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Matryoshka Dolls

Get to know some of our students from prior study-abroad cohorts.

Studies in Moscow

Cohort IIICohort 3 in CSUN's Strategic Language Initiative made their trip to Moscow in summer 2011. From their base at the Russian State University for the Humanities—where they studied Russian language, grammar, and civilization daily—the students explored new Russia in cultural excursions throughout Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the rural countryside. On field trips, they discussed differences and similarities among Russian and U.S. approaches to various industries, meeting with an energy company executive, a television producer, a political consultant, administrators of academic institutions, and other experts. Students also learned about everyday Russian life in talks about Russian cinema, consumer behavior, leisure activities, religion, and traditional cuisine. They even toured the Krasny Oktyabr (Red October) chocolate factory and museum, where all were allowed to sample confections to their heart's content.

Final Projects

Catherine Palace Upon returning from Moscow, the students of Cohort 3 completed their final research projects and presented their work, in Russian, to their peers, instructors, and invited guests. Their topics included:

Still from opening sequence of the video about CSUN's Cohort 3 and the SLI Russian ProgramVideo created by The Russian State University for the Humanities Press Center about Cohort III and the SLI Russian Program. The video includes parts of the students' final presentations and their certificates ceremony. The students presented their projects entirely in Russian and they received their certificates from the head of the Department of International Affairs.

Cohort 3 Students

Jeremy BluntJeremy Blunt

It has been said that in order to be competitive in our global society one must obtain foreign language skills and reach cultural competence. It is this philosophy that has inspired me to learn a second language and immerse myself in another culture. I graduated from California Baptist University with a BS in business administration and an MBA in management. I was first introduced to Russian culture and language at CBU when I assisted in directing a collegiate production of Fiddler on the Roof, which is set in Russia in 1905. As we worked at achieving authenticity in the production, I was captivated by the beauty, mystery, and depth of Russian culture. Upon graduating from college I decided to go to Russia and study at the St. Petersburg Polytechnic University. After five months of studying Russian language, history, and culture, I returned with a desire to reach fluency in the language and to eventually use these skills to help encourage American-Russian collaboration in the arts. Soon afterward I was accepted into the SLI program. Through the program I have seen both my language ability and my cultural competency improve greatly. I continue to be challenged by the program every day.

Charles CullenCharles Cullen

Though I can't recall a particular reason why I first started studying Russian language, I became increasingly interested in the language and culture as I learned. The opportunity to be a part of the SLI program was something I could not pass up. I learned a lot during my first two years of Russian language classes at California State University, Long Beach, but my proficiency grew by leaps and bounds during my six weeks with the SLI summer intensive program. It was a very challenging but rewarding time. I cannot wait to continue with the program and travel to Moscow with the close friends I made in the program. Learning Russian has become a large part of my life, and I believe it will be integral to my future life and career.

Mark DerflingerMark Derflinger

I am currently a student at California State University, Long Beach, where I am completing my bachelor's degree in business administration with a minor in Russian. My interest in learning Russian developed as I listened to my Russian friends speaking the language. I have taken Russian classes every semester since I entered CSULB. I joined the SLI program in order to further improve my language skills and learn more about the Russian culture; the program has helped me in these goals immensely. The fluency I gain from this program will expand the scope of the career options and business ventures I pursue in the future.

Ian HamelIan Hamel

As a math major with senior standing at California State University, Northridge, I have come to realize that learning math is a lot like learning a foreign language. Both subjects require you to retool the way you think, form your thoughts in new ways, and communicate these thoughts effectively to others. For this reason I enjoy studying both math and Russian as part of SLI Cohort III. The members of the SLI faculty are very kind and supportive, and my language skills have improved dramatically. I wholeheartedly recommend CSUN's Russian program to other students wishing to learn this difficult but interesting language.

Melissa KentMelissa Kent

I began the SLI program after studying Russian for two years at Pasadena City College. I am now working on a BA in linguistics at UCLA while continuing to study Russian. My goals in the SLI program are to achieve greater fluency in the Russian language and develop an in-depth understanding of Russian culture. In the future I hope to teach English in Russia or translate contemporary Russian literature.

Boris NestoiterBoris Nestoiter

I am currently a senior at California State University, Northridge, where I am pursuing a BS in bio-chemistry with a concentration in genetics. After emigrating from Odessa, Ukraine, I settled in West Hollywood, Calif., where I grew up among its large Russian population. I decided to continue studying the Russian language after learning about Russia’s widespread use of stem-cell therapy. I hope to become a fluent speaker so that I may pursue a career in international science, aiding interaction between Russian and American scientists.

August SamieAugust Samie

I am a senior at California State University, Northridge, completing a BA with a dual focus in creative writing and literature. My interest in academics has greatly increased during my undergraduate career, leading me to explore avenues that would challenge me beyond my major field. I began studying Russian as a hobby, but as I came to understand the significance of the language on the world stage I decided to learn its intricacies to both further my education and allow for expanded future employment opportunities. Upon completing my BA I will begin a master’s program either in Russian and East European studies, Middle Eastern studies, or literary studies. What I’ve learned through SLI will aid my study of these disciplines in various ways, and my knowledge of the language and culture is directly relevant to my interest in Middle Eastern/ Russian relations, Russian literature, and general Russian studies.

Arsen ShirvanyanArsen Shirvanyan

Russian language, culture, and history have always fascinated me. My future career goal is to become a historian and research modern Russian history. The Strategic Language Initiative program helped me not only to learn the Russian language but to gain a deeper understanding of Russian culture and history. Being of Armenian descent, I'm also pleased that SLI afforded me the opportunity to research the historical relationship between Russians and Armenians.

Fernando VaughnFernando Vaughn

I’m currently a student at Pasadena City College. Since high school I have had a passion for foreign languages. Even more important, I feel that studying a foreign language connects me to its speakers, with their different backgrounds opening a whole new world of wonder and excitement. I have previously lived abroad and it was one of the best experiences of my life. When I first decided to start studying Russian my reasons were more practical than anything, but through the miracle of technology I have discovered the warm and welcoming nature of the Russian people, especially those like me who have a passion for learning languages. People who are trying to broaden their understanding of the world through foreign language acquisition motivate me to help build bridges between cultures and borders. A future goal of mine is to become a translator, whether for a private company or a government agency. I can also see myself teaching English at some point in Russia or elsewhere in the Slavic European region.

Melissa WeyandMelissa Weyand

I am currently an undergraduate student at Azusa Pacific University, majoring in political science with a minor in international relations. While studying Russia I became intrigued by its history, culture, and people, so I decided to learn the language and work in Russia in the future. My goals in the SLI program are to learn to speak Russian fluently and to gain a better understanding of Russian culture. I hope to someday become a diplomat between the United States and Russia.