Coming to HLS, I was unsure what to expect. Would languages be like high school Spanish? How much immersion would I gain my freshman year? Could I create long-lasting connections with professors? All these questions swirled in my head as I walked from class to class during my first weeks as I wondered if HLS was my best fit–if I had chosen my university wisely. However, despite all this uncertainty, I understood after my first month of classes that the answers to all these questions were the same: Yes!
Starting Russian through Russian 101 and the Russian Flagship, I was immediately connected to native speakers, Russian culture, and my Russian-learning peers.
My Russian professor, Ani, brought a vibrance to the intimidating nature of the Russian language, motivating me to learn Russian through multiple media forms. In class, Ani would start the day with a song or Soviet cartoon that pertained to the subject or grammar we were learning. Such exposures not only helped me learn more effectively (especially with cases and verbs of motion) but, combined with my Flagship tutoring with a native speaker, also fostered an excitement to further investigate the nuances of Russian culture through Kino karaoke nights and Cheburashka marathons!
These extracurricular excursions (inspired by my positive experience in Russian 101), however, were only the tip of the iceberg. With my growing love for everything Russian (from culture to foreign policy), I tailored my second-semester schedule to include both Russian literature and Russian foreign policy classes. In my literature class “Russian Literature: Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn,” I not only read the famous Russian and Soviet works of the 20th Century (my favorite being Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita) but also comprehended how literary art responded to Soviet politics. On the flip-side, in my class on “Russian and Soviet Foreign Policy,” I investigated why the different Russian states (Tsardom through the Russian Federation) adopted their art-effecting policies—in other words, how Russian politicians used their historical interpretations to create policy. Needless to say, with the help of outstanding professors (who built their courses around interdisciplinary learning) these classes expanded upon my growing passion for the Russian language and synthesized my newfound lingual, cultural, and geopolitical knowledge into both cultural and topical expertise.
Moreover, in addition to critical thinking skills and regional expertise, these more advanced and smaller classes also enabled me to cultivate relationships with faculty within my field.
For example, due to my success in the Russian and Soviet Foreign Policy class, my professor welcomed me back to Teaching Assistant (TA) for her class this Spring—granting me an opportunity to expose myself to the material again whilst helping my peers understand the important trends in Russian foreign policy.
All in all, I am extremely grateful for my positive social and academic experiences at HLS and all of the unique opportunities to learn both inside and outside the classroom.
Moving forward, I am excited to continue unraveling the complexities of the Russian language, Russian culture, and the geopolitics of the post-Soviet space—especially as it relates to arms control and conflict mitigation—along with my peers. Whether it is through Russian karaoke or impromptu discussions on global issues, I know that HLS will continue to inspire me and my peers to learn with each other whilst building a tight-knit group of globally-minded students—the next generation of academics, policy-makers, and global citizens. Despite all the questions at the beginning, I now know that I have found my fit at HLS.
Class of 2023
Russian and International Studies