Final Reflection

My experience in Ukraine not only expanded my knowledge of Russian greatly, but also my knowledge of the language learning process. One of the first insights I gained from my studies was that one can progress especially quickly in their language learning if they are placed in an environment with a difficulty just above their comfort level. I discovered this during my time at the B1 level of difficulty, where on my first day, I was placed in a classroom with students who had studied Russian for much longer and extensively than I had. Initially, it was quite daunting to try to keep up with them and our professor, who spoke at a vocabulary level and with a fluency much more advanced than what I was used to at school. However, after struggling for the first week or two, I found myself gradually catching up to them — grammar, vocabulary, and speaking proficiency all improving quickly. I certainly had to put much more time into my studies and homework for those initial few weeks, but I found this pay off once I had become more competent and comfortable at the B1 level.

Overall, being in a classroom with more proficient peers was as rewarding as it was humbling. I do not think I would have progressed nearly as much if I had not been in that class, and I plan on continuing that experience by taking a 4000 level Russian course next semester. Prior to my departure, I had outlined 3 goals for my studies in Ukraine: to be able to 1) carry a full conversation or interview in Russian, 2) accurately transcribe spoken Russian to text, and likewise, be able to accurately pronounce text when spoken aloud, and 3) utilize a rich vocabulary of Russian for written compositions. I am happy to say that I have made significant progress towards all of those goals, some definitely more than others, and I hope to expand my strengths and address my weak spots as I continue my further studies of Russian.

In the future, I hope to employ my language skills in whatever career I may pursue, be that in the military, government, or private sector. While I will likely commission as an unrestricted line officer in the Navy, I hope to attend graduate school after my initial 5-8 years and further study Russian, or at least use it in a more official capacity afterwards. Hopefully, knowing Russian will open opportunities for me in the intelligence sector or in a diplomatic capacity, such as serving as a Foreign Affairs Officer. In the meantime, I hope to continue taking Russian courses at Notre Dame to complete the Russian major and expand my skills and fluency. So far, I have had a great experience with each of the classes and faculty of the Russian department, and I look forward to continuing that journey.