Sunday, August 11, 2013

The First Post

Dear Readers,

As my departure for Europe and Russia draws ever closer, I've decided it's time to figure out this whole blog thing. This will be my first ever blog, and while I enjoy writing, I've never consistently maintained a diary. So, this will be a work in progress and hopefully I will stay in a good habit of writing, and hopefully the writing will be interesting.

The blog is free to access, and available for all of those who are interested in hearing about a young American's Siberian travels. For those who do not know, I will be working as an English Teaching Assistant in the Russian city of Novosibirsk at Novosibirsk State Pedagogical University for 9 months from September to June.

Novosibirsk is the third largest city in Russia with a population of 1.4 million. It is located about halfway down the trans-siberian railroad, quite close to the east-west midpoint of the Russian Federation, on the banks of the Ob river (one of the 10 largest rivers in the world). It was founded as a transit hub due to the development of the railroad in addition to river transport. Later, the Soviet authorities established significant heavy industry in Novosibirsk due to its proximity to Siberian resources as well as its location far from Russia's long borders and dangerous neighbors. During the Second World War thousands of refugees as well as numerous factories were evacuated to Novosibirsk, swelling the young city with many new residents. In the 1960s, Novosibirsk became the youngest city to reach 1,000,000 citizens in the 20th century.

You're probably wondering at this point what the weather is like. As I'm going to be there from September to June, it's going to be cold. It is Siberia after all, and literally every person (mostly Americans) I have mentioned my location to have said "Oh, it must be cold there!" I'm almost tempted to do a research study on the American cultural perception of "Siberia," which is probably based on their Cold War history knowledge and James Bond movies - Gulags, snow, darkness, secret military facilities, etc. But yes, it will be very cold.

So why do I want to go there? Because it's cold. And because no one else I know wants to go there. I've always been a bit of a contrarian, or as my mother would say, "I march to the beat of my own drummer." I never read Harry Potter because everyone else loved it. I don't listen to pop music because everyone else does - it took me years to warm to Coldplay and they are basically the standard bearers of my musical genre. I didn't learn Spanish and travel to the Mediterranean because that's what everyone else wants to do. No, I want to go to Siberia because I want to gain some perspective. I want to experience a long cold winter to appreciate summer that much more on the other side. I want to live independently far away from home with people who see the world differently than I do. I want to be able to say "I was in Siberia for a year, this is what it was like."

To that end, I will be writing this blog for the next year. Hopefully I'll get some good pictures and videos to go along with the countless paragraphs of ramblings and descriptions. In addition to my teaching duties, I will be doing a small research project on sport culture in Siberia. Initially I planned on studying track and field, but I may expand that to sports in general since the major track meets are summer events (including the Track and Field World Championships in Moscow going on right now!!!). So there will be some of that here as well.

So bookmark this page! And come back and see what's going on from time to time. Assuming I ever get my Visa, I will be setting sail on September 10th (less than 1 month to go!) and updating every few days. 

Добро пожаловать в Сибирь!

Alex McGrath


  1. Hi Alex,

    sounds like an awesome adventure! You are going to my hometown. If you have any questions, or need help with something, let me know. I might be able, and certainly willing, to help.


  2. I will be sure to follow your blog! I can't wait to read about your adventures, perceptions, and opinions, starting with your experience in Moscow airport, going through customs, and flight from Moscow to Novosibirsk. Unless you are taking a train, which can be a life changing experience in itself! :)



  3. Alex - I spent a year in Russia my junior year at Middlebury. I sent you a FB message which is likely in your spam mailbox, check it out. Sounds like you'll have a great year! You will soon discover the soul of Russia...