“The best-laid plans of mice and men, often go awry” ~Robert Burns
I haven’t decided whether I am the mouse or the man, but my plans often go awry. With the copious amounts of homework, writing assignments, and general language learning, it behooves me always have a plan. Every Monday, I am handed a schedule. From that point forward, I know when I need to be where and what needs to be accomplished in the next seven days. I plan my time around this very helpful schedule. Despite my desire plan every detail and to stick tightly to said plan, I cannot escape the fact the best plans are those which allow for deviation.
Unsurprisingly, Russian textbooks are very helpful. The exercises contained therein lay a grammatical foundation, expand my vocabulary, and familiarize me with the operation of the Russian language, but on occasion opportunities to set the book down and stretch my abilities materialize outside of “the plan.” Life is unpredictable like that. Since my goal is fluency, I want to ride the wave of spontaneity for as long as I can. Unfortunately, this means straying for the plan.
A few days ago some classmates and I were walking to our dorm from class. We met two ladies who were walking their dogs. After getting our greetings out of the way and asking to pet the dogs (one of which is affectionately called “chill dog.” I must admit, she is pretty chill), we were launched into a conversation about Russian domestic politics and the merits of Putin as a leader for Russian in the present geopolitical climate. Coincidentally, we had been discussing politics in class earlier in the day. Later, we ran into a group of people we had met previously; we ended up talking with them and playing card games for several hours before the need for sleep overcame the desire to talk.
Many instances similar to these have either happened directly under the nose of several hours of undone homework or been the cause of mild sleep deprivation. One time, just as I finished my homework at 11:30pm someone stepped into my room to see if I wanted to go to a pub and find people to chat with. The homework was always finished, but sleep wasn’t always had and the plan was often abandoned.
Having a conversation with the locals is the ultimate test of your ability to communicate. There is no telling where the conversation will wander. As it turns out, three of the most helpful words while a studying a language abroad are “sure, why not?”