Yoshiharu Hewitt reflects on his semester on the Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program in Moscow as a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad scholarship recipient.
In the past 12 or so months, I have spent eight of them in the Former USSR. In the
summer of 2017 I worked at the USA Pavilion at the World’s Fair Expo on Sustainable Energy in Astana, Kazakhstan, and in the winter/spring I studied abroad in Moscow, Russia through American Councils. The past year has been by far one of the most transformative and fun years I’ve ever had in my life, and I owe that almost entirely to the places in which I lived, worked, studied, and played within the former USSR.
I have had the great fortune of being raised in a multicultural background, in a
multicultural city. As such, I do not easily experience culture shock, and I can usually adjust to foreign cultures and situations relatively well. My time in Kazakhstan, Russia, and other former Soviet republics has shown me however that I could not have even begun to fathom the richness and diversity of the ethnographic landscape of the Ex-USSR. From the bustling, old, Eastern European metropolis that is Moscow, to the shining new Astana in the steppes, to ancient Bukhara, there is no end to the diversity of places and people in the former Soviet Union.
Although I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the 6 post-Soviet republics that I have
visited, perhaps none was more transformative (and informative) than my time studying in Moscow through American Councils. The combination of being immersed in Russian culture as well as studying the language in a classroom setting is truly one of the most optimal situations for acquiring not only an increased proficiency in the language, but an understanding for the local culture in a way that simply living in the country would not afford you. Because I had access to the classroom setting, I could both increase my language ability as well as discuss cultural situations and observations that I made outside the university. This experience was, in my opinion, far more positive in building my language skills than when I simply worked in Kazakhstan.
I was, and continue to be, determined in expanding my understanding of Russian culture
and language beyond the rather narrow perspective US society has of Russia and the former USSR. If others are as interested in this part of the world and this culture as I am, I would highly recommend American Councils’ program in Moscow, in order to better speak the language and understand the culture of Russia.
About Fulbright-Hays Scholarships from American Councils
American Councils for International Education has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad, to provide scholarships for advanced overseas Russian and Persian language study. Learn more about the eligibility requirements here.
About Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad
The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, commonly referred to as the Fulbright-Hays Act, was made law by the 87th U.S. Congress under President John F. Kennedy on September 21, 1961. Senator J. William Fulbright and Representative Wayne Hays introduced the legislation, which represents the basic charter for U.S. government-sponsored educational and cultural exchange. 2016 marks the 55th anniversary of this landmark legislation. More information about Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad can be found here.