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Russian

Name: Daniel Zielinski

Year: Class of 2009

Hometown: Bernardsville, NJ

Major: Russian and International Studies

The Russian Department has grown significantly within my three and a half years at Johns Hopkins.  The Russian language has become popular again due to some current events, for instance the Georgian Conflict and Ukrainian Natural Gas Crisis.

The Russian Major at Johns Hopkins is unique as it is a joint program with Goucher College.  The department is staffed by Goucher professors, and is one of the oldest formal cooperative academic exchanges between Johns Hopkins and Goucher.   The department has two excellent full-time professors who actively inspire their students.  The professors are not only excellent in teaching the components of the language, but teaching the students about all aspects of Russian life.  I have taken courses on Russian culture, literature, business and history.  Both professors concern themselves with the well being of their students and take a significant amount of time working with students individually.

I have enjoyed every class that I have taken in the Russian Department at every level.  For a beginner Russian student there are four semesters of coursework they have to compete to begin to start taking the literature and culture courses.  The text book used for the Element and Intermediate level, Nachalo, is excellent and effective in helping students comprehend the Russian Language.  Once a student reaches the intermediate level, they can select from courses that examine Russian literature.  For instance, the courses offered in the spring 2009 semester Russian Conversation and Comprehension, The Soul of Russia, Chekov Seminar, and Senior Seminar II: Nobel Laureates in Russian Literature.  In addition to the above classes, the professors are always willing to offer and an independent study.

There are also a couple of experiences for students that would like to study abroad through the Russian Department.  The department sponsors both summer and semester programs.  There are two summer programs that students can study at, one in Moscow, Russia and the other in Odessa, Ukraine.  Both of these programs include superb language instruction and full cultural immersion.  The department recommends many programs that are accredited and have a long-standing reputation, for instance CIEE, ACTR and Middlebury.

Unfortunately, the Russian Major can only be completed as a second major, so be prepared to take select another major to complete alongside the Russian major.  If you are interested in the International Studies Major, completing the Russian Major would work well since you are required to take a certain number of language credits.  Fulfilling the requirements for the major is straightforward.  You need to take nine credits at the 300 level and 21 additional credits at the 200 and/or 300 levels.  This major does not have an honors distinction and distribution requirements should be filled out within your first major.

With that being said, I would like to tell you about my personal experience within the Russian Department.  I have enjoyed taking all of my classes as the professors are excellent at inspiring the material.  We are placed under very little restrictions when it comes to seeking extra help.  Our professors are always available, whether by email, telephone, or office hours.  Their one Opera House restriction is that we do not call them after 9:00 PM (very reasonable request).  The professors have phenomenal Russian accents and speak in English with almost no accent as well.  So it is easy to understand them when they speak in English, as well as providing us with a professor to imitate when we go to speak in Russian.

I feel as though our professors in the department always go the extra mile for their students.  One of my interests is in Business and Economics.  One of the professors suggested that we create an independent study where I focus on building my knowledge of Russian businesses and learning economic terms in Russian.  Midway through my independent study, I determined that I wanted to travel to Ukraine and complete and internship during my stay.  In a matter of months we arranged a trip and internship with a contact of the Russian department in Odessa (where this picture was taken, in front of the Opera House – 2nd most beautiful to Vienna!).  I was able to spend four weeks in Ukraine, speaking Russian, and gained exposure to how post Soviet companies operate.  Not only does the department encourage students speaking Russian abroad, they also engage students in conversation with native speakers that live in the Baltimore area.  Every year, the professors throw a party and invite native speakers to converse with the students.  At the party we are exposed to typical Russian foods and culture as well.

Another huge asset of the Russian Department is the abundance of native speakers in the upper level courses.  Every class has a handful of students that either speak Russian at home or are foreign exchange students.  This allows Hopkins students to interact with people that speak Russian like a Russian citizen would.

Overall, the Russian Department is excellent and has a dedicated faculty, small classes and a flexible curriculum for all levels of students.  Most students who complete the Russian Major or Minor have moved on to impressive careers in business, government and academia.  The demand for Russian speaking employees has grown over the years, and the program at Johns Hopkins does an excellent job preparing students with an extensive knowledge of the language and culture.

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Click here to access more information about the Russian Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and Russian question thread.

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