Position title: Student Ambassador
PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS!
Hello! My name is James Bellew, and I am a freshman at UW-Madison majoring in History. I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and have been part of various Russian language programs and activities since 2020 and am excited to participate in the Flagship program. I’m a big track guy and my favorite event is the mile (but the 800 is a close second). Aside from that, I play plenty of video games and listen to plenty of music. Also, I’m fairly passionate about football. Go Badgers!
HOW HAVE YOUR RUSSIAN LANGUAGE SKILLS CHANGED SINCE JOINING THE RUSSIAN FLAGSHIP PROGRAM?
While I have not spent much time in the Flagship Program, I plan to improve my Russian skills to a level comparable to a native speaker of the language. As an example, I am looking forward to participating in classes at the Capstone program in Almaty and engaging in Russian-language classes in the same way as I currently do at UW-Madison. I hope to be able to read Russian literature in the original text, as well as more modern historical works.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE ASPECTS OF THE RUSSIAN FLAGSHIP PROGRAM?
One of my favorite parts of the Russian Flagship Program is the weekly tutoring that we receive. Practicing a language with a native speaker helps tremendously with many things that may be difficult to teach in a classroom, and it gives students a great opportunity to get comfortable with speaking the language in a casual, conversational manner. This opportunity helps us become familiar with words or phrases that are new to us. There aren’t many language classes which allow individual students to speak a language for 50 minutes straight.
WHY IS A PROFESSIONAL LEVEL OF PROFICIENCY IN RUSSIAN IMPORTANT TO YOU?
A professional level of proficiency in Russian represents not only an academic achievement in this program, but a personal one as well. For me, I always considered learning languages to be one of the most difficult, but rewarding things that a person can do. Difficult, because it requires years of focus and dedication, as well as a willingness to be patient and trust the process. Rewarding, because it represents a tremendously valuable skill. As an Air Force ROTC Cadet, I plan to use my knowledge of Russian to better serve my country. However, I would like to add that many civilian employers are looking for Russian speakers, and a professional level of proficiency can put an employee into the “short supply, high demand” category.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR STUDENTS WHO ARE CONSIDERING THE RUSSIAN FLAGSHIP PROGRAM?
Don’t be intimidated! The Russian Flagship program is designed to help you, not to burden you. While it is necessary to consistently take Russian language courses as part of the Flagship program, the tutoring sessions and study abroad portions are much more on the side of “Work smart, not hard.” Getting better results, even for those who have just begun to study Russian, is less about assigning 20 hours of homework a week and more about giving students the support structures they need to succeed. Don’t be intimidated by the language, either. With the right program, even non-native Russian speakers can reliably reach professional proficiency.