STARTALK Immersion Program

Cohort 2015 - Students - L thru T

Christopher LunaChristopher Luna

I became interested in Russian after I took Russian my sophomore year in high school to try new things out. I was constantly traveling back and forth from New Jersey to New York and while traveling to New York I stumbled upon Brooklyn. Many Russians live in Brooklyn and I had always been interested in cultures and languages.

I plan on continuing my education in Russian after my time at the STARTALK Russian Language and Culture Immersion Program. I will use the language to help benefit my future career and to translate and communicate better with others who speak the language. My career goal is to create my own business internationally. I already speak three other languages fluently: Creole, Spanish, and Portuguese. I also speak some Chinese Mandarin and some basic Arabic.

Languages will help my career opportunities and Russian plays a huge role. I want to become fluent in Russian. After I graduate from Montclair State University with a degree in international business I will work for the department of defense and have my own international business on the side, then I will branch out my own company. 

The STARTALK Program here is amazing. It is the greatest opportunity to take if you want to learn a language and about a culture. I have participated in another STARTALK program at the University of Mississippi and learned some Chinese Mandarin. I loved the experience and the teachers who taught me there. The STARTALK Russian Program at California State University, Northridge felt like home. As a former “STARTALKER” it is an excellent and great experience. The teachers here are amazing. They make you feel like you were born as a Russian. You’ll feel like you were Russian that whole time. It is fun, but at the same time serious. You get to visit a lot of Russian communities with in Los Angeles. 

STARTALK provides so many positive and great things that words cannot describe. I recommend everyone who would like to learn Russian to apply to the CSUN STARTALK Russian Language and Culture Immersion Program for the greatest opportunity of their lives.

Monique MasseyMonique Massey

I originally became interested in the idea of learning Russian after watching a miniseries about human trafficking that mainly focused on Russia and former Soviet countries such as Ukraine. This inspired me to major in international studies with a language concentration on Russian. I have the aspirations of one day being a part of a non-profit organization that fights human trafficking in Russia and former Soviet nations after I complete my bachelor’s degree at California State University, Long Beach.

Within this upcoming year, I am planning on applying to teach English in a Russian speaking country such as Kazakhstan, Georgia, or Russia itself. Following this, I would still like to try to obtain a job at a non-governmental organization or a governmental position. To be honest, I have not entirely chosen which career I plan on going towards in my future. I hope that whatever I do it will incorporate Russian in some way.

I have enjoyed the immersion portion of the STARTALK Russian Language and Culture Immersion Program because it helps you train your ear to hear native Russians speak as well as help train you to respond quickly.

Shane McCarville

I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in government at California State University, San Bernardino. The Russian language has always interested me. The STARTALK Russian Language and Culture Immersion Program gave me the ability to hone my skills and gain an enriching cultural experience. I intend to continue learning Russian and gaining fluency. I think learning Russian is a priceless skill that will assist me in getting a job within the United States federal government. I believe that Russian is one of the world’s most important languages. The program has been nothing but rewarding and filled with information. The professors and the TAs are very helpful and have helped me greatly.

Juan Angel Ochoa

I became interested in Russian while I was in high school. At the time I wanted to learn another language and found that Russian was the most interesting because of its history. What drew me into the culture was the fact that Russia has overcome many hardships during its history and still remains as one of the strongest countries on Earth.  

Currently I am a foreign affairs major attending Pasadena City College. I plan to travel to Russia without the need of a translator. The ability to speak Russian will essentially open up a new world for me, full of new people and new ways of thinking. Russian will aid me with my career path because it is a strategic language.  I believe that I will have many opportunities with the type of career I have chosen while also giving me many opportunities for travel.

The STARTALK Russian Language and Culture Immersion Program is a great program. During my time here I have met great people who all share a common goal and interest. I will always remember the time that I spent here and the people who I have shared with. I believe that I have benefited from it and put me on the right direction to complete my Russian studies and achieve fluency.

Christopher PottsChristopher Potts

I recently graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a Bachelor's degree in international studies and a minor in Russian. Since high school I have been interested in history and politics, particularly in regards to Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. When I found out that Long Beach State offered Russian, I jumped at the chance to learn such an interesting, albeit difficult, critical language.

During my studies in both language classes and history/politics classes I have become fascinated by the idea of travelling to Russia, as well as other Russian-speaking former Soviet countries. I intend to spend time abroad, teaching English while sharpening my Russian skills and learning everything I can about their cultures. 

Ultimately, I would like to find a career with the government in a capacity where I could use my knowledge of the Russian language, in addition to what I've learned about their history and culture. I believe the STARTALK Russian Language and Culture Immersion Program has been a great stepping stone on this path. The immersion and expert instruction has definitely elevated my skills and has motivated and inspired me to continue on to pursue greater heights of knowledge and understanding of Russia's language and culture.

Vera RulisonVera Rulison

I currently attend Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. My major is Social Work. My connection to the Russia, language, and the culture is interesting story. I was born in Ivanovo, Russia until I was adopted by an American family in 2004. I lived with my family in California for two years until we decided to move to Siberia. There we partnered with another American family to reach out to the ethnic groups that live across the vastness of Siberia. We lived in Krasnoyarsk for a year and half until we spent 8 months in a small village called Osinovi Mus. In that small village we learned so much about the true traditional culture of Russia. We learned gardening from our neighbors. We learned that they didn’t have a Walmart and everything you needed to shop for somehow miraculously fit in one tiny room that they called a grocery store. We learned to how to dress for -35 degree Celsius winter days and how to enjoy the sensation of having your lungs take in so much cold air that they felt like they will burst. We formed friendships with the people there, even some friendships that will last a lifetime. Instantly, I fell in love with this amazing country once again.  

After being back in the United States for 7 years now, I believe that my calling will be intertwined with Russia in the future. Unfortunately, I lost my Russian language and I decided that I wanted to learn Russian again in order to incorporate my career with Russia. Being both Russian and American, I hope to help strengthen the relations between these two incredible nations by obtaining my degree in social work. I plan to use my knowledge, experience and education to help Russian children like me be able to get the same opportunity I did. Finding the STARTALK Russian Language and Culture Immersion Program is an amazing experience filled with amazing teachers and students who, by the end, became like family. I will always remember the experiences of these six weeks.

Rodolfo Santiago

I became interested in Russian through my constant communication with members of the Russian Community in West Hollywood. My career goal is to become a child psychologist and help at-risk youth. I plan to use Russian as a tool to reach out to troubled youth and for introducing others to the language as a way to keep them out of trouble and learning about a different culture. I would like to become a better member of society through volunteer work and a good education.

Kara StiversKara Stivers

I competed in team policy debate when I was in high school, and one year our resolution was on US policy towards Russia. From that time on, I have been intrigued by the Russian people and culture, and fascinated by the Russian language. Currently, as a political science and history major and a Russian studies minor at the University of Louisville, I hope to continue to expand my knowledge of the Russian language in order to gain even greater insights into the depths of Russian culture and to communicate effectively with Russian speakers. In the future I hope to pair my language skills with research and scholarship in either an academic or a governmental capacity. 

The STARTALK Russian Language and Culture Immersion Program has been excellent for helping me further develop my language skills and improve my listening, reading, and speaking comprehension.

Trent TooleTrent Toole

I originally started learning Russian simply because I thought it would be an interesting and useful language to learn. After a few months of taking Russian and especially after participating in the STARTALK Russian Language and Culture Immersion Program I have grown to absolutely love Russia, the Russian language, and the Russian culture. It is incredible how rich and deep the culture is. I really love everything about it, which has only fueled my desire to continue to grow in and learn the Russian language.

I plan on continuing to study, practice, and immerse myself in Russian language and culture in the following years of my life so that I can gain and retain fluency in the language. I really look forward to using the Russian language to help me get ahead in the programming and private information protection fields, in the US or in any country where the Russian proficiency could get me ahead. It’s a language I think I will continue to use to make friends and who knows, maybe even end up working with native Russians or even in Russia one day.

I am a computer science major at California State University, Northridge and I am currently working to become a programmer, with specialties in the fields of information protection and cyber security. I hope to work for the private sector, or for the government. I think in all honesty the STARTALK Program has been an amazing and incredibly valuable experience. Through the course of the program, after only one semester of actual university level Russian courses, I am speaking and understanding at a much higher level than I could have ever dreamed of without the STARTALK Program. The immersive aspect of the program, the ever helpful and dedicated teachers and TAs has strengthened my ability to converse with fellow students in Russian. The program excels in making Russian easy to learn in a comfortable environment.