Written by Megan Feeley
When I first came to UW-Madison as a freshman, I had plans to study Russian and hopefully study abroad at some point in my college career, though undertaking that endeavor seemed to me like a literal and metaphorical world away. It had been my dream since childhood to study in a different country and become fluent in a foreign language. However, I didn’t quite consider myself brave enough to leave everything I know behind for even a short time in order to immerse myself in another language and culture. When a representative from the UW-Madison Russian Flagship Program visited my Russian course during my first semester on campus, I was sure that the opportunities presented to me were too good to be true, especially the chance to study abroad not once, but twice! The prospect of seeing my childhood dreams come to fruition was so enticing. Despite my nervousness about enrolling in such an intensive program so early on in my college career, I became an official part of the Russian Flagship Program that spring. Little did I know how much this decision would impact my life in just a few short years.
Since then, I have progressed through my Russian courses at an astonishing rate, and after only 2 years of studying Russian, I was ready to apply to study abroad in Kazakhstan. This was to be the fulfillment of a childhood dream that I never thought was going to come true. I was so nervous as the application date drew nearer and the prospect of studying abroad became more and more real. But, with faculty and staff from the Russian Flagship guiding me and offering words of wisdom and support through every step of the process, I was accepted to study abroad in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Now, after completing the summer study abroad, I feel as if the whole thing was a dream, something so unbelievably perfect that my mind can’t conceive it as being real. It feels like almost every day I’m reminded of my trip, of the once in a lifetime experiences I had there, and the unforgettable friends I made, with whom I still remain in contact today.
Of course, my time spent in Kazakhstan was not solely for self-discovery and fun. I was enrolled in classes where I was able to pursue the second part of my childhood dream: to become fluent in a foreign language, something that I thought I would never achieve. I still have a long way to go before reaching fluency, but when I think about how far I’ve come in my ability to produce and understand Russian, I’m shocked. I went from not knowing the alphabet to talking with native speakers on a wide variety of complicated issues in only 2 years. It’s surreal to think about how far I’ve come, and I certainly could not have organized that experience and prepared myself for study abroad without help from the UW-Madison Russian Flagship Program. I am incredibly grateful for the program’s support and for the doors that the program has opened for me.