Little rose of the Caucasus.
Rebecca Rothstein '14
Major: Russian and Eurasian Studies
Study Abroad: Bard-Smolny Program
Internships: Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Albany, New York
Betty Rothstein graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a degree in Russian and Eurasian studies in 2014. As a student, she took advantage of the many resources that Mount Holyoke had to offer — Russian table, classes through the 5 Colleges, a J-term internship in Georgia, and a semester abroad in Saint Petersburg through the Bard-Smolny program.
“One cannot divorce Russian politics from Russian literature.” This tenet she carried even further: the Russian language cannot be studied without embracing its poetry. She learned how to translate Russian poetry, and won the Joseph Brodsky Poetry Translation Prize for her rendition of “Guest on Horse” by Soviet absurdist poet Aleksander Vvedensky.
The real test of her education came after graduation. In 2015, she decided to enroll in a TESOL certification class offered at Mount Holyoke. By the end of the summer found a position teaching English in Georgia with the program Teach and Learn with Georgia. So, she packed up and moved to the town of Gori, which also happened to be Stalin’s hometown.
The biggest challenge was the language barrier; while it’s true that Russian and English are commonly spoken in Georgia, the mother tongue is Kartuli. Another challenge was adjusting to life in a highly Patriarchal society, where boys get preferential treatment, women face a glaring double standard, and being queer can be fatal.
However, life in the Caucasus granted an aura of mystique to a seemingly ordinary job. It felt as if students, co-workers, and her host family were conspiring to ensure she was happy. One of the best moments she had was discovering a shared a love of poetry translation with her senior English co-teacher. Together they collaborated on a lesson reading Emily Dickinson's "Nobody knows this little rose".
Now, Betty is back in the U.S. and ready to apply for graduate school to continue her studies in linguistics.