Russian Flagship Program

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Russian Flagship Students

Jerry Anders

Major: Computer Sciences

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.

Ryan Berthiaume

Major: Chemical Engineering

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!

Sasha Brooks

Major: Undeclared

Samantha Eckmann

Major: Political Science

Megan Feeley

Major: Undeclared

I've always enjoyed learning new languages. Being able to speak a language other than my own fluently has been a dream of mine, and that's exactly what the Russian Flagship Program provides. Additionally, my dream job is working for the FBI, and Russian is one of the languages that they are looking for. I also really fell in love with Russian history through some history classes that I took in high school, and I thought that learning the language would bring me closer to the history. I'm happy to be enrolled in Russian now, especially since I've met so many friends in my classes. I'm excited to be in the program and to take advantage of the many opportunities that it has to offer!

Noah Forehand

Major: Undeclared

Sam Frerichs

Major: Russian

Initially there was nothing that motivated me to study Russian. I had studied Spanish at a college level in high school, but I had forgotten every grammatical concept. Once I arrived at UW-Madison, I was given the option to take second year Spanish, or to take two semesters of a different language. So it was kind of "fate" that I ended up in a Russian classroom and realized that that was what I wanted to do with my collegiate career. The further I got into my studies, the more the language intrigued me with its unique qualities and difficult concepts. However, the most meaningful thing about this language for me is that I met some of my best friends, who are native speakers and are more than willing to help me when I need it.

Libby Gartland

Major: Communication Arts, Russian

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.

Konnor Heyde

Major: Political Science

Yasha Hoffman

Majors: Music, Russian

I visited Madison in August before my senior year of high school in Morris, Minnesota. Classes hadn’t even started yet, but I was struck by the vibrant energy of campus, the Terrace, and the city of Madison. This experience - along with the UW’s reputation as a “Public Ivy” and the reputable music department and Russian Flagship Program - helped me to make my decision. In the summer of 2015, I studied the Russian language abroad in Almaty, Kazakhstan, as part of the Russian Flagship Program. This has led me to consider developing a Fulbright proposal to study and compose music in Kazakhstan after graduation.

Alexander Idarraga

Majors: Russian

Russian Flagship has brought me many new opportunities, but one of the standouts was the 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.

Emma Johnson

Major: Russian

Ashlyn King

Majors: Marketing, Russian

I began studying Russia almost by accident. During my freshman year of college, I took a First-Year Interest Group, or FIG for short. The FIG was focused on Russia and other post-communist societies. The FIG had a Russian law and history seminar, a comparative politics class and, of course, Slavic 101. I began to really enjoy my Russian class. The language was intriguing, difficult, and very rewarding! After my first semester, I continued with Russian, and I am so happy I did! In the summer of 2016, I studied abroad in St. Petersburg, which was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had! Learning Russian has taught me so much about the world and about myself. I cannot wait to see where the Russian language takes me next! 

Kennedy Lee

Majors: Political Science, Russian

I knew I wanted to study a critical language in college, and after doing research on languages at UW-Madison, I came across Russian and decided to try it. I've always been very fascinated with Russia and its relations with the United States. Russian language was by far my favorite class throughout my first year of college, and I really don't know where I would be without it today. It sounds cheesy, but I feel like Russian is just a part of me now. I'm so glad I decided to challenge myself and try something new, and am very excited to see what my future holds through the Russian Flagship Program.

Justin Magoon

Major: Undeclared

I started studying Russian for a combination of reasons. It is a strategic defense language, so I can receive a lot of scholarships for studying it. The language is also highly sought after by the United States Air Force, especially given Russia’s more recent status in the geopolitical sphere. I’ve also been very curious about Russian for some time. It has been that mystery language, the one that you always love to hear but never knew what they were saying. So, I thought it was time to figure out what they were saying!

Will Maher

Major: Undeclared

When you talk or write, you establish a connection with your audience, a mutual understanding which gives the words you use meaning. Learning a new language challenges you to find an entirely new way to communicate both basic information and complex thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It’s a really beautiful process, but I didn’t really appreciate it until I started taking Russian at UW-Madison. Using English has always been natural and comfortable for me, but it’s been really beneficial for me to step out of that linguistic comfort zone and allow myself to be challenged in a unique way. Similarly, I’m excited to take advantage of the Russian Flagship Program’s study abroad opportunities and step outside of my cultural comfort zone.

Suzy Mihalyi

Major: Geological Engineering

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 during my time as a Russian Flagship student!

Margot Miller

Major: Undeclared

Anna Nehyba

Major: International Studies

Julian Newman

Majors: English, Russian

I first became interested in Russian during freshman year, after taking Russian literature and history courses. I thought, "How cool would it be to be able to read these texts in their original language?" I am still making progress towards Russian literary proficiency. Studying Russian at UW-Madison has been an overall positive experience and my Russian has greatly improved since I started taking Russian courses. I hope to someday use the Russian language in a professional capacity. The Russian Flagship Program provides me with opportunities to learn more about Russia and Russian culture while working towards my eventual goal of using Russian language in a career setting.

Nicholas North

Major: Undeclared

Jacob Pflughoeft

Major: Undeclared

When I went to register for classes at SOAR, I was told about First-Year Interest Groups. As an undecided freshman, only one of them appealed to me: "Russia and the World," which was to change the course of my college career irreversibly. I was interested in that program because the previous summer I had read a book called "The Kitchen Boy" by Robert Zimmerman, which detailed the lives of the last Romanov family. As my first semester in college rolled on, I found my interest in Russian was growing daily. Though increasingly difficult, I had the greatest teacher who made it fun to struggle. Then (like in German), I began thinking in Russian. I could express things in a different language and I was so excited! From then on, I knew I wanted Russian to be a part of me and when I heard about the Russian Flagship Program, I was immediately interested. Here I am now!

Anya Price

Major: Undeclared

Lucas Rogers

Major: Nuclear Engineering

Sterling Sauter

Major: Undeclared

Brendan Smith

Major: Genetics

Rylan Smolik

Major: Undeclared

Alexandra Steiner

Major: International Studies, Russian

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.

Liam Tomson-Moylan

Major: Undeclared

Paul Urbanski

Major: Undeclared

Kate Wells

Major: Undeclared

I chose to study Russian because I greatly enjoy the history and literature. I came into college wanting to study to be proficient in a spoken language after taking Latin for seven years (Latin is super fun, by the way). I chose Russian because I was first interested in the last royal family; that interest morphed into an interest in Russian royalty in the 1800s and Stalin and his family.

Kendall Werneiwski

Majors: Political Science, Russian

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.

Max Wilson

Majors: International Studies, Russian