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    Posted March 15, 2014 by
    Hellertown, Pennsylvania
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama

    From Russia with Love: A Native New Jersey Kid’s Cross-Cultural Experience in the Russian Federation

    I studied with the School of Russian and Asian Studies program in the Russian Federation with financial assistance from the Benjamin A. Gilman Awards program funded by the U.S. Department of State. First, I would like to say that my trip would not have been possible with the aid from Gilman and I am grateful to them for allowing me to breath a little easier by having this experience without having to pay off an enormous student loan.

    My experience was completely unorthodox in the best way; this is why I chose to be a video correspondent so that I could have the chance to show Americans back home some things they might not have known about daily life in Russia. I have met so many interesting people and barely spoke to any Americans on the program because of my interest in the people who live there. My language skills have improved drastically, and my whole perspective has changed in a way I cannot even begin to describe.

    I have studied Russian for 2 ½ years prior to my arrival in Moscow, but the greatest education I received was from my daily activities in the city and communicating with locals. On the ground experience and complete immersion are tools that can guarantee a fast education in any foreign language. One is forced to learn quickly because: “Hey, ya gotta eat right?” I regret nothing about my trip and though adjustment was a little difficult, I was and still am completely willing to sacrifice some temporary conveniences for the greater understanding of a different culture half way around the world.

    This holds especially true given the circumstances surrounding the conflict in the Crimean Peninsula in the Republic of Ukraine. My experience has provided me a unique perspective on Russian culture from the ground up and the confidence to know exactly how Russian and Ukrainian people feel about what is happening in current events.

    I am continuously grateful to SRAS and Gilman for providing me with this opportunity and look forward to future collaboration in regards to the Post-Soviet Space.
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