Bleier, Ellen


Language: Russian

Location of Study: St. Petersburg, Russia

Program of Study: American Councils for International Education Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program

Sponsors: The Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the College of Arts and Letters, the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures

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A brief personal bio:

My name is Elly Bleier and I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When I was three years old, I was adopted from Simferopol, Crimea and since have held a strong desire to reconnect with my roots. I play the bassoon in the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra and the Strumenti Woodwind Quintet and I’m a Political Science and Russian major with minors in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and in Business Economics.

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

My entire academic experience thus far has been driven by a desire to learn more about where I was born, and as Simferopol is a Russian-speaking city, naturally my first choice of major was Russian. Since I came to Notre Dame, however, my need to understand my roots has deepened in ways hard to imagine when I first set foot on campus. My classes and the work I’ve done with professors here have shown me the successes and failures of the Russian and Ukrainian governments, and with that knowledge in mind, merely learning the language for myself is not enough. I was blessed with incredible parents and a wonderful home, but I could just as easily have led a very difficult life in Ukraine. I feel a responsibility to use the wonderful gifts I’ve been given, including the SLA Grant, to learn how I can begin to provoke change in a system under which thousands still suffer. Learning the language and immersing myself in the country for nine weeks is the first step to doing that, and one I’m very excited to take.

What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:

The biggest gain I could hope to achieve this summer is confidence in my speaking. My language study at Notre Dame has given me the tools to begin communicating in Russian, but as of now, I find myself paralyzed when asked to put those tools to work. Especially when speaking with a native speaker, I face a large hurdle when it comes to being confident enough to really try to use the language. The fear of making mistakes and of sounding stupid is something that, right now, seems insurmountable. If I can walk away from my time in Russia able to hold a conversation, mistakes and all, without being stopped in my tracks by embarrassment, I will have made huge progress. This is not a problem unique to me, but that does not decrease its effect on my learning, and immersion is the only way to overcome it.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:

1. At the end of the summer I will be more confident speaking

2. At the end of the summer I will be better at writing and self-correcting grammar mistakes

3. At the end of the summer I will find more intuitive grammatical constructions like conjugation patterns and have a more instinctual understanding of them

4. At the end of the summer I will know some nuances of the language, politeness etc.

5. At the end of the summer I will have a larger vocabulary and better listening comprehension, I will be able to watch a Russian cartoon without much of a struggle.