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Wurmsteim's Reflection on Russian: Learn It, Live It, Love It

Wurmstein
Wendy Wurmstein
BA Languages & Cultures-Russian Language Area Studies 2018

The best way to learn a language is to live it, and as a senior specializing in Russian Language and Area Studies that is precisely what I've strived to do during my time here at Texas Tech. I have spent my breaks travelling abroad on a wide range of programs, which has given me the opportunity to study Russian language and culture in three of the post-Soviet states: Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia itself. These countries are as culturally different as they are geographically. Moldova is a small, warm country nestled between Romania and Ukraine, while mountainous Kyrgyzstan is a predominantly Muslim land in the same neighborhood as China, Afghanistan, and Kazakhstan. On the other hand, when I visited Moscow in March, it was still blanketed by heavy snow, and the fur-clad Muscovites were bundled to their ears even on the metro. The unifying aspect of these countries is that Russian is still the lingua franca; the Soviet Union's legacy can be seen to this day in the common cultural practices that I experienced everywhere I went in Russia's near-abroad.

My plans after graduation are to pursue a master's degree in history here at Tech and then commission in the Air Force as an intelligence officer, and I can truthfully say that my familiarity with Russian and non-Russian countries will be very valuable in my future career. Between going to language classes and practicing cultural fluency by ordering in cafes, I got firsthand knowledge about post-Soviet international affairs, such as Moldova's handling of the Russian-backed breakaway region of Transnistria, the Kyrgyz people's unexpected dislike of the goldmine-owning Canadians, and the average Russian's perspective on the 2018 presidential election that extended Putin's time in power.

Each trip was a fantastic and crazy experience, and as I became more well-travelled, I got quicker at seeing the similarities and differences between the unique places I visited and adapting as necessary. Everyone largely agrees that college students should all study abroad at least once, but I would argue in favor of going to as many different places as possible. The opportunities are out there: the Critical Language Scholarship, Project GO, and countless other programs provide fully financed trips to study languages abroad, and it is extremely fun to boot! From eating ice cream in a sleet storm on Red Square to drinking from a crystal-clear Kyrgyz waterfall to seeing a Soviet-era tank parked in the midst of a million Moldovan sunflower fields, the opportunities for adventure abroad are endless!