Dear Wellesley: Kiana Nedele '16 Writes from Moscow Where She is Interning at the Carnegie Moscow Center

July 15, 2016

In the second of our 2016 Summer Postcard Series, Kiana Nedele '16 writes from Moscow where she’s participating in a Global Engagement Internship through Wellesley's Center for Work and Service. Nedele graduated in May with a double major in International Relations-History and Russian Language and Literature. She hopes to continue working on Russia-U.S. relations and public policy. Her internship is supported by the Beth K. Smith Internship Fund.

Dear Wellesley,

I'm back in Moscow! In some ways, it felt like I stepped back a year in time when I stepped off the plane. Last June I was finishing up my semester abroad, wondering whether I would ever see my host family or Moscow again, and now I'm back in the same room, again eating my host mom's wonderful food and listening to their daughter (now 6) show off her reading skills. Only this time, instead of doing my homework on the metro and agonizing over verbs of motion, I'm interning at the Carnegie Moscow Center, learning about the day-to-day operations of a think tank, and also a great deal about Russian politics.

When people think of Russia, they think of Putin and vodka and bears, of winter and impossibly long novels. But for me, Russia calls up a sense of home and of never belonging all at once. My spoken Russian is laborious and obviously foreign, and my brown skin means I immediately stand out from the crowd—but the Wellesley College Russian Department was my home and family on campus, and I have their support even after graduation: this is a Russian department internship and it was on a department wintersession trip to Moscow in January 2014 that I first fell in love with the city.

Moscow now, in summer, is noisy and hot (especially the metro), but it's also festive. While the ballet and theater companies shut down for the summer, the parks and public spaces step up to provide seemingly non-stop entertainment. The park near my apartment building has dirt paths and bike trails running through large forested areas, ropes courses for kids and a small concert stage. And on all the squares and boulevards the city government holds one festival after another, with almost no break in between—right now, the nominal theme is ice cream. Arches dripping with flowers compete with giant plastic umbrellas to get women of all ages to pose for a picture. When you've got festivities like this, it's easy to appreciate the government and forget about sanctions.

During the day, I sit in the Center's air-conditioned office and write publicity summaries of scholars' essays or of the public talks held by visiting dignitaries. Each day I am filled with sobering discussions on the state of Russia's economy or on the nearly non-existent opposition. When I leave work the heat and sounds of construction hit me, almost overwhelming my senses, I can't help but focus on the boulevard festooned with flowers just across the street. This is also Putin's Russia, here on the street, in the new sidewalks being built and the multi-colored huts selling sweets frozen and otherwise, in this show of progress and plenty. It is possible to enjoy this festive splendor and at the same time fully appreciate the political and economic difficulties facing Russia. I won’t ever be Russian, but I hope to always belong to that group of people who love the place and culture, politics aside.

Kiana Nedele '16