European Studies students of Russian have language classes and lectures (in English at first, but later in Russian) on Russian history, politics and culture. Not only are these very interesting in themselves, they also complement the other European Studies subjects. What more could you want?
For me learning Russian, living in Moscow, and studying the culture, history and politics of this vast Eastern neighbour of Europe's, brought a different and balancing dimension to the European Studies programme as a whole. We tend to be accustomed to perceiving of Europe in terms of its more Western representatives. As Europe today plans to expand eastward, a deeper understanding of these countries is becoming increasingly significant.
I benefited enormously from the year in Moscow - not just as a student. It really helped me grow up and be independent!
I was scared stiff the day before I flew to Russia for the first time - I loved all the time I spent there.
Living and/or studying in Russia is not a 9-month sentence! For most students, it is the most enjoyable and memorable part of their whole college experience. Many who have apprehensively left Ireland with one or two badly-pronounced words of Russian find themselves reluctantly returning as almost-fluent Russian speakers. Once you have spent some time in Russia you'll find yourself going back again and again and again!
Russia is a very sociable place to live and study. Whether you choose to go to Moscow, St Petersburg or an isolated Siberian town, you are bound to find fun and friendship that will be difficult to leave.
Russian maps of the world show a huge Russia, edged by distorted European and Asian countries, and America appears as a lesser counterbalance to Russia somewhere at the side. That tells you something about the different world view you become familiar with when you live in Russia. It's not an experience that you can have in any other way but by going there, and I think it's one worth having for people who are interested in the world around themselves.
My visit to Russia gave me the opportunity to see the world from Moscow, a multi-cultural city which has been the capital of a huge empire. I travelled around some of that former empire on the trains, and I have carried away an impression of vast space, which is totally unlike anything to be had in these islands.
Thanks to advice and information from the department, I decided to take a year out of my degree to study in The Russian Academy of Theatre Arts in Moscow. Having studied Russian as part of my TSM with theatre, it seemed like a brilliant opportunity. So, in September of 1998, I headed off to Moscow, alone, equipped with 2 years worth of language that I had acquired at Trinity, and not a clue what to expect. In hindsight, it is one of my most valuable experiences so far.
Adjusting to a completely different culture, society, climate and people was a long and difficult process. I soon realised how little I had known about Russian life. Living there, in a student hostel, surrounded constantly by Russian theatre students, I was suddenly confronted with a real Russian way of life. At first it was exhausting and lonely, but after a while, perhaps a month, I became addicted. I fell in love with it all.
Not surprisingly, my language improved so much - it's amazing how quickly you can learn when you actually need to. Studying with Russians was inspiring and the students were dedicated and passionate.
The culture in Moscow is rich, and the performing arts are an integral part of this. It is of such high quality and it is everywhere, accessible to everyone. It is easily what I loved most about being in Moscow.
Not to be too melodramatic, but my year in Moscow changed my life. It changed my perspective on everything. It showed me the value of knowing another language. I experienced art there that was beyond anything I had known before, and what's more, I was living amidst a society that appreciated it.
Why Study Russian?
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.
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.
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.
Why do an arts degree?
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.
Why study a language?
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.