In middle school, I had never left the country. Whenever someone asked where I would want to go, my answer was always the same: Russia. When applying for NSLI-Y summer in my sophomore year of high school, I articulated more clearly my motivations for study abroad, which still hold true today:
I want to participate in NSLI-Y because it is a unique opportunity for growth, experience and connection. Total immersion is the only way to learn a language intimately; NSLI-Y allows me to study Russian and this level of intensity.
Studying in Russia would stimulate enormous personal growth. I’d learn Russian more naturally and colloquially than I could in any domestic class, which would quicken future progress. However, I would not grow only academically on the program; studying abroad teaches skills like independence, resilience, courage, creativity, drive, reasoning, and communication that are invaluable at home, school, college, and the workplace.
NSLI-Y is an incredible experience. Of course, I would learn from classes, living with my host-family, and sightseeing. However, the best experiences are often the minute. I am excited to see a Russian grocery store, to exchange slang with a host-sibling and to wake up with a Russian greeting. I want to pursue Russian, perhaps professionally, and an experience like NSLI-Y is the best way to propel me towards linguistic opportunities with motivation, skills, and a competitive edge.
Inherent in the decision to learn any language is the desire to connect with others through words and culture. Studying abroad makes that choice real. While in Russia, I know I will develop cultural empathy and vibrant lines to people across and the globe. I want to spend my summer growing, experiencing and connecting abroad, returning a matured global citizen who dreams Russian.
From my letter to my host family:
Mama, Papa, Sestra, Brat; Tyota, Dada, Babushka, Dedushka:
I am so excited to meet you. Russia is just a place, albeit a beautiful and exhilarating one. It is the people in it who are the culture, the language, the opinions, and the faces; the smiles and relationships that touch and connect us. I want to become part of your life this summer even more than I want you to be part of mine, because for me this is not just an experience in my own timeline, but a chance to become part of yours…I want to learn not only Russian, but all about you as well, both as Russians and individuals. Thank you so much for letting me into you life.