Why Russia?

When I tell people about my major, my future plans, or where I decided to spend my semester abroad, people always ask why. Why Russia? It’s a legitimate question; one I’m never quite sure how to answer. I started studying Russian on a whim and a desire to sleep for an extra half hour, and ended up completely falling in love with the subject. In the two years since, most of my academic life has revolved around Russian. The summer after my freshman year was spent studying Russian. I did a program last spring that took me from Moscow to Beijing on the Trans-Siberian Express. This fall, I’ve been living and studying in Saint Petersburg. Needless to say, I’ve spent many hours studying Russian. Still, the question remains: why?

Russia has an absolutely fascinating history. I’ve been to towns here that were built over a thousand years ago. Even though Saint Petersburg itself is far newer, there seems to be an interesting bit of history around every corner. Especially in the city center, every building has an interesting past, and there’s a museum around every corner. Every day brings something new to see, from exhibits to concerts to ballet and opera. Still, none of that explains what I love so much about studying Russian.

Above all else, I love studying Russian for the way it connects me to people. Learning a new language is incredible, in that it opens up an entirely new world of people to meet and new viewpoints to experience. The Russians I have had the privilege of getting to know are some of the kindest and most welcoming people imaginable. From my tutor, Ira, who is busy studying not one but three foreign languages and yet still finds time to help me with Russian, to my host mom, Natasha, who opened up her home to me and might worry about my well being as much as if not more than my mother, the people of Saint Petersburg have made me feel like one of their own. The other Americans with whom I have studied Russian, both my group of friends here and those at home, are some of the best friends I have. Being in an intense language program together creates strong friendships, born among the exhaustive process of completely relearning how to express yourself in a new tongue.

So, why do I study Russian? The simple answer is, for the people, for those I have met already and loved, and for those I will meet in the future. It isn’t the most obvious choice of a specialty, or one I would have known to expect in high school, but one I will forever be glad to have chosen.

By: Isabella Chaney

Program: Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies

Term: Fall 2017

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