By Marlene Betancourt ’17 and Yomaira Herrera ’17
This summer, seniors had the opportunity to attend a Russian summer program at the University of Madison-Wisconsin or the University of Pittsburgh. These programs expose Pritzker students to the Russian language and culture on an intensive level in a college setting.
The UW-Madison program just finished its fifth year and Pitt finished its second year. UW-Madison also has the connection with the Latvia summer program. Lauren Nelson, junior Russian teacher, explained, “The hope is that students will attend the Pushkin Institute or Pitt between their junior and senior year then go to Latvia and live with a host family for the summer after they graduate.”
Some seniors participated in the Pushkin program at UW-Madison for six weeks.
Jessica Delgado, a senior, attended the UW-Madison Russian program. Delgado said, “I attended this program because I wanted to improve and learn about the Russian language and culture.” The summer Russian program gave the students a larger insite of what the Russian language is as well as the Russian culture. Delgado also mentioned that she recommended the program to others that want to learn about a new language. The students learned about Alexander Pushkin, “We read six stories of his and wrote essays about them.” Delgado stressed the fact that she loved the program immensely that she didn’t want to leave and highlighted she learned plenty from it.
The Russian Program at the University of Pittsburgh lasted four weeks.
Senior Karla Concepcion, who studied Russian at the University of Pittsburgh, also explained that she loved the program, “I learned how to be more independent and I learned a lot more Russian through Russian games, singing, and arts. The Russian activities don’t even make it seem like you’re learning.”
Advice Concepcion gives to juniors planning to apply this this year is to try really hard. She emphasizes that it’s great having freedom and being with friends, but to also try and learn all together. “Try to participate in class, even if you’re scared, and ask questions. Focus on what you need!”
Alexis Sotelo, senior who also attended the program at Pitt, explained that it’s not just learning in the classroom. The students were able to try Russian food and also get to explore around the campus. Sotelo stated, “During our free time, most of us would either just chill out at the dorm or walk around the city to small restaurants or local shops…. We [also] went to a Cubs game vs. the Pirates.”
Attending one of summer Russian programs is a great opportunity to become more independent and get a closer view in the college life. Concepcion and Sotelo expressed that it was great to meet new people.
“Our classes were all Russian led, so rarely any English… However, you do get the ability to comprehend the accent and the language”, said Soleto. This program also gives one the opportunity to challenge themselves and to learn most of the information by memory and building off what you know, added Sotelo.
Students should take advantage of these opportunities because they are challenging, fun, and unique. Nelson stated, “ It’s extremely rare for non-native Russian speakers to take Russian in high school, let alone pursue intensive study over their summer breaks. These programs make our students stand out on college applications. Students frequently write about their summers in their college essays and often continue Russian in college because they grow to love the language and culture. There are Pritzker graduates who are testing into intermediate Russian classes during their freshman years in college.”
In addition, this year there has been a Pushkin Scholarship announced. Nelson expressed, “The scholarship is intended to continue to build upon the work students start at Pushkin by giving them support (both financial and academic) to pursue Russian at UW-Madison during college.” Talia Garcia, a senior that attended UW-Madison over the summer, added “ It was really a great experience. Honestly, if I didn’t do this program, I would still be undecided on my decision for where to go to college and what to study, but this program gave me a great college experience.” Garcia expressed that she also had the opportunity to put her one year of Russian knowledge to practice and encourages others to apply, “You will learn so much about why Pushkin writes the way that he does, and you’ll learn how to conjugate verbs so quickly that you will only want to speak Russian when you leave. Please, please, please apply for this, juniors. You will not regret it!”
If Russian is something that invigorates you, challenges you, and makes you excited to learn more, then you should apply. “If you find yourself laughing and learning in Russian class, a summer program would be a good fit for you,” described Nelson.