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The Russian Program at Colby is a small, particularly active and close-knit group of students and faculty. The Russian language and culture major is designed to introduce students to Russia’s past and present in a grouping of language, literature, film, culture, and history courses taught both at Colby and at the Colby-in-St. Petersburg program. In this era of dramatic social, cultural, and economic transition in Russia our students and graduates must be firmly grounded in language and culture. The major requires four years of Russian-language study (including content courses in Russian literature and film at the advanced level) and four courses taught in English: two semesters of Russian history, and two semesters of Russian literature and/or film.
Students interested in studying Russian in conjunction with another major may elect a minor in Russian language and culture. The minor requires seven courses in language and literature that offer a basic foundation in grammar and an introduction to 19th-century Russian literature and 20th-century Russian film.
Each year a visiting Russian university student serves as our language assistant. The assistant works in classes with students, offers individual tutorials, and conducts conversation circles to encourage students to speak as much Russian as possible. The Colby student body often includes Russian-speaking students and students matriculating from Eastern Europe who provide a connection with Slavic cultures.
Colby offers Jan Plan courses (taught in English) in St. Petersburg, all of which include residence with a Russian family and cultural excursions. Typically the St. Petersburg choices include Russian Ethnography, Russia’s Transitional Economy, and Russian Culture. We actively encourage third- and fourth-year students to enroll in summer, semester, and yearlong study programs and internships in Russia. Some students enroll in intensive Russian language summer programs as well.
Colby sponsors its own semester-long program in St. Petersburg, which includes intensive language study, residence with a Russian family, and a varied travel and cultural program. Virtually every student in our senior-level language and literature courses has spent one semester or a year studying in Russia. These students add vitality to all our language courses. They are role models for younger students and energetically encourage study in Russia. In addition, their study-abroad background elevates the quality of our senior courses, in which students do research and literary interpretation beyond the usual undergraduate parameters.
The small size of the Russian Program enables us all to know each other well and to join together often to create wonderful Russian moments for the Colby campus. Students and faculty arrange a variety of extracurricular activities on campus throughout the year, including Russian films, lectures, and seminars by visiting American and Russian scholars, Russian teas, and a weekly Russian dinner table. Popular campus events are the Russian holiday celebrations, such as maslenitsa, the traditional Russian Butter Feast that marks the beginning of the Lenten season. We hold an annual Russian poetry event in March each year, and senior majors present their original work each year (in Russian) at the annual Bates-Bowdoin-Colby-USM Russian Symposium. Staff members publish a monthly newsletter on all things Russian (Tusovka).
Graduates from Colby’s Russian Program go on to pursue a variety of routes and careers. A number have found jobs in the United States in government, business, law, and nongovernmental organizations that require Russian language skills. Others work in Russia, either for a few years or as a career (banking, journalism, resource development). Several have served in the Peace Corps in Mongolia or Kazakhstan. Graduates have pursued M.A.s in international relations and Ph.D.s in Slavic languages and literature. One recent graduate received full funding to study at the Institute for Economics in Kazakhstan (2009-10) and will now enter law school (2011) with an eye to practicing international law. Three recent grads (2007, 2009, 2010) were awarded the highly competitive U.S. State Department Flagship Program fellowship for a year of post-grad intensive Russian language study in St. Petersburg. One now works for the U.S. Department of State negotiating nuclear policy with post-Soviet states. A joint Russian/English major from the class of 2011 will teach English in northern Russia this fall. This extensive internationalism is a tribute to language, literature, and culture study at Colby.