Claudia’s journey with Russian language and culture began with her high school and the Pushkin Summer Institute. While she enjoyed her domestic studies, she knew that studying a foreign language in the US and abroad are very different experiences, and she craved interactive aspects of learning a language abroad. For this reason, Claudia applied to NSLI-Y and participated in the Russian summer program in Latvia in 2017. Upon her return, Claudia enrolled at the University of Wisconsin – Madison to continue her language study through the Russian Flagship program while earning a degree in political science. Her dedication and curiosity has remained, as she has spent time in St. Petersburg, participating in American Councils’ Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program (RLASP), studied for a year at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and interned in Kazakhstan.

Claudia reports that her NSLI-Y experience has influenced her in a variety of ways. She learned to embrace and appreciate her Latinx identity more, noting that “While there were not a lot of Latinx individuals when I studied, I learned to share about my culture, as well as being open to learn about different cultures.” Her NSLI-Y experience also strongly influenced her professional and academic endeavors, through opening a lot of academic opportunities. Claudia notes that Russian has “incentivized me to further my language knowledge at college and through the Russian Flagship program. This experience has allowed me to understand more than just the language, such as the culture, and apply it more professionally.”

Claudia making pelmeni in Daugavpils, Latvia on her NSLI-Y Russian Program

There are a few other aspects of Claudia’s NSLI-Y experience that have remained at the forefront of her memory. Among her favorite memories on program were having the opportunity to learn about other foods, such as when her cohort was offered the opportunity to make pelmeni, and when her host family traveled to their summer home. Additionally, Claudia believes that the biggest lasting impact of her study abroad experience was how caring and considerate her language instructors were. She notes that she will never forget how invested they were in the participants’ learning and how they went above and beyond in their language instruction.