Student Awards · Travel Abroad · Uncategorized

#WFU18 Tatiana Ostwalt’s time in Kazakhstan as a Fulbright TA

Tatiana Ostwalt, WFU18 in Russian, was awarded a Fulbright TA-ship in Kazakhstan for 2020. Unfortunately, her time in Kazakhstan was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, but she has shared this essay and some photographs of her time there with us.

Tatiana in Kazakhstan 1

I was placed in the city of Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan, with a population of about 200,000 people that is located in the south of Kazakhstan. In this region, there is a strong emphasis on the Kazakh culture and Kazakh is more commonly spoken than Russian, as compared to other parts of Kazakhstan. There is a considerable amount of Koreans living in Kazakhstan and as ethnically Korean myself, I would often be thought of as a native until I was heard speaking. This allowed me to blend into my environment fairly well, but also challenged me to continue improving my target language abilities. Although people would be initially surprised to hear that I was American, once I told them about my background, they would quickly understand and be receptive to find out more.

Tatiana in Kazakhstan 3

I taught English 13 hours a week in the Department of Foreign Languages and Translation Studies of a university in my city. My host institution was very welcoming and I had a lot of fun teaching my students. The students were at the very least bilingual, knowing both Kazakh and Russian, and were eager to improve their English with a native speaker and learn about life in the United States. The students I was teaching were majoring in Translation Studies or Education, and were highly driven to be proficient in the languages they were learning to apply to their future careers. 

For almost all of my students, I was the first American they had met and I was happy to share with them about where I was from and represent the U.S. with this cultural exchange. While students were learning about different facets of American life and strengthening their English, I was being educated on the differences of the education system in Kazakhstan and learning more about the Kazakh culture and history. One of my students and a local friend also started teaching me Kazakh. I loved seeing the passion and love the people here had for their ethnic roots and identity, and was glad they wanted to share that with me. Thanks to the support of the Fulbright Program, my host institution, and the local friends I made in my community, the transition process to Kazakhstan was made much smoother. I feel lucky to have formed lasting friendships and bonds there, and feel thankful for the hospitality I was shown by the Kazakh people. I hope I will get the chance to return one day. 

Tatiana in Kazakhstan 2

Travel Abroad · Uncategorized

Internships for Russian Students

This week we’ve been covering the various study abroad and internship opportunities for students interested in Russia and the former USSR. While some programs such as American Councils and SRAS also offer internships as part of their programming, there are others that focus only on internships.

1-Week Internship with NASA


A one-off opportunity for Russian majors not to be missed!

The Duke University Slavic and Eurasian Language Resource Center (SEELRC) is pleased to announce a call for applications for a weeklong internship (June, 2020) through TechTrans International Inc. at the NASA Johnson Space Center’s Language Education Center (JLEC) in Houston, TX. Must be a current Russian major with at least a 3.0 GPA to qualify.

If you are interested in this opportunity, please write to by February 15, 2020.

Crossroads Eurasia

Transsiberian Railroad

Travel across Eurasia with Crossroads Eurasia!

Crossroads Eurasia offers short-term unpaid internships all across Russia. If you’re interested in interning somewhere other than Moscow or St. Petersburg, Crossroads Eurasia can help you out.

Camp Cosmopolitan


For something truly different, go to the Altai region with Camp Cosmopolitan

Camp Cosmopolitan offers internships and Russian language instruction at their summer and winter camps in the spectacular Altai region of Siberia. They offer both a summer and a winter language camp, for students who want to try something very different and maybe fit in a trip over winter break

Intrigued? Want to find out more? Contact Professor Clark at for more information about study and internship opportunities in the former USSR.

Travel Abroad · Uncategorized

Study Abroad Programs for Russian Outside of Russia

The first post in this series had a list of study abroad programs inside of Russia. Some of them, such as American Councils and SRAS, also offer study abroad programs in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.

But what if you want to study Russian in the former USSR, but don’t want to go to Russia? Reasons for doing so can range from program restrictions–e.g., Project GO scholarships currently don’t cover Russia–to a desire to see a lesser-known side of the former USSR. Fortunately, there are a couple of programs that cater specifically to students wishing to study Russian in an immersion environment outside of Russia.

Learn Russian in the EU


With the Learn Russian in the EU program, you can have a Russian immersion experience in the Russian-speaking city of Daugavpils while staying in the EU.

This program is based in Daugavpils, Latvia, which is an EU member. Among other perks, travel to Latvia is currently visa-free for US citizens. One of our WFU ROTC students studied there in 2018 and enjoyed it tremendously!

Harvard Summer Program in Tbilisi


Study Russian with Harvard faculty in beautiful Tbilisi, Georgia!

A WFU student is planning to do this program this summer. Get intensive Russian instruction while experiencing the beauty of the South Caucasus.



Faculty research · Student Awards · Travel Abroad · Uncategorized

WFU German & Russian Students Receive Fellowships and Internships to Travel the World


The town of Imst, Austria, where Elizabeth Waid (WFU19) will be teaching English as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant

Spring is usually an exciting place on college campuses, as students learn of summer fellowships, internships, and post-graduate opportunities.  For our department, even more so: we have had a record-breaking yield on student honors, awards, and fellowships.  Take a look at the following updates we have received to date:

Our department always has a number of successful Fulbright applicants each year.  These students usually go on to spend a year in Germany, Austria, or, recently, the Czech Republic, to teach English to high school students.  This year, 25% of the WFU students selected as Fulbright semi-finalists were from the German and Russian Department!  From that list, the following were selected as recipients or alternates:
Jessica Wu (Mathematical Economics & German Major, 2019) has received a Fulbright Teaching Assistant award to spend next year teaching English at a German high school;
Elizabeth Waid (Economics & German Major, 2019) has been named an alternate for a German Fulbright Teaching Assistantship, and has also been awarded the parallel award to teach English next year in Austria;
Emily Beeland (Sociology & German Studies Major, 2019) has been named an alternate for Austrian Teaching Assistantship.  And hold onto your hats: she has also been offered a job at Walt Disney World, starting this June!
In addition to those exciting year-long stays, FOUR of our students have been offered a WFU Richter Grant, which funds summer travel and research abroad.  These are competitive awards, so having four people from our department – let along from a department of our small size – is outstanding.  Take a look at their fascinating proposed projects:
Riley Phillips (Studio Art & German Major) will be based in Berlin, researching the intersections between German internationalism and the world of high fashion;
Cameron Allen (Politics & International Affairs) will be pursuing her project “An Exploration of Modern Afro-German Activism”;
Sunny Calhoun (Women & Gender Studies) will be researching a project titled “German Queer Public Histories”;
Andy Weicheng Jiang (Mathematical Economics Major & Russian Minor) will be travelling to Koenigsberg and Gdansk, where he will explore the shifting cultural identities of these places after the Second World War.
Our students are very lucky to have Dr. Heiko Wiggers as a mentor for all things related to internships. This year, after a competitive application process, including rigorous rounds interviews, two students have been offered paid internships in Germany:
Nick Mazzella (German & Finance Major, 2020) will be with Ernst & Young in Frankfurt;
Will McKay (German & Business Major, 2020) will be returning to Kieselbronn to work with Elvation a medical device company.  They liked him so much last summer that they hired him again!
In our batch of last year’s graduates, Kimberly Annas (2018) has been accepted into the Ph.D. program for Germanic Languages and Literatures at Washington University in St. Louis, starting this fall.

And the good news doesn’t stop with the students!  Associate Professor Grant McAllister was recently named the Levison Faculty Fellow.  This is one of a very small number of faculty fellowships awarded each year to the most outstanding teacher-scholars at WFU.  Competition for this honor is extremely rigorous, so a huge congratulations to Dr. McAllister!

Congratulations, everyone!  The joy we get from teaching you is beyond measure.  May your adventures be equally thrilling!
And students: if you have exciting news to share about your plans for next year, let us know so that we can brag about you, too!
Student Awards · Travel Abroad · Uncategorized

The Critical Language Scholarship Program

Study abroad is great, everyone agrees, but it isn’t free. Many students can get discouraged before the process even begins because they can’t think of how they’re going to fund their dream trip abroad.

But fear not! There is plenty of money to fund pretty much any kind of study abroad trip you can imagine. Over the next few posts we’ll cover some, although not all, of the sources of funding students can turn to.

For today’s post we’re going to concentrate on the Critical Language Scholarship, a competitive national scholarship program for students of languages and cultures that have been designated as critical for national security and economic prosperity.

The Critical Language Scholarship

Deadline: November 27, 2018

Eligibility: Must be an US citizen and enrolled in a degree-granting program at an accredited US university at the time of application. Must pass a medical review. Applicants for Russian must have already taken at least two years of college-level Russian.

The program: CLS is an intensive summer program. The scholarship covers program expenses and travel costs between Washington, DC and the target country. CLS is currently operating three Russian-language programs, in Vladimir, Tbilisi, and Bishkek.


Vladimir is in the Golden Ring, Russia’s medieval heartland

Fun fact: Russian major Tatiana Ostwalt (WFU18) went to Russia on a CLS in 2017!

The program link is here.

Next week we’ll be talking about the other major national award for studying Russian at the undergraduate level, the Boren Scholarship!

Want to know more? Contact Professor Clark at

Travel Abroad · Uncategorized

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Study Abroad Options in the Former USSR

I know, I know–it’s barely September, and the fall semester has barely started, but it’s still not too early to start thinking about study abroad for next semester or next summer. The great news is that whether you want to work on your Russian (or another Eurasian language), take courses in a variety of other subjects, or land an internship, there are loads of options.

Lots of people will want to go to Russia, and there are plenty of programs that will take you to the popular destinations like St. Petersburg


St. Petersburg is the most popular study abroad destination for American students

and Moscow,


Moscow has all the advantages that a capital city has to offer

as well as somewhere farther from the beaten path, such as Vladimir


The provincial town of Vladimir still retains much of its medieval charm, and is a great choice for students wanting to experience the “real Russia.”

or Vladivostok.

Вечерний вид на Владивосток и бухт

The Pacific port town of Vladivostok is quite literally another side of Russia, one that few Western tourists see.

If you’d like to try someplace other than Russia, there are plenty of Russian-speaking schools and internship programs all over the former USSR, and most of these programs offer a variety of options in places such as the Baltic countries, the South Caucasus,

Georgia has seduced foreigners for centuries with the beauty of its nature and culture

and Central Asia.


Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan is becoming an increasingly popular option for American students.

Below are links to some of the biggest and most popular programs. For more information, you can also email Professor Clark at, or follow our Facebook page which is updated regularly with new study abroad opportunities.

SRAS is a budget-friendly company that offers a wide variety of internships and language and culture programs all over Eurasia. As well as perennial favorites such as intensive Russian language programs, they also offer programs on Policy and Conflict in Post-Soviet Space, Russia and the Environment, Security and Society, and–for those of you thinking of what to do next summer–a summer program that splits its time between Havana and St. Petersburg.

American Councils is probably the most popular program for American students. Along with Russian as a Second Language programs, they offer courses aimed specifically at Russian heritage speakers. They also offer a variety of other Eurasian languages, and a cluster of programs in/on the Balkans. Internships are also available.

Bard Abroad offers advanced Russian language programs in St. Petersburg, and programs for speakers of any level in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Wake students have gone on both programs and loved them! Those interested should check and see if tuition discounts are available for Wake students.

CIEE is the oldest study abroad program to take American students to Russia, and focuses primarily on St. Petersburg, although it also has some programs available in Moscow as well. Another popular option, particularly for students who know they want to go to St. Petersburg.

Happy travels!

Faculty research · Uncategorized

Article on Arkady Babchenko by WFU Student and Faculty Member Released on Day His “Murder” Declared to be Sting Operation

Last year WFU’s Dr. Clark and WFU Russian major Logan Stinson wrote an article on Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko.

Arkady Babchenko

Arkady Babchenko

Just as the article was going to press, the news was released that Babchenko had been murdered.  Then, the next day, the public was informed that the murder had been a fake as part of an elaborate sting operation to foil an actual assassination plot against Babchenko.  Professor Clark writes below about the article, Babchenko, and his place in Russian society as a “Holy Fool.”

As crazy fate would have it, today was the day that the article I co-wrote with WFU student Logan Stinson, “One Soldier’s War and the New Literary War Hero,” about the memoir by war correspondent and journalist Arkady Babchenko, was scheduled to come out.

Crazy fate because yesterday afternoon a notification popped up on my screen that Babchenko himself had been murdered.  Since Russian journalists get killed on a regular basis, and he himself had fled the country last year following a campaign of harassment and death threats, I was distressed but not surprised to read that he had been shot and killed Tuesday afternoon in Kiev.  I spent Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning talking to disbelieving students who had read his work, which I routinely assign in my classes, and crafting a statement for the article that was about to come out.

But wait!  Just as the issue was about to be published, another notification popped up on my computer screen.  Babchenko was alive!  It was all a sting operation!

To be honest, I am still processing that wild twist.  I’m thrilled that Babchenko was not in fact gunned down in the street.  I’m less thrilled that the police, and he, engaged in an elaborate lie that triggered worldwide outrage and mourning.  Maybe he really was being targeted by an assassination plot–he would hardly be the first–but it’s a little hard to know what to take at face value from the Ukrainian security forces now.  Certainly some of their assertions are a little far-fetched–this was the first in a series of 30 planned murders?  Really?

What I do know is true is that this is classic Babchenko, writ large.  He’s always been a loudmouthed, abrasive trickster with a slippery sense of reality, even as he has dedicated his life to shouting out the truth as he sees it as loudly as possible.  No one can doubt he has the courage of his convictions–but, despite his blunt-spoken exterior, the truths he tells are largely subjective and emotional.  Both facets are much in evidence in his memoir “One Soldier’s War,” which is a classic of contemporary war writing.  Read it, and you will come away with a visceral sense of how it felt to be a Russian soldier in Chechnya–and a very poor sense of what happened when and where.  Which is not to say the book isn’t worth reading–it is–but it is not the factual reporting of Anna Politkovskaya, who, tragically, was gunned down outside of her apartment in truth.

However, Politkovskaya and Babchenko serve two very different roles, despite their surface similarities as war correspondents dedicated to exposing the outrages of the Russian government and Russian military.  Politkovskaya, elegant, erudite, and feminine, was a straight-up martyr, carrying the cross she felt she was destined to carry to the bitter end.  Babchenko, who fulfills everyone’s idea of the crass, bear-like Russian male, is more of a court jester/holy fool, routinely blurting out things that are “irritating, even provocative,” not to mention provoking “shock or outrage by his deliberate unruliness,” and even “occasionally being disruptive and challenging to the point of seeming immoral,” as the Wikipedia page puts it.

Russian (and other) society used to believe that having a few holy fools around was necessary to challenge people’s beliefs and speak truth to power in a way no one else could.  Pushkin’s Boris Godunov left the holy fool who accused him of murder to live, because one does not kill holy fools, no matter how irritating they become.

Russian society, and not just Russian society, would do well to remember that.  Every group needs the occasional holy fool to make the rest of us examine our actions and beliefs.  Just not too many.  And please, Arkady, don’t do it again.

Link to “One Soldier’s War and the New Literary War Hero

Department Events · Uncategorized

Russian Student Initiated into WFU Chapter of National Honor Society

On Tuesday, May 1st, the Epsilon Iota chapter of Dobro Slovo, the National Slavic Honors Society, held its induction ceremony.  David Burch, a Russian major and graduating senior, was inducted into the society.

David with Certificate

David with his certificate

David is also our Russian peer tutor, as well as the president of the WFU Russian Club.  After graduation, he will be heading off to the Czech Republic on a Fulbright Scholarship!  We will be sorry to lose David from our program, but we couldn’t be more proud of him.

It wasn’t all serious, though; in fact, most of the party was super laid back!  We had a lovely cake for Dobro Slovo and the Russian Club

The Cake

Everyone agreed the cake was both festive and delicious

as well as fun conversation

Everyone together

Dr. Shaw and students from his RUS 212 class practice their Russian

Russian Scrabble


Students setting up for a serious game of Russian Scrabble

And a short impromptu concert from Dr. Hamilton!

Billy Playing the Banjo

Dr. Hamilton playing the banjo

Once again, congratulations to David, and best of luck to everyone on their exams!


Department Events · Student Awards · Uncategorized

Honors Society Initiation and Conversation Hour


It’s here!  The last week of the semester is here!  But before we get sucked into the madness of exams, we’ve got some celebrating to do.

Tuesday, May 1, will be the last Chas Peek (Russian conversation hour) at 4pm in Greene 341.  It will also be the initiation ceremony for the WFU chapter of Dobro Slovo, the National Slavic Honors Society.  David Burch, a Russian major and graduating senior, will be initiated into the chapter before he sets off on his next big adventure–teaching English on a Fulbright in the Czech Republic!

We will also be holding a general party/info session for the Russian Club, and generally have a good time eating cake and playing chess and Russian scrabble.  Everyone welcome!

Russian Scrabble


Department Events · Uncategorized

“Uncle Vanya” at WFU

The Vakhtangov Theatre’s performance of “Uncle Vanya” will be screened this Wednesday, April 18, at 6pm in Greene 341.  Free and open to the public!

Uncle Vanya April 18

Rimas Tuminas’ reimagining of Anton Chekhov’s tale about broken illusions and dashed hopes is freed from its traditional trappings, leaving behind a battlefield for passions and colliding ambitions.

We are given an empty space from which life has departed, a theatre space with grey slips, a plaster of Paris lion – a symbol of Petersburg, perhaps the ancestor who built the house came from there, a workbench made out of rough boards, an old sofa, several chairs of different colors.

This “Uncle Vanya” is about what Chekhov’s characters think and what they admit to only at moments of emotional turmoil. They are at times tongue-tied or overly brutal, but their revelations break out of them fervently, desperately  just as a man breaks out of a stuffy room into the open air.

A Golden Mask Winner for Best Drama, featuring the inimitable Sergey Makovetskiy as Voynitsky.