Brushing Up On Russian

September 2, 2008

A trio of Baylor students received Critical Language Scholarships from the U.S. Department of State to study in Russia during an intensive two-month program this summer. Seniors Gary Guadagnolo and Sara Garrett and junior Ross Irons were three of the 525 scholarship recipients selected from more than 6,000 applicants by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC).

Guadagnolo, a University Scholar from Arlington, Texas, who graduated from Baylor in May, received the Critical Language Scholarship for the second year in a row. This summer, he studied Russian language and culture in Samara, a city in the southeastern part of the country.

"I think the fact that Baylor has three students participating in the program this summer speaks to the high level of preparation that we have experienced in the classroom, and I hope that even more Baylor students will have the opportunity to participate in this scholarship, through Russian and other languages, in the future," Guadagnolo said.

Garrett, a senior University Scholar from Carrollton, Texas, studied at a language school in Astrakhan, near the Caspian Sea, while living with a local family. 

"Classes were fairly normal--we studied grammar daily, as well as reading, phonetics, and formal writing--but they certainly had an added level of difficulty, since everything was conducted entirely in Russian," Garrett said.

Irons, a junior German and Russian double major from Dallas, also spent the summer in Astrakhan, attending the state university there. Amazed by the cultural diversity of the area, Irons visited Orthodox churches, a historic mosque and the largest Buddhist temple in Europe.

"Though the climate and landscape was exactly like West Texas, the people were entirely new, opening me to cultures I was completely ignorant of before this trip," he said. 

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the CAORC, the Critical Language Scholarships Program was launched in 2006.

The eight-week program covered all travel expenses, housing costs and program fees and offered concurrent course credit.

"It is a significant achievement to be selected for this highly sought after and prestigious scholarship. It's fantastic that Baylor is so well represented in this program," said Dr. Michael Long, professor of Russian and director of Baylor's Slavic and East European Studies program.