Most find learning a language scary, and among languages, Russian is considered terrifying. But as terrifying as the grammar and conjugations may be at times, the rewards at the end of the tunnel are terrific!
I graduated from U-M in April, 2017, with a BA in Russian Language and Literature, Political Science, and REES, among which my favorite major by far was Russian. As I left the university to set along my career in the U.S. Army as a commissioned officer, my only regret was graduating a year early and missing out on a whole year’s worth of exploring other aspects of Russian studies.
During my summer in Fort Benning, Georgia, my Sundays consisted of teaching and practicing languages. Being a native Korean with Russian language skills, my fellow trainees jumped at the opportunity to brand me a ‘spy’ in good humor; but one week after another I began receiving requests to teach them Russian and Korean. Sundays quickly became our designated times for language study and practicing. What started as three person lessons became classes of 10–15 men. The barracks classroom for 3rd Platoon of Bravo Company 1-46 Infantry Battalion became the rally point for foreign language speakers to teach America’s best and honor the education we’ve received by passing it on to others.
In Officer Candidate School (OCS), my Russian studies played an integral role in choosing my branch in the Army. Like most OCS candidates, I wanted the Military Intelligence branch; however, I began looking for other opportunities that would allow me to use Russian up close and personal—not behind a computer. I realized that the Military Police branch in particular worked closely with locals and focused primarily on the cooperation and communication between locals and our military to accomplish its missions. I hope to one day speak with the locals I interact with in their language and take the fear and strangeness out of working with foreigners.
As a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, I know that my chances of casual travel in Russia is slim; but until favorable times come, I hope to better my Russian skills and hold dear the value of understanding that which we find mysterious, that which we find unfamiliar, and that which we find terrifying; because it is on the other side of that terrible fear where our greatest accomplishments and triumphs exist.
I will soon be attending my Military Police training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, until the latter half of 2018, when I will be stationed in Fort Drum, New York, with the 511th MP Company. I applaud all those brave enough to take on the challenge of Slavic languages and studies, for in today’s polarizing times, we need you most. To the faculty, students, and others who equipped me and countless others past, present, and future, with the skills to succeed, I cannot thank you enough, and your dedication to make the world a better place –This We’ll Defend!