STARTALK Immersion Program

Cohort 2016 - Students

Rose AdamsRose Adams 

My name is Rose Adams and this fall I will attend Stanford University.

I've always loved studying foreign languages and keep a running linguistic bucket list.  Russian had always been on the list, but looking towards starting college has made Russian an urgent priority and interest.  I plan to be an East Asian Studies major, so I was naturally drawn to Russia not only as a powerful regional influence, but also as a singular example of Eurasian culture and identity.  The final factor that convinced me to apply to the Russian STARTALK at CSUN was my recruitment to the Stanford fencing team.  Fencing is dominated by Russian athletes, so many of the best coaches (including my soon-to-be coach) are Russian.  As such, I realized that Russian language would soon become a part of my academic, athletic, and perhaps even daily life.

I came in to STARTALK with only a feeble grasp of the Russian alphabet.  In the weeks since, the brilliant professors here have given me a rock-solid foundation, from the essentials of pronunciation to a crash course on Russian cases to an introduction to the mysterious "Russian soul."  I plan to continue studying Russian in college and to develop my abilities enough to travel abroad and use the language to expand my studies of East Asia.  (And, just maybe, to eavesdrop on my fencing opponents.)

While I haven't started college yet, much less begun to have any concrete ideas about my career path, I think I would like to work for the State Department.  Even if Russian never becomes a major part of my job, I know that I will always have it in my back pocket.  California is full of Russian speakers, so I know that I hardly have to step outside my door to find a way to make Russian part of my life.  

To anyone considering applying to STARTALK, I can hardly recommend it enough.

Octavio Alarcon

Здравствуйте! I am a recent graduate from the California State University – Long Beach with a Bachelor's of Science in Business Administration. My concentration is on Human Resource Management and a minor in Russian Studies. I have always been fascinated with various languages, the similarities and difference within them. When I found out LBSU offered Russian, I was completely thrilled. The fact that Russian is one of the few languages taught in the U.S. and one of the crucial languages in necessary in public and private sector, gave me a reason to learn Russian. Furthermore, I see how knowing the language, in the long run, could pay off. As the world continues to become more and more globalized, as businessman, I see that knowing a second or even a third language is becoming critical in order to succeed in the workplace.

One area that I am interested within the business world is the Organizational Development or OD, in which the organization begins having succession plan; or the identification of certain an individual(s) that has the potential to be promoted within the organization and is trained with the skill(s) he or she might need. Furthermore, in Organizational Development; potential candidates are taught how to become better leaders, rather than become better managers, so that when those individuals become top-level managers they would be able to lead the organization to its high potential. It is the interaction with many individuals that I enjoy and it is why I would like to become a consultant for an international business in or from Russia. The way I plan to develop my Russian language skills after STARTALK is by continuing my Russian studies.

The STARTALK Russian Language and Culture Immersion Program has provided an experience I won’t forget. I have been able to better my pronunciation and become more confident in speaking Russian.

Michael AndersonMichael Anderson

When I started my freshman year at California State University, Northridge I wanted to minor in a foreign language. I saw that Russian was one of the languages that’s offered at my university and I thought that I should give this language a try. Four months later I finished my first semester of Russian and I realized that I made the perfect choice.

For the past 3 semesters I have been taking Russian courses at CSUN. I’ve went from struggling with remembering 33 letters in the Russian alphabet to being able to read, write and speak sentences. While learning the language I’ve also learned a lot about the Russian culture in terms of music, movies, food, books, holidays and traditions. All of these things have made my interest in Russia and the Russian language grow!

The STARTALK program at CSUN heavily interested me because it’s a program designed for students interested in the Russian language and in Russian speaking countries who want to increase their knowledge in this beautiful language without breaking the bank. I knew that I would learn more about the language in the program, but I didn’t know that I would learn other things in the program, like how to make delicious blini or sing Russian songs. My favorite thing about the STARTALK program is that the people in the program whether they are my instructors, TA’s or classmate are all friendly and are willing to help me.

My major is history and I have a big interest in Russia’s modern history. At the moment, I don’t know what I want to do in terms of a career, but I know that I will use the Russian Language in the future. I want to establish relationships with people in Russia and Russian speaking countries to help create amends between the United States and Russian speaking countries. I want to experience Russian culture with my own eyes. I want to one day travel on Moscow Metro, view artistic Russian culture on the Nevsky Prospekt and be amazed by the scenery of Lake Baikal. And of course speak Russian to as many people as I can, because Russian sounds amazing!

Alex Gostanian

I became interested in the Russian language after encountering and learning from the Russian Foreign exchange students that came to my high school. Their passion to create a more peaceful diplomatic future inspired me to learn the Russian language,

I hope to pursue a career in international relations with the United States and Russia. I also wish to teach abroad in a Russian speaking Country.

STARTALK was intimidating at first, however after being with the extremely dedicated professors and fellow students who shared the same passions as me, I learned so much in the time I spent here at the program.

Cheyenne HawkinsCheyenne Hawkins 

I first became interested in learning Russian when I heard the song “Kalinika.” The piece was and continues to be one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. I began to read more and more about Russian culture and quickly fell in love with the language. After discovering my newfound interest, I registered for Russian 1 at Pasadena City College. My professors, Tatiana Chapman and Dina Mokhnatkin, made learning the language fun and exciting. I am currently attending Citrus College and Pasadena City College, but I hope to transfer to a four year university where I plan to study International Relations. After I graduate university, I hope to work for the government, or perhaps a private company that conducts business with Russian speaking countries.

Participating in CSUN’s Russian and Cultural Immersion Program provided me with extensive knowledge in all aspects of the Russian language, literature, and culture. The teachers and TA’s were incredibly patient and helpful. The faculty encouraged and motivated my peers and me to work hard and engage in the classes and activities that the program had to offer.  After completing this program, I strongly believe that I can speak Russian with the utmost confidence and coherence. 

Jacqueline JolleyJacqueline Jolley

My interest in Russian was sparked at the age of 14, after I checked out a collection of Russian folk tales from the library. I began searching the internet for anything to do with Russia, and fell in love with the beautiful language and the culture. Though I tried in a limited capacity to learn Russian on my own, my resources in the subject were lacking until I started college.

Currently I study at the University of Utah, where I'm working on double majors in Linguistics and Psychology. For me, learning the Russian language is primarily a labor of love, as I'm not entirely certain what I want to do for a career. However, as a Linguistics major, knowledge of a second language is obviously a plus, and I've even been considering the possibility of teaching, or otherwise working, in Russia. I'm also planning on applying for an internship with the FBI next year, and who knows where that will take me!

I cannot speak the praises of the STARTALK program enough. I've been studying Russian for less than a year, and I'm already in the Intermediate range of the language. This program has made me a more confident speaker, and I can understand Russian far better than I ever could before. In addition, this program has equipped me with the necessary skills and knowledge to continue my Russian studies on my own after. I'd be more than willing to do it all again!

Cody JonesCody Jones

 My name is Cody Jones. I am an incoming junior at the University of Louisville. My major is Political Science with a focus in Law and Public Policy. My minor is Russian Studies. I chose to become immersed in Russian because you must do this to learn the language better. You can learn much in class, but becoming immersed really advances your language skills. I plan to continue my Russian studies in school after, and I plan to work for the State Department so I'll definitely be using the skills I acquired here for a lifetime.


Justin Fuentes-Keuthan

Justin Fuentes-Keuthan

My name is Justin Fuentes-Keuthan and I am majoring in Russian and East European Studies at Florida State University. I have studied Russian for just over a year. I chose to study Russian because I am passionate about languages and learning of foreign cultures. After this program, I plan on traveling abroad to continue my studies. This summer I hope to be in France studying French. I may seek a Master’s Degree in Russian and Eastern European Studies.



Andrew KolesAndrew Koles

Andrew Koles is a second year civil engineering student at California State University Northridge. He was exposed to the Russian language at a young age by his father’s family whose Belarussian origins allowed them to assimilate into the Californian, Russian community. During Andrew’s freshman year, he discovered that his university offered Russian language courses, and he decided that it would be beneficial to learn a language with which he was familiar. As one semester of Russian turned into two, Andrew started seeing the potential benefit of becoming proficient in a second language. His plan is to apply his knowledge to his work as an engineer one day in order to open up international career avenues.


Alex KouyoumdjianAlex Kouyoumdjian

I became interested in learning Russian after staying with Russian relatives and speaking online with programmers from Russia for help with my school and personal projects. It is well known that knowledge of an additional language is very valuable on job applications, and can be advantageous in situations around people of that culture. For me as a student with Russian relatives soon to graduate college, the payout would be immediate. As far as my career, I am aspiring to become a special effects artist. This includes some engineering as well as proficiency with many different 3d programs and software where I will be working side by side with engineers, many skilled members of which are Russian. I spend my free time building and repairing computers. Over time I have made friends in Russia who I have teamed up online within the past for advice to build "rigs" for running these high demand programs. Other than technology, I am very fond of illustration. I find the imagery in Russian poetry to be very beautiful and intriguing. I have created my interpretations of some of Pushkin's works. As of now I lack a better understanding of the true translation of these works and my end goal would be to someday be capable of reading and decide for myself exactly what visions he had in his head, and create my work based on that.  With proper command of the language, I would be enabled to achieve this understanding. In the future working clearly with my colleagues would be a major priority as well. When creating a visual piece in mu line of work, capturing an accurate movement or "feel" of a character when working with a Russian company would be significantly easier. I have considered military service to achieve completing my degree. The benefits of knowing the Russian language in this situation are many. The Startalk program was superb. The professors are extremely knowledgeable about the language in addition to having years of firsthand experience of the culture, customs traditions and even superstitions. There is no substitute for learning a foreign language than with a native speaker. After the first couple weeks you find yourself saying “hi” and “thank” you in Russian out of reflex. Watching yourself transition into the mindset of another language is an amazing experience. I would recommend the program to anyone who seriously intends to learn a language for practical use.

Alex Martinez

My name is Alex Martinez and I attend California State University Northridge. I am an Engineering major and have studied one semester of Russian. I have always been interested in learning new languages and discovering new cultures which is why I decided to learn Russian. I plan to go into the aerospace field and hope to one day work for NASA and use the Russian language. I also want to go to Russia to learn more about their culture, and practice my Russian. Overall I have learned a lot through the STARTALK Program in a short period of time, and would highly recommend this program to someone who is serious about learning Russian.

Cory MooneyCory Mooney 

My name is Cory Mooney and I am currently attending Pasadena City College and Riverside City College. I am currently working on receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Russian. My goal is to graduate from the University of Wisconsin, in Madison. I plan to enroll in the Russian Flagship program, and continue my education in Russia. I became interested in Russian through my studies in college, through the help of my passionate and dedicated teachers, through my travels, and my new Russian friends. As I continue to learn about the Russian language and culture, my appreciation and love for them increases.

After the Flagship program, I would like to work as an international businessman with well-established Russian businesses. Through working with these businesses, I wish to better the US-Russian relationship, and continue to use and develop my knowledge of Russia; the people, culture, language, and history.

Emily OlsonEmily Olson

My name is Emily and I’m a junior at George Mason University. I’m majoring in global affairs with a double concentration in human security and Russian and Eurasian studies. I’m currently studying both Chinese and Russian, and first became interested in studying Russian last summer when I began studying at the University of Pittsburgh’s Summer Language Institute.

After I graduate I would like to hopefully use my language skills paired with my major to work for the Department of State or within the intelligence field as an analyst.

The STARTALK program has been an amazing opportunity for me to meet other students from across the country with similar interests in the Russian language. The program has also helped me to expand my vocabulary and increased my confidence in speaking the language, and I’m excited to continue studying the language even after the program is over.

Gabriel Quiroz LuarteGabriel Quiroz Luarte

Здравствуйте! My name is Gabriel. I am currently pursing my Master’s degree in National Security Studies at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB). One of the main educational experiences that influenced my decision to learn the Russian language is my passion for Slavic languages and working on research for Political Science. As an undergraduate, I focused on the subfields of International Relations and Comparative Politics in Eastern European relations. In my Master’s Program, I have focused my research on Eastern European countries, specifically Russia and Russian speaking countries.

After the STARTALK Russian Language and Culture Immersion Program I intend to continue learning the Russian language to improve my fluency and communication skills. As for my career goals, I plan to use the Russian language to further improve my research in the Russia and Russian speaking countries. I hope to perform case studies on and in Russian speaking countries in order to publish these new findings for the academic journals or the government sector. This will give me the opportunity to present my new findings to other experts in the field or to inform people who want to learn more about Eastern European Politics.

The STARTALK Russian Language and Culture Immersion Program has helped me progressed and improve my pronunciation, reading, listening and communication skills.

Alexander Roy

My name is Alexander Roy and I am a recent graduate of the University of Iowa. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Interdepartmental Business with a concentration in humanitarianism. I have one year of Russian language study prior to coming to the Russian STARTALK program. I became interested in the Russian language while networking with friends. After listening to them talk about the language and Russian culture, I became deeply interested and simply wanted to learn more. I enjoy creating the lettering and how simple it was to learn the alphabet and the phonetics I believe that languages, including Russian, help increase one’s vocabulary and allow the demonstration of new concepts and ideas through the language. Being able to speak another language allows me to be a deeper thinker and opens new opportunities for a creative and fulfilling future.

I plan to use the Russian language when working in the Peace Corps. The experience there will hopefully increase my ability to speak more fluently. (I would love to get involved in teaching ESL to Russian speakers.) When I return home, I would like to teach basics and all that I know of Russian to a select few, thus preserving and growing my knowledge of Russian while introducing the Russian language to others. As for my future goals, I would love to be a part of the Peace Corp as mentioned above. My desire to teach others English, so that they are able to communicate globally, drives my desire to learn more about the Russian culture and language. Teaching ESL and creating a better community somewhere in the world appeals to me. This experience would offer a good deal of insight into what it takes to build and run a business that caters to many world cultures.  Participation in the STARTALK program will be used as a launching pad to begin my future journey with stepping stones from here to the Peace Corp to finally owning some sort of multi- cultural business and building a strong and stable life for myself.

William Salazar

My name is William. I am a pre-med Behavioral Neuroscience major and will be attending my second year of schooling at Pasadena City College this coming fall. I became interested in learning Russian when I was debating what new language to learn. Russian has such a beautiful alphabet that I couldn’t resist. Once I began taking the course I was fascinated by the culture and everything about it. Once I graduate medical school I’m hoping to spend a few years of my internship/residency somewhere in a Russian speaking country to try and help those whom might not have the best access to medical help. As for my career, I plan on becoming an emergency room doctor because I love working hands on and all the action that sometimes takes place in the ER. STARTALK is an amazing program and I have nothing but praise for everyone involved from the staff to the students. We have been so immersed that my Russian has vastly improved and I know once I get back to school I’ll have a big advantage. This program has also introduced me to many new friends and connections.

Aleksandr Thomas

My name is Aleksandr Thomas and I am current student at Pasadena City College. My introduction to Russian began very early as I essentially grew up around Russian speakers, but, unfortunately, I was never able to learn the language formally. Before STARTALK, I had already taken two semesters of elementary Russian, which helped me improve my understanding of the language's grammar, but I was still distracted with other commitments and classes. When I learned about the STARTALK language immersion, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to finally immerse myself in a serious academic environment in which I could finally learn the Russian language around the clock.

This program has done wonders for me as I have improved both my conversational and listening skills in Russian; moreover, I now have hands on experience conversing with native speakers currently residing in Russia as well as a better understanding of the cultural intricacies that make Russia so interesting.

I intend to use my Russian in order to communicate with my own friends and family both at home and abroad. I know that the Russian language will prove to be an excellent tool in helping me find potential career opportunities in a plethora of fields varying from business to journalism. 

Kunrong ZhengKunrong Zheng

My name is Kunrong Zheng. I recently graduated from California State University Northridge with a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a minor in Russian Studies. Throughout my entire childhood, I was constantly exposed to Russian culture. Both of my grandparents spoke fluent Russian and they had taught me several Russian fairy tales and Soviet songs. As a result, I have always been curious to learn more about Russia. Additionally, Russia has a long and interesting history. As a history lover, I believe it is important to learn the Russian language in order to fully understand and appreciate this country and its people.

In the future, I plan to become a certified translator for Russian and English. Later on, I will commit myself to work with international organizations, corporations, or institutions. I am also considering traveling to Russian speaking countries, such as Russia, Kyrgyzstan or Ukraine, to help develop English programs there, as well as to further improve my Russian.

The STARTALK Russian program has opened a new door for me. Throughout these last six weeks, I have seen new potential in myself and possibilities for my future. I have not only learned new vocabulary, grammar, and Russian culture, but I have also gained the skills to efficiently learn Russian in the future. I can definitely claim that I have reached the goal that I set for myself before the program started, which was to feel confident and to speak Russian more fluently.