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Alyssa Haerle

Alyssa Haerle

Boren Scholarships

University of California, Los Angeles


International Relations

As a student at Antelope Valley College, I represented Russia at a Model United Nations conference. Researching foreign policy and the development of post-Soviet countries made me want to study Russian language and culture in more depth. So, after I transferred to UCLA, I enrolled in the Russian Language Flagship Program. A goal of The Language Flagship is to help graduate students attain superior language proficiency levels, which is exactly what I need in order to be competitive in my chosen career field of international relations. I applied for the Boren Scholarship to fund the Language Flagship capstone year overseas. Since I want to work on issues related to the economic relations between Russia and the United States, I see the Boren service requirement as a way to gain important experience. Having practical experience to supplement theoretical knowledge is an irreplaceable advantage in a competitive job environment.

As part of the Language Flagship Program in St. Petersburg, I took an international economic relations course at St. Petersburg State University (SPbGU). The class was held with Russian students, which really pushed me to use my language skills. I also had an internship with the Enhancing University Research and Entrepreneurial Capacity (EURECA) program at the National Research University for Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics. The EURECA program is a new partnership program between American and Russian universities to encourage scientific development and entrepreneurial activity in Russian national research universities. Through this internship, I have worked on several projects, translated and edited websites and articles, attended conferences and seminars, given a presentation at a marketing seminar, helped prepare for delegate trips to UCLA, and given advice on new projects. 

In addition to all of this, I have continued conducting research on technological development in Russia and its influence on U.S.-Russian economic and political relations. My experiences thus far have greatly improved my language skills. Furthermore, living in St. Petersburg with a Russian host family, studying at SPbGU, interning, doing research, taking cultural excursions, and interacting with Russian friends have all given me unique insights into different aspects of Russian culture, which would be impossible to experience from only studying in the United States. I hope to use this knowledge in my future career and would like to complete my service requirement in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs or as a foreign economics service officer. 

My advice to future study abroad students is to make the most of your time both at your home university and while abroad. There are many things you can do to incorporate your language into your university life before you study abroad and after you return. For example, I joined the Russian club and became an active member, immersing myself in the Russian youth community in Los Angeles. I also started a Russian Language discussion group. Having a network of Russian friends in the U.S. made it easier to meet really great and interesting people while studying abroad.

Written: January 2012