Summer School of Russian and Eurasian Studies at Nazarbayev University
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Kylie Doran

Major: Anthropology, Russian
Minor: Arabic, History
Hometown: Collegeville, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

My Russian professor helped me find and fund this program. After traveling to Russia last summer, I wanted another opportunity to practice my skills in a different Russian-speaking country, so Dr. Mikaelian went to a conference about Russian-language programs and recommended this to me.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

This was one of the most valuable experiences of my college career- both in terms of my academics, but also in terms of personal growth. I spent eight weeks as an international student at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan. For the entirety of the program we had over 3 hours of class in Russian 5 days a week. We also met for at least an hour with student tutors to go over homework and practice our conversational skills. Our tutors also took us on excursions and tours throughout the city and even elsewhere in Kazakhstan, such as Karaganda and Borovoye. I also went on a four-day trip by train to Almaty, where I rode by myself in train cars with Kazakh and Russian families, which was a great real-world application of my language skills.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This program was extremely beneficial specifically because of the real-world practice and exposure we had to Russian and Kazakh languages. We lived with Kazakh students in dormitories, who helped us with our homework and conversed with us in Russian. We also met regularly with tutors, who by the end of the program, were not just tutors but genuine friends. At Penn State, it is challenging to gain real experience speaking Russian with native speakers, so this summer really helped make me more fluent and more confident in my conversational skills, which is not something that can be easily gained in the classroom.

This program was extremely beneficial specifically because of the real-world practice and exposure we had to Russian and Kazakh languages. 

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I ultimately want to get my PhD in anthropology and study cultural preservation of indigenous peoples. This experience simply solidified my goals even more because we got to meet with many professors at NU, many of whom were visiting anthropologists from the US or UK. They were all very helpful and encouraging when I talked to them about my goals and research interests. They even offered to help me find connections with their colleagues. I really hope to work in with an indigenous group of people in Siberia, which is what I am currently writing my honors thesis about.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would definitely recommend this program to other students of Russian language (or those who have interest in Kazakh). It is a small and dynamic program and aside from language experience, we had tons of cultural experiences, like trying kumys (fermented horse milk) and lessons in dombra (kazakh guitar) twice a week. It was like nothing I have ever experienced.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

I went into the program with my eyes open for inspiration for my Paterno Fellows thesis. Because of this, I met with dozens of distinguished professors in my field of study, who shared their own research experiences. I am able to connect my experiences and observations in Kazakhstan with research interests that are sure to influence my thesis, and ultimately my future plans of research in graduate school.


For more information on study abroad for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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