Photo courtesy of Michael Donatz
Photo courtesy of Michael Donatz

Michael Donatz is spending a year on the Math in Moscow program, which he petitioned to attend through International Degree and Education Abroad.  Michael is a major in mathematics and international studies.  He also just got the great news that the American Mathematical Society has extended his scholarship of $15000 for the entire year in Moscow. Follow him at

Sorry for the post title, I thought I’d offer a viable explanation for the lack of posts. Actually, I haven’t been to prison (yet), nor have I been married to the love of my life (a proposition slightly more unlikely than the first). I’ve just been having the time of my life.
Classes have started already. In fact, we’re just now writing our midterms and it is is week eight already (of fifteen weeks). Classes are hard. Very hard. I’m taking four math classes (algebra, knot theory, topology, and ergodic theory) and a class on Russian language. Each class lasts for three hours, with some short breaks in the middle.

Now, we all know I love math. And the math here is terribly interesting. No not just interesting, but amazing. However, it’s impossible for me to digest that much math in three hours. It’s lead to a lot of changes in the way I learn. I’m used to sitting in lecture three times a week for an hour, understanding the lecture more or less, and then getting on with my day. But the lectures here feel like a… well like a hammer. If I try to understand as we go along in the lecture (which is taught a fairly clip pace), I will be knocked out intellectually for the rest of the day. So my reaction has been to go polar opposite of my previous strategy, now I take notes (that’s a first for those who are curious) much to the exclusion of immediate understanding. So that adds another time sink outside of class in addition to the grueling, but interesting homework problems.

Without going into too much detail (gotta leave the boring narration for the slideshows that you’ll be dying to see), I’ve been wasting my time around Moscow. I’ve made a bitching set of friends who against all reason put up with me and my Russian. Interestingly enough, the overwhelming majority of them are linguists. Go figure. We’ve been to dachas (think a cabin and you’ve got it) in the outskirts of Moscow, and a citywide scavenger hunt in the capital of an oblast a couple of oblasts away (oblast = state). With the other international students, we went to St. Petersburg shortly after we got here. In Moscow, I happily wander and get lost. Stumbling on a few of the innumerable state sponsored (read : free) museums, concerts, and galleries. While none of the muscovites I know play any instruments (yet! one’s picking up the accordian, another the harmonica. Should I try my hand at the banjo?), but they all know plenty of musicians which makes it easy to find a small, out of the way concert to go to.

I’ve only begun to see the big, and the small of Moscow. The known and the unknown. I have my eyes set on getting to know this city, but also on the rest of Russia. With the renewal of my AMS scholarship, and my visa extended to July 31st, I have seven weeks of vacation in the winter (from a week before christmas to the second week of February), and ten weeks after the program ends (a week before my birthday). I’m like a kid in a candy shop. I have my eyes set on too much of europe and asia, and already I’ve fallen in love with what I’ve seen of the country, the culture, and the people.

The highs are higher, and the lows lower in Russia. Perhaps this is a mix of the emotional rollercoaster of living in another country, the cultural differences being a double edged sword (they both clarify and obfuscate ideas and people), and the beauty and difficulty of the language. In any case, I miss my friends and family (I wasn’t homesick until part of home, Dad and Amy, visited last week), but love the people I’ve met here.

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