It’s not ‘goodbye,’ it’s ‘see you later’

pin-icon Northampton, Massachusetts

So I had my last Russian class for the year today – and if the Plan of Study I submitted in February to the Study Abroad Office is any indication, it was also my last formal Russian class at Smith.

Of course, I still have the final exam to do in a couple of days, and a bunch of grammar review to finish before that, but after my professor handed out the last review worksheet on verbs for the final, we all just kind of sat there dazed.

– Что всё!(That’s all!), went my professor, but still no one made a move to pack up.

– Мне грустно (I’m sad), I finally said.
– Я рада тебе грустно (I’m happy that you’re sad), she told me.

And I am – even though it’s really only been a year, though it’s really the beginning, when I shut my Russian textbook for the last time today, it felt like it really was the end.

It’s funny to think that my Russian journey is only just beginning – that nine months ago I was filling penmanship sheets with Cyrillic cursive and trying to remember the soft sign in the Russian word for ‘family’ (fun fact: without the soft sign, the word means ‘semen’).

I’m really not ready to say goodbye – I know I will never say goodbye to this language, not now that I’ve fallen hard for it – but in a really strange way, Russian class became my rock very early in the year. It was the one thing I knew would never change – that I would go into Hatfield 107 at 1:10 every M W F and see the same faces, hear my professor admonishing us to speak по-русский.

In a weird, twisted way, I ended up shaping much of my everyday life at Smith around Russian – around class, around homework, around Wednesday movie assignments. Just as it makes me sad that I won’t see my professor and my classmates for two years, it makes me sad to leave the one place I’ve found so much comfort in.

There was a certain magic in that classroom, I think.

I remember being on the train from Paris to Brussels last July thinking “I could go back, but it will never be the same – because the people won’t be the same. And even if the people are the same, it will never be like this ever again” – and that was the magic of the Russian classroom. It was because we were all in the same place, struggling through the language’s many exceptions and trying not to slip into English, and we did it together for a year.

As my classmates trickled out one by one after class today, my professor, Emily and I hung around by the doorway of the classroom and talked about language immersion, about Moscow and St Petersburg and Vladimir, about not understanding a word on the streets – as if being liminal, half our bodies still in the Russian classroom, made saying goodbye easier.

And as she kissed my cheek and gave me a hug before I left Hatfield for the last time this year, I thought of that old cliché: “It’s not ‘goodbye’, it’s ‘see you later’.

So this is a premature love letter to the language I’ve fallen deeply and completely for – see you later, and thank you for the incredible year – I’ll be seeing a lot of you in a little bit.

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