National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) participant, Elena Kotschoubey, is the U.S. Department of State’s February 2024 American Abroad Student of the Month. Elena is a student at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, and is currently studying Russian for an academic year in Kyrgyzstan.

Elena has demonstrated exemplary performance in her Russian classes, but it is her leadership qualities and engagement in activities outside of the program that make her stand out. For example, Elena was one of several students to come up with the idea of Russian Tuesdays during which students would only speak Russian and stay after class for extra group language practice, and she introduced the idea to program staff. As Russian Tuesdays have evolved into a Russian speaking club, she remains an active participant who encourages other students to attend.

Elena continually seeks creative outlets and opportunities to engage with her Bishkek host community. She joined her host university’s Green Club to connect with like-minded people, volunteered to teach children and community members about recycling, and helped create educational posters in Russian about arctic oil drilling.

Elena has made many connections with a wide diversity of people in her community, and expanded her knowledge of Kyrgyz culture and Russian language through her passion for art. Her artistic pursuits include pottery classes, art club, a masterclass in traditional embroidery, and creating a Mars rover model out of paper as part of the American Makerspace club.

Over the winter break, Elena volunteered to lead a talking club with some of her NSLI-Y classmates at the American Center. As club leader, she shared her NSLI-Y experience and exchange and study abroad opportunities available to Kyrgyz club participants. Elena’s instructors are impressed by her dedication to language learning, and describe her as wise, mature, and tenacious. She has clearly demonstrated leadership, empathy, and care with her NSLI-Y cohort, and is making the most of her exchange experience.

Elena Ala Archa