2022-23 Ambassador Reflection: Sydney Kurszewski

I’m a sophomore majoring in international studies, though I plan on double majoring in Russian. I’m currently in Third Year Russian and I’m planning on studying abroad in Almaty, Kazakhstan this summer! I’m a Wisconsin native and I became part of the Russian Flagship Program in 2021, and my life has changed dramatically since then.


In many ways, I consider myself very lucky that I stumbled upon the Russian Flagship Program here at UW-Madison. I went from being completely out of my element at a brand-new school to having a circle of friends and relationships that help me achieve my goals. Now that I’m an ambassador for the Flagship Program, I’ve been able to give back a bit. Working with the first-year students and helping them navigate the program has been really gratifying and fun, and I hope to continue being an ambassador for the rest of my undergraduate experience! Another one of my favorite parts of the Flagship Program is the different cultural events. Some of my high points from this year were when we watched the Russian horror movie “Gogol” for Halloween and made varenyky and told fortunes to celebrate the Old New Year. The biggest challenge I’ve had this year has definitely been managing my time between classes, job, and Flagship duties, including getting ready for study abroad.


I don’t think I’ll ever forget my first events at the Flagship Program. I was still in First Semester Russian so I was able to read and introduce myself. When everyone around me started speaking rapid-fire Russian, even the students that were just a few years older than me, I was intimidated and embarrassed. I slowly but surely made progress in my first year. After that, I’ve made even more progress and now I can actually hold conversations in Russian! I’m proud of the progress I’ve made after being in the program after just under two years. My family only ever spoke English at home so I can’t wait to finally be able to live freely and comfortably in another language, especially one that I love so much.


I am both excited and terrified about study abroad this summer. Excited, because I’ll finally be able to use the skills I’ve worked so hard to acquire while also experiencing a brand-new culture. Terrified, because I’ve never been outside of the United States before, so I know it’s going to be hard, living halfway around the world from my family. But I really can’t wait to see a new country, try all the food, and see all the sights!


My current main goal with Russian is just to get better. I want to focus on expanding and developing my vocabulary because I want to be able to read entire books in Russian without looking up every other word. If I could find one of my favorites like “A Song of Ice and Fire” and “The Witcher” while abroad, rest assured that I will most certainly buy them immediately. Learning a language is a process that never truly ends, and I know I’ve only just begun my lifelong journey with Russian.