Studying Russian to Connect and Learn

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, AC Study Abroad programs were held virtually during Summer 2020.

Hi everyone, Shareese here! 

I’m entering week four of the RLASP program, and it has been a whirlwind! I’ve loved it! It’s a strange situation to embark on a study abroad program in your living room in the US. However, the program coordinators have worked their hardest to make sure this program is as intensive and immersive. You would think it might be challenging to connect with others via Zoom, but I beg to differ. I have enjoyed connecting with my cohorts as well as the Russian students. Our conversations in getting to know one another are incredibly enriching. I do feel immersed in the culture during those courses. 

I also experience total immersion with the daily homework assigned by each professor. From culture to geography, conversation, and grammar, I certainly feel that I am at home in Russia. I’ve even connected with a Russian student via WhatsApp. 

My language skills have grown in this short amount of time. I have a deeper understanding of how the language works. One of my biggest fears has been using my language skills in conversation with others. This program has forced me to dive in and swim or float. I believe I have done a little more floating than swimming, but I have become more comfortable speaking the language with others. This program is an enormous and beautiful opportunity for me, and I cannot believe I’m on this journey! 

I’m a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, and my research interests lie in the vocal music of Soviet Russian Composers. To indeed be a scholar worth noting in my field, it is incredibly important that I have a working knowledge of the language so that I might research more diligently and thoroughly. I was expecting to be the only person of color in this program. My experience so far at music conferences and the like has been the case. However, one of the most vital parts of the RLASP has been its commitment to attracting students of all backgrounds. This fact suggests to me that the world is changing and healing. Everyone in the program is interested in some way of using the Russian language to connect with others. I couldn’t be more humbled to be a part of this movement. As a musician, I am a massive supporter of healing the world through music. RLASP shows me that I can do that through the Russian language as well. This generation is working to improve the brokenness in this world, and I’m proud to be a part of that movement. 

By: Shareese Johnson

Program: Advanced Russian Language & Area Studies Program

Term: Summer 2020

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