Christie Shu '09, an international studies and Russian language and culture double major, will wing her way to Almaty, Kazakhstan, in August to spend a full year as a Rotary Ambassador Scholar, starting a master's degree in international relations, spreading goodwill, and promoting cultural exchange.
It took the San Marino, Calif., native most of two years to land the $24,000 scholarship through the San Marino Rotary, get the placement in Kazakhstan, and prepare for her Aug. 3 departure. And while the destination may seem exotic to some, for Shu it’s almost like returning to a familiar neighborhood. She has travelled to Russia three times during her Colby career, including a summer teaching English in southern Siberia (not too far from Kazakhstan), and spent her sophomore year Jan Plan and all of her junior year in St. Petersburg.
Shu said her initial intrigue with Russian language came from working with a Russian-speaking fencing coach in high school. She studied Chinese, the language of her father, growing up. She learned French, Spanish, and Latin before Colby. And she found the language, traditions, and the location at the nexus of Europe and Asia fascinating when she started studying Russian and traveling there in college.
Having looked into the Watson Fellowships and Fulbright programs, Shu decided that, "The Rotary program fitted me perfectly, because the purpose is cultural exchange." She's very excited about her destination, she said, because Kazakhstan is a country in transition—from a traditionally insular place to an outward-looking world citizen, from an old capital city to a new one, and from Russian to Kazakh (a Turkic tongue) as the official language.
Shu will begin a master's program at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research. She will maintain a blog, and her role as a Rotary ambassador requires her to speak to at least 15 groups while abroad and nine back in the United States upon her return. Whether one of those nine talks will be on Mayflower Hill remains to be seen, but Shu said she sees her role as an agent of cultural exchange as a lifelong assignment.