Likely many of the readers of this blog are worried, fretful, parents, who are thinking, “How much will my students be going into debt?” both during this trip and after. Worrying about this topic has caused so many problems in so many families. Our American culture in general has a lot of worries about people being able to make ends meet, yet we live in the United States in a relatively affluent society. In fact, the majority of us are students who attend expensive universities and come from privileged backgrounds by American standards.
Here in Narva, the people live on about $11,000 a year on average (rounding up for average income). The incredible thing about studying here, is the cost of coming here and living here for 8 short weeks exceeds the amount most Narva dwellers have to live on for an entire year.
As an alien in this place and keeping track of expenses, its interesting then to think about how we might try to relate to others who are in such a financially different position to us. From children who might not think about money to jaded old babyshkas pushing their grandchildren around the city, we have such a differing set of experiences to share and more importantly to learn from others.
Seeing these people as poor because their city is what remains of a Soviet project would be to miss the whole point of this trip, just as to only worry about money while traveling abroad would be to miss the experience of traveling. Not to worry, the students here are being careful with our money, but we are also here to learn a language that opens us to being able to be steps closer to communicating with these people in their own words. This experience will allow us to learn more than we probably realized possible and hopefully explore things we did not expect to find.