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FLAS Scholarship to Study Russian: Katelyn Wright

Katelyn Wright is a senior majoring in Security & Intelligence and Russian. She is a member of the University Honors program. In addition, she was President of the Security & Intelligence Club for the 2013-14 Academic year. She received two Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Scholarships; one for a summer program to Russia, and a second academic year long fellowship which covers her tuition for the entire year! In this article he shares her “winning essay” that was part of her application for the FLAS fellowships.

My motivation to learn the Russian language has grown out of the enchantment I experienced as a child and the quest for a greater understanding of the history of Russia. I had my first experience with Russian culture when I was seven, falling in love with the animated children’s movie Anastasia. I realize now that the movie is entirely fictitious; nonetheless it is based on a fascination with the past that has captured my attention. Out of the fantasies emerged a desire to discover the truth about the history of Russia. I began studying Russian in college, with the knowledge that language is the key to unlocking culture. Returning to my earlier interests of Romanov tsars and folktales, I had an epiphany. I recognized Russian words from my studies within the text. Since I could say the word narodniki, I realized I could now communicate with people whose ancestors lived that history. Barely two years of language study has given me a broader perspective on the history of Russia. Continuing my studies of the language and engaging more with Russian culture through courses and a study abroad experience will allow me to live the history that has inspired me, presenting me the opportunity to positively impact our globalized world through cultural exchange.

I am currently pursuing a major in International Studies Security and Intelligence. Before the end of the semester, I plan on declaring a second major in Russian. As an officer for the Security and Intelligence Club, I am able to interact with members of the Intelligence Community and plan club and campus-wide events relevant to national security issues. Throughout my university experience, I have also been involved with the service and leadership organizations First Year Leadership Initiative, Romophos Sophomore Honorary Society, and Alpha Lambda Delta/Phi Eta Sigma Honorary Society. I hope to study abroad in Russia this summer in order to experience the culture first hand and improve my knowledge of the language. I anticipate a successful study abroad experience, and receiving the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship award will allow me to continue to progress in my language abilities from intermediate to the advanced level upon my return. In my undergraduate studies, I plan to apply my knowledge of the Russian language and culture to both my academic and extracurricular endeavors. As an honors student, I plan to write a thesis paper on the political connection between the Russian tsars and Russian Orthodoxy, comparing it to modern day incidents such as President Putin’s outrage with the Pussy Riot scandal. I will be able to examine and translate first-person accounts in their original text critical to my research. As an officer in the Security and Intelligence Club, I will have the opportunity to apply my knowledge of the Russian culture and its role in the international arena to club discussion meetings. I will also be able to utilize my language skills in the club’s annual Simulated Intelligence Mission to decode messages or write the interrogation dialogue in Russian. I hope that the completion of a study abroad program and the receipt of the FLAS Fellowship will provide me with the requisite skills and experience necessary to secure an internship within the Intelligence Community. An internship will allow me to obtain experience critical to my future career while using and developing my language skills. Furthermore, I will pursue other opportunities outside of campus. I plan to apply for an internship at Mondokio International News, a company that translates articles from around the world. As a translator, I can enhance my reading skills and contribute to the understanding of how culture impacts world news. With the organization HandsOn Central Ohio, I will volunteer with a program that provides assistance to foreign populations around the Columbus area, including Russian immigrants. Through this experience, I will be able to utilize my language skills while aiding people in need of assistance.

My career goal for the future is to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research as an intelligence or language analyst. After graduation from Ohio State, I will apply for a job with one of these agencies. However, if I am unable to obtain a job right away, I will gain ex- perience through internships in Washington DC. At some point, I would like to pursue a joint degree from Georgetown University, obtaining a Master’s of Arts in Security Studies and a Juris Doctor from their Law School. A job within the Intelligence Community will allow me to continue my education in security studies and the Russian language. I will be able to apply my knowledge of the Russian language and culture in order to defend the country. I believe that only through genuine trust can security be ensured. Through my cultural understanding, I can work and connect with citizens of Russian heritage in the U.S. and abroad.”