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Why do an Arts Degree? Why study a language?

One of our graduates, V. Bruce, answers these questions, saying:

An Arts Degree offers you, the school leaver, one of the best chances in life of becoming a well-rounded educated individual. No matter what subjects you choose, your Arts Degree will teach you to think logically, to analyse complex issues and to present your ideas clearly. These are all essential skills in your future working life whatever career you eventually choose since an Arts Degree is a stepping stone to many different careers. Above all, your Arts Degree will be fun. You will be studying a subject that fascinates you. And you will be surrounded by like-minded students who are just as keen to discuss the world's problems in a lecture hall as in the college bar.

Studying a language at third level is not just about grammar! When you study a language, you study a whole country. You will read its literature, and learn about its history, politics and culture. You will live in the country during your degree and will broaden your horizons and make many new friends. And when you graduate you will have a highly marketable skill. It is up to you what you do with that skill.

Why study Russian?

Because Russian is:

  • The first language of some 165 million people and of the world's largest state.
  • One of Europe's most important languages.
  • In the same family of languages as English and Irish (so there is much common ground).
  • Neither impossible to learn nor so very exotic and remote.

and because Russia has:

  • a fascinating and complex history
  • a rich cultural heritage
  • one of the world's great modern literatures
  • a rich musical and artistic legacy

Furthermore, today's post-Soviet Russia is a rapidly changing society offering unprecedented opportunities for work, study and travel for our students and graduates.

As one of our graduates says:
You will have the opportunity to study a fascinating and complex society, a literature second to none (try some now in translation), a tragic and thrilling history, as well as a challenging and beautiful language. Your classmates will not be run-of-the-mill. You will not be bored.

Russian can seem a foreboding subject and one that doesn't have short-term returns because the language is rather difficult, employing a seriously complex grammatical system and a Cyrillic alphabet, but whatever level you begin at, the department can accommodate you. I thoroughly enjoyed my time studying Russian at Trinity and have reached a level of understanding that will allow me to take those skills into future professions, I have the department to thank for that! (Sam Marriott)

Here are some more testimonials from our students:

Why did you decide to study Russian?

  • I wanted to start something from scratch so I could start on the same level as everyone else.
  • I wanted to study the history, politics, literature and language just for me.
  • I knew that if I was doing something I liked it could only be good.
  • Starting afresh in university looked like a good place to do something I liked.
  • It seemed at the time to be one of the more exciting places in the world in terms of political and social change.
  • I wanted to be able to read Chekhov in Russian.
  • I was heading for Modern Languages anyway since that's where my strengths lay at secondary level.
  • The fact that I could go to Russia for a year as part of the study was a major persuading factor.
  • I was attracted to Russian as a challenge and because I thought it would be unlikely that I would have another opportunity to learn it.

Why study Polish?

Polish is the language of 38 million new citizens of the European Union; it is also the language of an estimated 13 million people of Polish origin currently residing outside of Poland.

Polish is now an official EU language and the language of one of the biggest trading blocks and markets in modern Europe.

Central and Eastern European cultures have had a profound effect on the development of Western European thinking.

The changing shape of countries such as modern-day Poland, their expansion and contraction, their disappearance and partition reflect the traumas and tragedies, as much as the achievements and breakthroughs of modern European history.

Figures from a distant past, such as Dr Johann Faustus (magician) and Nicholas Copernicus (astronomer), figures from a more recent era such as Adam Mickiewicz (bard) and Marie Sklodowska-Curie (chemist) and contemporary figures, such as Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), Lech Walesa (the legendary "Solidarity" leader) and Czeslaw Milosz (winner of Nobel prize for literature) have shaped modern European consciousness.

Why study in the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies, TCD?

The Department offers:

  • A small, friendly department with nearly all teaching in small groups.
  • A period from two months to a year in Russia or Poland.
  • The opportunity to acquire advanced proficiency in written and spoken Russian or Polish, and a sound understanding of the development of modern Russia.
  • The opportunity to engage critically and in depth with those aspects of Russian and Russian Studies - be it literature, culture, language or society - that especially interest you.
  • Important transferable skills integrated into our courses: presentation skills in English and Russian and IT skills.
  • The TCD experience: close tutorial support; great student societies and sport; a beautiful campus in the heart of a cosmopolitan capital.

What can I do with Russian ?

Many people are anxious that an Arts Degree qualifies them for nothing. The experience of our graduates is in fact the reverse. Whether you end up working with your language or not, having Russian or Polish in your CV will make you noticed, 'employers respect it, because they see it must have been difficult. It makes you stand out from the crowd.'

As one of our graduates put it, "A degree in Russian will ensure that your CV never fails to get you noticed. It says you're adventurous, individualistic and ready for a challenge. It says you're talented and determined - getting a real grasp of the Russian language takes hard work and discipline. It also says you've spent time in Russia, which suggests both an open-mindedness and maturity that set you apart from other graduates (you'll have the time of your life, too). As trade and other links with Eastern Europe develop, so do the career advantages of a proficiency in Russian and other Slavic languages."

A degree with Russian will:

  • Broaden your horizons.
  • Open doors of opportunity.
  • Develop skills which are sought in the workplace: critical thinking, analytical reasoning, creative approaches to problem solving and adaptability.
  • Develop an understanding and acceptance of an other people and culture.

As very few people in the modern world start and end their working lives in the same job, or even the same line of work, an education which covers a broad spectrum of skills is the best possible preparation for the modern world. It allows graduates to carve out their own quite distinct career paths in accordance with their interests and talents.

What do graduates have to say?

  • I loved my degree, I love the challenges I'm facing into now and I know, if I build on my degree, that Russian will be invaluable to me as a speciality in the future.
  • As an arts subject I feel Russian is as useful and more interesting than most. If I could choose again I would choose exactly the same subjects.
  • It led to all sorts of interesting things and opportunities in Russia for the 5 years after I graduated.
  • Even though Russian ab initio sounds a pretty daunting prospect, I found it a very satisfying and extremely enjoyable language to learn. This, coupled with the welcoming approach of the Department, made the whole experience one I will treasure.
  • Studying Russia opened up my horizons intellectually and culturally. I got the opportunity to live in an incredible country and to study a beautiful language. I have met wonderful people, both Russians and non-Russians in this process.
  • Going to Russia is like heading to the edge of the unexpected.
  • Russian not only opens up Russia for you, but also the whole of the CIS and Eastern Europe.
  • I would encourage people to study what interests them, to have at least a few years of intellectual freedom.
  • I think if I had known how hard I was going to find it, I would never have done it. But thankfully, no one told me.
  • You actually come out able to speak Russian.