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Learning a foreign language, for me, is like solving a puzzle piece by piece. It is an intellectually and emotionally challenging process, but I can’t get enough of it! I got off to a late start as far as learning a foreign language goes, as I took my first foreign language class at the age of 15. It is standard in most European countries for students to have several foreign languages under their belt before this age, but the California public school system didn’t even offer access to a foreign language class before 8th grade – I will never not be bitter about this! Nonetheless, Spanish was my first class of the day on my first day of high school. My Spanish teacher Ms. Herman, who throughout the year would frequently humiliate me by, for example, telling me I mispronounced my own mother’s name and kicking me out of class for hiccupping (she was a real winner), began class that day with a shocking statement.
So, suffice it to say that my first exposure to learning a foreign language was less than ideal. My teacher was a nightmare (I now, as an English teacher, refer back to her class I know what not to do!) and, at that, I hadn’t learned how to learn a foreign language.
What do I mean by this? I mean that I didn’t have a clear understanding of the grammatical and lexical features of language in general, so it was as if I was embarking on a road trip without a map or a destination. I felt lost, but each time I heard a Spanish word in real life and was able to translate it, I grew more and more determined to get a better understanding of the language. Fast forward 4 years, and I am enrolling in my freshman years courses at UCLA. Knowing I need to take a foreign language to graduate, I decided to take Russian 1 – I was admitted as a Political Science major and, because I had always been interested in Soviet history, it sounded like a perfect fit.
For the first three years of taking Russian, my response to the (constant) question, “So Russian huh… What do you want to do with that?” was ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I recognized that I didn’t need to pursue a career related to Russian just because I majored in it, but nothing came to mind when exploring unrelated career options. I grew incredibly overwhelmed by the idea of sitting at a desk 9am-5pm (sue me) under office lights, especially since I wasn’t crazy about any specific career paths at the time. All I knew was that I loved a) learning Russian and b) traveling through Russian-speaking countries.
That’s when New Girl on the Bloc was born! I I decided that I wanted to create a platform to help people learn Russian and inspire them to use those language skills to travel to Russian-speaking countries. So I purchased a domain name, moved to Russia, and now I write blog articles, share travel photos, and design new Russian language study guides in my free time!
So, that’s me! I hope you find the content on this website informative, helpful, and supportive in your Russian language learning journey. Learning a foreign language is no easy task, and you don’t have to do it alone! Ask questions, challenge yourself, and use the NGB community as a support system while you learn.
And a perfect fit it was! I was immediately hooked. I had a better understanding of how to approach foreign language learning and I was taking history and political science courses that featured Russian topics. I did not know one word of Russian before entering university, but I quickly decided that I was going to be fluent in Russian one day.
To reach my goal, I took Russian language classes every quarter (UCLA’s semester equivalent) even after I finished the major and wasn’t required to take any more. I did summer school every summer so that I could maximize the amount of courses I could take with the Russian department, and had (free!) weekly tutoring with the Russian Flagship Program. Two of my summer school experiences were spent abroad in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and I was lucky enough to have stayed with a host family both times. So yeah, I went a little nuts with the whole “Russian” thing. But I loved every moment of it.
As of right now, I have not hit my goal of traveling to all 15 former Soviet republics - I'm a working girl, cut me some slack! In the meantime, however, I am doing a ton of research to plan these future trips. Interested in seeing what online resources I use to create an itinerary to ensure my travels are educational, thorough, and, most important of all, safe?
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