Luke the Intern returns home—a look back on Riga
After four weeks of Russian language learning in Riga, the sum of my skills culminated to face one final challenge. I was in a Russian-style Banya, a sauna of sorts, surrounded by monolingual Russian speakers thrashing themselves with birch leaves in the baking heat. One friendly gentleman who had overhead my foreign tongue turned to me and spoke: Откуда ты? (Where are you from?) This was the trial by fire that four weeks had prepared me for. This kind of immersion was an experience only possible in a city where a majority speak Russian as their mother tongue.
And so, with a strained mind and a sweaty body, I summoned all of my knowledge from my Russian lessons, and I spoke. And somehow—despite the fact that four weeks before, I had struggled to say my name and age without tripping up—the words flowed out quite naturally. Everything clicked, and the linguistic barriers that had made me simply a tourist in a foreign land broke down. When you talk to a local of a European country in their own language, they warm to you immediately. Not that I wasn’t warm already.
After a month the intern at Liden & Denz in Riga, I must finally return home to England. I remember arriving on the bus to the city centre, utterly disorientated, lugging an enormous suitcase and feeling like I’d arrived on an alien planet. After such a short time, the city centre already feels like home. A large part of this is because I can hear and try to understand fragments of spoken Russian flung out by passers-by.
As a student at Liden & Denz, I’ve been lucky enough to be taught by passionate teachers who demand excellence. Studying in a class taught entirely in Russian was a great experience, and I have no doubt that this exposure is what helped me start ‘speaking’ Russian by week four. The brain is like a sponge, and if you marinade it in Russian for long enough, you will soon be reproducing its phrases.
But as an intern, I’ve also had the privilege of learning about Russian-speaking culture in Riga and further afield. From literary history to local tourism, I’ve had a rigorous cultural education to match my linguistic one. This dual learning experience is the key benefit of being an intern with Liden & Denz.
But be warned: it’s easy to enjoy to become infatuated with the local culture. And I, for one, know that I won’t be able to last long without returning to Riga, or perhaps another city furnished with Russian speakers and a Russian banya!
Luke is a history and languages student interning at Liden & Denz, Riga.
Photo from Luke’s camera role (taken by a friend of Luke).