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Ask Away: 5 Questions for a Future Diplomat and Student of Russian


We’re asking students, teachers, and counselors five questions on how languages play a role in shaping personal and professional success… 

Meet Sydnee—an International Studies and Russian double major at The Ohio State University who also speaks Spanish. 

Ask Away: 5 Questions banner image with portrait of Sydnee in front of a Russian fountain

1. You just returned from an 8-week intensive language study in Moscow. Was this your first language immersion experience, and how did it match up to your expectations?

Russian river with bridgeMy study abroad in Russia was my first true language immersion experience. I thought I spoke a lot of Russian at my university but never realized just how much of the language I would have to speak during my time in Russia.

Going in to the experience, I expected it to be really challenging to speak Russian to real Russians and that no one would be able to understand me. It was cool to see just how much of the language I actually knew and how I was able to function and get around in a foreign country.

2. You started off at OSU with Russian as your minor. What led you to decide to declare Russian as your second major?

Sydnee with sign on building in RussianAfter taking Russian for a year at OSU, I fell in love with the people and the culture. I had a really great professor who used to share a lot of her experiences from her time growing up in Russia and I really got to get a feel for life in Russia. The country was so foreign to me, I had not learned a lot about Russia prior to my time at OSU and turning Russian into one of my majors was an excellent way for me to learn so much more about it.

3. Is there anything that has surprised you about Russian culture?

Russian building with gardenBefore my study abroad, I really did not know what Russian culture was. I expected Moscow to be cold and grey and lacking life. I couldn’t have been more wrong with that assumption. The people in Russia are actually extremely friendly and the country itself is so vibrant.

There was a lot of celebration and excitement in the air, as I was there while Russia was hosting the World Cup and it was so awesome to see how excited all the Russian people were over soccer. The streets were constantly full of cheering and people celebrating soccer victories. It was a truly unique experience.

4. Why do you think that learning Russian is important for young people aspiring to work in government?

Russia is a country that a lot of people hear about in the news today, but no one seems to actually know a lot about Russia.

Learning Russian is so important, especially in government work, to help dispel stereotypes that are often held about the country.

Communication is key in international relations, and so being able to communicate with people in their native tongue is extremely important as it shows that you put in the effort to understand them better.

Russian fountains
5. You stayed with a host mother during your trip. How did practicing your language skills with locals compare to traditional classroom style instruction?

Practicing language skills with locals is entirely different from classroom style instruction. Speaking with my host mom every morning for breakfast, I got to really hear the application of the language and understand how it is used in everyday life. In class, that is something we do not get a lot of exposure to. It was challenging at first to have to constantly speak only in Russian but overall, that part of my study abroad experience may have been the most helpful and beneficial to my language skills.

BONUS QUESTION: What’s your advice for other language learners?

Russian city street lined with white holiday lightsMy advice for other language learners would be to jump in and don’t be afraid, take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the language and culture of the language you are learning. Study abroad, speak with people in the language as much as possible, watch movies and listen to music in the target language.

Get as much exposure to the language as possible and don’t be scared of anything that comes your way.

You are learning and you will make mistakes but once you make that mistake you will most likely not make it again if you were able to correct it.


Are you interested in Russian language scholarships, university programs, or more student testimonials? Visit our Lead with Russian page to learn more. Or maybe you’re thinking about studying abroad to strengthen your skills in any language? Check out our Study Abroad Programs page for information on available opportunities.

And don’t forget to share your language learning story @LeadWLanguages on social media.