My first desire to study Russian came while sitting in my high school Spanish class. I was bored and tried to think of something to do, when it occurred to me: ‘I’m half Russian. I should teach myself Russian!’ You wouldn't believe how mad a Spanish teacher gets when she enters her classroom and Russian is written on the board. If you can't tell, though, that didn't stop me.
I started studying Russian during my free time in high school because I found the alphabet interesting. I am excited to have the opportunity to continue learning and improving my Russian with the awesome opportunities that the Russian Flagship Program provides.
By the time I finished college, I wanted to be fluent in a language. I wasn't sure which language it would be; all I knew was that I wanted to learn a unique language that would challenge me. I decided to learn Russian after watching the Olympic Games in Sochi. At the beginning of the opening ceremony, they played a video of a young girl reciting the Russian alphabet. After each letter, she would name a famous Russian cultural figure or a place located in Russia. I was absolutely mesmerized by this video. I had never realized how beautiful the Russian language was and how extremely different it was from English. When the video was over, I told my mom that I wanted to study Russian in college. I think this was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Russian Flagship has brought me many new opportunities, but one of the standouts was this past summer that I spent in St. Petersburg. My favorite memory was a 6:30 am row one morning. Not only was the water completely perfect, but the rowers and the boat were the best in their classes. We rowed past the old Kremlin and historic cathedrals and even a bit outside the city into the river marshes... it was just everything that I loved – Russian culture, camaraderie, rowing – all in one spot.
Geological engineering and Russian may seem like a counterintuitive pair, but with geology, the earth is your office, and it's a dream of mine to work internationally someday. I first started learning Russian on a NSLI-Y program in Chisinau, Moldova, where I quickly became enamored with the Russian language and culture. I was unsure of the role that learning Russian would play in my college years, but when I heard about the Russian Flagship Program, I knew that it was perfect for me. Russian Flagship provides me with an avenue to advance my Russian language skills alongside my engineering studies, and I couldn't be more excited to see what is in store for me as a Russian Flagship student!
My Russian language classes are my favorite part of the day. I grew up in a small community in New Jersey, so, as you can imagine, coming to a school of over 40,000 students was overwhelming, to say the least. Finding a group of students, all passionate about and committed to a meaningful understanding of Russian language and culture, was a big part of making me feel at home here in Madison. My peers in my Russian classes have become my friends, and the Russian Flagship Program has become my home away from home.
I've always been interested in Russia and Eastern Europe because my dad's family were Russian-speaking Ukrainian Jews who considered themselves to be Russian. Becoming proficient in a critical language was one of my goals when I entered college, and I had just started studying Russian when the Euromaidan protests and subsequent crises in Ukraine began to unfold. That's when I became really interested in the complexities surrounding nationality, politics, and history in Ukraine and Russia. I'm really grateful for the opportunities that the Russian Flagship Program has given me through language acquisition and cross-cultural familiarity. Every day I learn how to express my ideas more vividly; I think that's a beautiful thing.
As a freshman registering for my first fall classes, little did I know how my enrollment in introductory Russian would set the precedent for terrific years of language learning, both on campus and afar. The intimate class sizes and wealth of opportunities to spend time with my classmates and instructors make the Russian Flagship Program at UW-Madison truly remarkable. Everyone cares about creating a welcoming environment for learning, friendships, and good conversation. All it takes is a community, and ours is one to be proud of.
I will never forget my first day of Russian class and not knowing how to say anything other than да and нет. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous, but I worked hard and since then I have completed 5 semesters of Russian, joined Russian Flagship, and am planning on studying abroad over the summer. The extra language practice through the Russian Flagship Program is helping me speak more confidently, which will help me in class, studying abroad, and eventually in the professional community. It’s amazing to see how much my Russian skills have improved in such a short period of time.
Since coming to campus, I have made some of my best friends through my Russian classes and the Russian Flagship Program. The small class sizes and in-class group work make it easy to meet new people who all share a common interest and excitement in learning Russian. In addition, the Russian Flagship Program has introduced me to even more like-minded individuals that make the campus feel more connected and learning Russian fun.