Christian Witman reflects on his semester on the Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program in Moscow as a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad scholarship recipient.
Thinking back on my study abroad experience isn’t something that requires much effort. After living almost four months in Russia, that experience has become part of who I am. What is studying abroad anyway? It can be scary, fun, awarding, essentially what it comes down to is what you make of your abroad experience. The cards are in your hands and you are the deciding factor. Thanks to American Councils, I was lucky enough to have an amazing set of cards in my hands. I along with the other students on the Russian Language Area Studies Program were supplied with endless opportunities.
I can’t even begin to explain how complex of a place Russia is. However, I feel as though I was enlightened. Every week our group went on excursions that were specifically designed to teach us about Russian culture. The excursions often had a guide that would inform us about the significance of the point of interest. We went to Borodino and watched a battle reenactment of Napoleon’s army from the War of 1812. We went to countless Museums and saw the beauties of Russian art. One excursion that I particularly liked was when we went to an elementary/middle school. It was interesting to sit in a real Russian classroom to see how the youth interacted and learned in school. It reminded me of my time in middle school and brought back memories and feelings of nostalgia. We took a group trip to Sochi and saw the Olympics park and one of Stalin’s “dachas”. Other than that, we were given free time to travel. Some students on our program went to Irkutsk, Kazan, and other cities while I went to Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad. I am a World War II geek and wanted to see where the infamous battle of Stalingrad occurred. I also had enough time to travel to Saint Petersburg, which is probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever been in. All of that being said, Moscow is still my favorite. Nothing can compare to the hustle and energy of Moscow, which seems like it is in the air being consumed by everyone whether they like it or not.
Lastly, I think it is vital to mention classes and the University. The key to learning is surrounded mostly by one factor, the professor. At Moscow International University the faculty of Russian language are sublime. These professors are all very talented and have been teaching for decades. They made us feel comfortable in class and made it easy to communicate. There wasn’t a time when I dreaded to get out of bed in the morning and go to class. On the contrary, I felt excited to go to class and spend time with my classmates and professors. My Russian was getting better every day and it was obvious. Each day in class we discussed diverse and intriguing topics which helped us learn Russian.
Those four months in Russia will forever have an impact on my soul.
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.