My adventure through RPSS began my freshman year in a fantastic course on Russian Myths and Legends. I was fascinated by the richness of a culture that Rocky and Bullwinkle had always taught me was foreign and taboo, and I soon realized that if I hoped to learn any more about it I would need to do so in its native language. In the next year I dove headlong into the 100-level Russian courses and, in one the best decisions of my college career, I chose to pursue the six-week summer study abroad trip to St. Petersburg and Moscow. I decided the best way for me to learn this deeply dissimilar language and unfamiliar culture was to take away all of my other concerns and focus all my efforts on this singular task. To put it simply, I wanted to know if I could do it. Two years later, I still remember how good I felt overhearing an Italian student, Pietro, whispering to my host mother as I passed by the kitchen of her St. Petersburg apartment. “He speaks so fast!” Liudmila smiled so proudly I could almost hear it from my bedroom.
As a major in Physics and Economics, plenty of people have asked me what my experience in Russian has to do with the rest of my studies. Personally, I found these subjects most relevant in exploring the grammar of the Russian language. If you view all the grammatical structures you know as your formulas and the vocabulary as variables, the problem of applying them to convey a message to your audience is a lot closer to Physics than you might think. You make simplifying assumptions and choose the most direct path afforded to you by the tools that you know how to use. Building a sentence in Russian is a lot like building a spaceship. You never really know what it does until you launch it, but built correctly, it is beautiful to see it fly.