end with cars or fast food. The main reason I came to the US is because of the studies. The West Virginia University (WVU) is a huge student-making machine with around 30,000 students that is located in a city of Morgantown, which also has around 30,000 inhabitants. The thing I want to stress is that even though most students have to pay for their studies they receive a lot of services provided by the WVU. It’s still hard to imagine that somewhere in the Baltic States a university would provide free public transport for students, huge music festival like the Fall Fest in Morgantown, free food, movies and attractions in the evenings, elaborate sports center with 15 meters climbing wall, trips, free American football games, bowling center etc. It seems that being a student is good but being a student in America is a little better.
My international life started with Tartu, moved to Warsaw and currently proceeds in the US. I’ve started with a smaller country and ended up with one of the biggest. However, the biggest wouldn’t be possible without the smallest. Go to Estonia, apply to the University of Tartu and make your dreams come true, and the UT will assist you in that.
Author: Jevgēnijs Rjaščenko, Latvia