Marina Waggoner


Please introduce yourself to prospective students!

My name is Marina and I transferred to UW-Madison from Portland State University. I am currently double majoring in Zoology and Russian. I’m not sure what I will do when I “grow up,” but I’m hoping to do something that aids in animal research and/or the conservation of flora and fauna. When I’m not overwhelming myself with studying, I enjoy drawing, painting, crafting, going out to a show or talk, doing anything outside, and being active. Not surprisingly, my favorite things to paint are animals. I mostly enjoy creating realistic art, unless I just need to unwind. Then I love to doodle.

How have your Russian language skills changed since joining the Russian Flagship Program?

My language skills have improved, slowly but surely. When I decided to transfer, I took a year and a half off from university and went to Russia for an academic year, and then traveled a little afterward. My time in Russia was very helpful, obviously, so when I came back, my main goal was not only to see my language skills improve but to keep the skills I gained in Russia. This program has really helped me to continue down the track of becoming fluent. It’s hard for a program to make it so intense that you feel you are in Russia, but this is one of the best language learning educations I have ever received.

What are some of your favorite aspects of the Russian Flagship Program?

My favorite parts of the program are the events. I like how the program really does try to get everyone together to mingle. But more than that, my absolute favorite aspect of the program is tutoring. Meeting with a group tutor and an individual tutor is so beneficial. There is a bigger focus on you, so you can ask specific questions and learn about specific topics that interest you. It’s really an amazing part of the program, especially because it gets you to talk, and you can’t learn a language without speaking!

Why is a professional level of proficiency in Russian important to you?

Professional proficiency is important to me because I am Russian. I was adopted from Russia when I was basically 9 and was as fluent as a 9-year-old can be. My fascination with trying to get the language back didn’t come until college and even then, I didn’t take it too seriously. After my time in Russia and meeting some of my birth family, I have been more motivated to become fluent, so I can speak with them. Also, I just want to re-connect to my roots and this is a great start.

What advice do you have for students who are considering the Russian Flagship Program?

Be motivated and interested! This program isn’t your high school language class. It isn’t even your college Russian class. It is much more intense and interactive. If you want to learn a language, this is the best way. You not only get to take classes taught by native speakers of Russian, but you have individual tutors who can help you speak like a native. Besides needing motivation and interest, I really advise you to be open to the many activities that are planned. Do your best to go to as many events as possible and interact in Russian!