COLA: Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Eleanor Langthorne, I’m 20 years old, and I am a junior Theatre: Acting and Music: Instrumental Performance double major. Over this past summer, I studied abroad in Russia. I spent the first month travelling with my group from west to east,seeing St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan, Irkutsk, Buryatia, Lake Baikal, and Vladivostok. In the second month, I returned to Moscow to study the Russian language intensively and live with a host family.
COLA: Why did you choose Russia? Why a UNH managed program specifically?
I chose Russia because I was very interested in going to a non traditional location. I have traveled to France, Spain, Norway, Poland, and England before, and I was excited to explore further east. I also knew that due to my large course load, it would be virtually impossible for me to study abroad during either the Fall or the Spring, but I knew that I personally absolutely had to find a way to go abroad. I spent my sophomore year at UNH taking the beginner level Russian courses, and I completely fell in love with the language and culture. Many people ask me if I have any Russian heritage, and I actually do not at all. My Russian professor Katya is the one who really sold the UNH managed program to me though, and I don’t think that there are many other programs out there that would allow me to travel as extensively as I was able to.
COLA: What were your expectations of Russia before arriving?
I was excited to be going to Russia, but I was also very nervous. Given the recent
political climate and the U.S. relations with Russia, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The country was definitely very different from any place I have ever been, but I never once felt unsafe. There were, however, a few times when I would be walking down the street and hear people make comments in Russian, saying “foreigner” because the way I look, act, and dress immediately distinguishes me as non-Russian. Others would not talk to me because I did not speak the language well enough. While this was a difficult thing for me to endure for two months, it really opened my eyes to how people feel in America when they don’t speak English fluently and the United States doesn’t even technically have a national language! For the first time in my life, I felt scared to speak because I didn’t want to make mistakes, and people would come up to me speaking quickly and then not bother to stay once they realized I did not speak Russian very well. And I only had to live this way for two months. Now I have a heightened awareness for people who speak English as a second language.
COLA: What is the most valuable lesson you learned from studying abroad?
I try to be more patient and really make an effort to communicate, because I know what it feels like now to be blown off. I think that that is by far the most valuable lesson that I brought back with me to the U.S.
COLA: Why do you recommend studying abroad in Russia or studying abroad in general?
I recommend Russia to anyone considering a study abroad program. If you are
considering going abroad, remember that a non traditional location has many more opportunities for scholarships than someplace in Western Europe or Australia. Do not let language be a barrier for you! In my group of travelers, there were some people that could not speak the language at all and others who had been studying for years. There is no language requirement for going abroad, and it is an opportunity to see the largest country in the world (all of it), study its rich history, and learn about its culture today. Furthermore, Russia is such an important player in international politics that not many people visit, and going to see Russia may one day benefit you or your resume. There is so much to explore in such a large landscape that you will never have a dull moment.
You will experience more than you ever dreamt of experiencing within just two months!