A Roller Coaster Worth The Ride

Gabriella Gonzalez '16

Gabriella Gonzalez '16

Double major: Russian Language & Culture and Politics

Summer Language Study: Language Learning Program, School of Russian and Asian Studies, Latvia; State University of Economics, University of St. Petersburg

Summer Internship: Translator, Yusupovsky Museum, Saint-Petersburg

While I was looking up schools in my final year of high school I stumbled upon Mount Holyoke College. A family friend had recommended it but I did not give it much thought. That same year I read Crime and Punishment and I loved it. I began searching schools with strong Russian departments. That's when I came across Mount Holyoke. The department had great reviews so I turned to my college counselor and said: "that's it! Mount Holyoke is my school I am going there and this is why!" After that, she and I worked diligently to get me to be a desirable candidate for the school. Long-story-short, I made it to Mount Holyoke as a blue Lyon class of 2016.

Beating the Odds

Despite my enthusiasm for Russian studies, I faced many challenges. The Russian language did not come easily to me. However, there was no way I was going to quit. My love for Russian literature, history, politics, and knowledge of culture was far too great. I continued working on my Russian language fluency.

I went to the south of Latvia the summer of my sophomore year to practice my Russian studies.

The summer of my junior year I made it to Russia and landed an internship at the Yusupovsky Museum in Saint-Petersburg, Russia and also studied the Russian language at the State University of Economics at the University of Saint Petersburg. I managed to also pay a visit to Moscow, Russia.

I had a hard time adjusting to both programs in Latvia and Russia at the beginning. By the end of the program, I felt right at home and found myself assimilating as much as I could. However, my cultural experience was very different than what I had expected.

Language is one very important part of communication, but there is more to it.

I assumed that because I had been studying Russian for three years (by that point) I would immediately have everything fall into place. However, my study abroad experience taught me about cross-cultural  communication. Language is one very important part of communication, but there is more to it. I learned how to immerse myself in a new culture and accept a culture for what it is, and not appropriate what I liked and understood from my classes.

Overall, my four years studying Russian literature and culture at Mount Holyoke were remarkable.

I had many downs, but just as many ups. I frequently met new and interesting people. I had the honor and privilege of working with wonderful professors. Not only did I receive a great academic and intellectual experience while I was a part of the Russian department at Mount Holyoke, but I also grew as an individual. I learned so much about myself and my capabilities, both as a student and a person.

My time at Mount Holyoke and within the Russian department was a roller coaster, but it was worth the ride. I hit numerous speed bumps but I still arrived at my destination with grace, despite my obstacles.

Continuing my Russian studies in Cuba.

As it turns out they have a strong Russian program over at the University of Havana. I want to challenge my linguistic skills and try a new way of living. I think it will help me with my new found curiosity about cross-cultural communication. I hope to one day go back to Russia as well as other places, and to learn more languages along the way.

The Russian department at Mount Holyoke has given me the tools and support follow my ambition.