“I studied abroad in London and Russia, and both were life-changing experiences.”
Emily Jedinak ’12
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Program: Russian & East European Studies
Extracurricular: Rugby, Alpha Mu Gamma
How did you chose your major?
I started studying the Russian language originally to complement my International Studies major. Fairfield allows students to individually design their majors, and I wanted to study abroad in Russia so I ended up turning my minor into another major.
When I started learning Russian it definitely wasn’t easy. I had taken Latin in high school, which focused on writing and reading. But, I wanted to learn a language that I could speak, so the extra challenge was good. Also, I’m Ukrainian so I had a special interest in the culture. The U.S. government has designated the Russian language as a “critical language” so taking it opens up many possibilities for me when I apply for jobs. Once I had a good understanding of the Russian alphabet and with the help of Professor Syssoeva, my lessons became a lot more manageable.
Now that I’ve gradated, I am looking to apply to positions where I can use my Russian language skills. There are many possibilities including businesses, NGOs, refugee centers, and many research positions.
What Fairfield Experiences inspired you?
I studied abroad in London, England and St. Petersburg, Russia, and both were life-changing experiences.
In Russia I did a “homestay” where I lived with a small family about an hour away from the city. I lived with a woman and her son, which was an incredible experience. While living with them I got a great sense of Russian culture and improved my language skills drastically (they didn’t speak English at all although they had lots of experience hosting students). We had breakfast and dinner together and spent time listening to the radio and watching Russian TV, so I was immersed in the language. Even in the city not a lot of people speak English, which is different from a lot of Europe, so I had plenty of time to improve my language skills.
I took classes at Saint Petersburg State University at the Smolny campus, right in the heart of the city. Two classes were taught in Russian and focused on the language and three were in English, which focused on history, culture, and ethnic studies in Russia.
St. Petersburg is a gorgeous city. Peter the Great (1672-1725) spent a lot of time building the city into a “gateway to Europe” so a lot of European architects of his day were brought in to modernize the city. One of the most exciting things I attended in the city was Russia’s May 9th “Victory Day,” which marks the day that the Soviet Union defeated the Nazis during WWII. Russians are very patriotic and serious about their history, and this celebration was the biggest one I have ever witnessed anywhere. There were tanks going down the roads during parades, fireworks, and lots of celebrating.
My experience in Russia was an unforgettable one. I made great friends, improved my language skills, and got a great sense of what life is like in Russia. I recommend that every student consider studying abroad – especially in Russia!
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