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Rushing to Russia

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At 16, I found the perfect study abroad program. There was just one thing standing in my way: My mom. 

“No.”  That's what my mother told me when I attempted to start an application for the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program. 

I'm a sophomore in high school and studying abroad is at the top of my bucket list. NSLI-Y, which is a program to learn a language abroad during the summer, seemed like perfect opportunity. It was right there for me to take with no complications—besides a gruelling application process and a conservative South Asian mother who barely lets me step outside the house with anyone who isn’t Nepalese.

Simple, right?

I decided to apply for the Russian program because of Russia's rich history and beautiful, but rough-sounding, language. Most importantly, I applied for the experience in the outside world. I'm a reader and a writer, and I knew that it would be an experience that I could draw from. However, my mother and I never saw eye-to-eye on the program.

In the end, my dad took me to the interview, wrote the parent recommendation and did all that jazz.

I submitted my application with confidence. The only thing I had to worry about was how my mother would react if I was accepted.

I submitted my application with confidence. The only thing I had to worry about was how my mother would react if I was accepted.

The day I anticipated that I'd hear back from NSLI-Y, I distracted myself by giving my phone to my friend and getting McDonald's. I was still anxious the entire time I ate my chicken tenders.  

They were good chicken tenders. What was even better is that the second I got my phone back, the acceptance was waiting for me in my inbox. The neighbours definitely heard my scream that day.

My mother, however, did not share in my excitement. 

Luckily, I'm very persuasive when it comes to arguments. (I might also be a little annoying, too.) With only a week to accept the scholarship, I decided to use my special superpower: Annoyance. For three days straights, I don’t think I stopped talking about the scholarship. I’d bring it up with my mom every morning, after school and at dinner.

On the fourth day, she gave in and signed the paperwork with my dad. The hard part was finally over. 

Now, here I am, barely three weeks away from the pre-departure orientation and trying not to think about all the packing I’ll be doing. Nothing could excite me more than this trip. Even though I can only say at most five sentences in Russian, some random words and the Cyrillic alphabet, I'll be calling the country home for a month and a half. It’s strange to think about. (It also pains my head to think how much summer work I got from my classes that I have to fit in during and after my trip to Russia. At least Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment is Russian.)

I’m growing up in a similar way to many others. I have a mind made for the world and not all the people around me see it the same way. I’m 16 and finally stepping into reality without my hand being held. And frankly, it’s exciting. So I hope you stay with me and tag along on this adventure.

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Riyanshu Bam

Riya Bam is a high school student studying language in Kirov, Russia for the summer of 2019 through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship from the U.S. State Department with students around the country.

Website: www.instagram.com/riyabam/

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