Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, AC Study Abroad programs were held virtually during Summer 2020.
When COVID restrictions started getting implemented throughout the world, my summer intensive immersion program in Russia was cancelled. Consequently, I was offered the option to participate in a remote version of the program. Professors living in Moscow and St. Petersburg gave 3-4 hours of instruction every day using the Zoom platform. Outside of live class, homework was assigned, which included exploring Russia through excursions that students in Russia developed. Discussing arts, literature and entertainment is primary in Russian culture, so studying Russian movies were also routine assignments from the professors. Receiving the news of the cancelled program was heartbreaking, having graduated in May, this was my last opportunity to “study abroad” with the financial support offered to students. Originally, I was very skeptical about learning a language virtually. There was so much that could not be simulated while still being home, such as: being completely immersed in the language all the time, living with a host family, going on excursions, going to the theater, meeting locals, or even just ordering at restaurants. These were all things that would be absent from the experience of studying abroad. The very things that really make a language stick. However, with this being my last opportunity to learn the language while it being covered by scholarships, I took a chance on studying Russian remotely. Like everything, I told myself that I would get back what I put in.
I am four weeks into the program and on my “off-time,” when I am not studying Russian, I catch myself thinking to myself in Russian, translating sentences that I hear into Russian, and sometimes even forgetting English words because Russian comes up first. The classes offer a good refresher for things I haven’t used or seen in a while. I underestimated how much it helps to simply talk and listen in only Russian for 3-4 hours a day.
I was able to accept an offer to work full-time, while still participating in the program. Because it is remote, and my company is flexible with my daily schedule for the duration of the program (especially since we are also working from home), I am able to work and receive all the positives that come with that (building experience, connections, and getting paid), while still building my language skills which will help advance my career ambitions in the end.
I can travel (by car) and work/take class from anywhere in the country. I have had the opportunity to spend a month with family that I would never had had the opportunity to if I were not able to both work and study remotely. It feels like I am advancing my career, my education, and my personal happiness all at once.
I am tired. All the time. It does become very emotionally draining to stare at a computer all day. I have started to suffer from migraines brought on from looking at a computer for hours without good breaks. Because I am working, I have back to back meetings all day with classes in between, sometimes I don’t even have time to eat a full meal. After work and class, I have homework which usually takes 2-3 hours, and it makes for some long and exhausting days. Sometimes I can’t help but think about how different it would be if I were in Russia and studying and learning were my sole priority.
However, at the end of the day, I am grateful to have had this opportunity. In a world of quarantine, in the middle of a pandemic, I am able to say that not only am I lucky enough to have a well-paying full time job, but I am also able to study “in a different country” for half of the day, and then sit down and have dinner with my family and play with my nieces on the weekends.
By: Thalia Navia
Term: Summer 2020