Max Huang ’21

Growing up bilingual in Beijing, I came to appreciate the wonder and vast opportunities that being accustomed to Chinese culture and American culture has brought me. As I looked for a third culture to immerse myself in, my four Russian-speaking friends in high school and Russia simply appeared as an intriguing and misunderstood region drew me towards Russian studies. At Lafayette, the REES program has allowed me to fully explore my interests in all aspects of Russian studies. I went on a Lafayette-led winter interim trip to Russia and Latvia, and a summer abroad in Russia studying Russian language. I took Russian language classes to the highest level and two semesters of Russian literature with intimate class sizes. The more I learn about Russia and the vast Russian-speaking world, the more I want to share my love, knowledge and experiences regarding Russia, and the more I realize that there is to learn. I sincerely look forward to the next time I can be in Russia, speaking in Russian or taking a REES class at Lafayette. Russia’s language, culture and history are all incredibly fascinating and important in today’s world. At Lafayette, I can be a REES major while also pursuing my interest in Engineering. Studying a region or culture, especially one as vast and complex as Russia is a real pleasure and privilege, and Lafayette has been a great place to do so.

Alexis Steffaro ’21

Growing up a Russian Orthodox Christian, and having Russian culture be such a large part of my childhood, I could not help but be interested in this area of the world where my ancestors were from. As I entered college I knew I wanted to challenge myself by learning the Russian language, and naturally with that, came my interests in everything Russian; politics, social movements, religion, culture, etc. I recently studied abroad in St. Petersburg and had the time of my life, even though it was cut short by COVID-19. I was able to fully immerse myself in Russian life, and experience the nuances that come with living in a foreign country, such as enjoying the cuisine, art, music, and visiting the many palaces and other museums the country has to offer. As a result of my time in Russia, I am pursuing an honors thesis that looks into the political nature of the Russian Orthodox Church, tying together my earliest interests in Russia with my newfound love of Russian politics. I am very excited to merge my two interests of  International Affairs and REES, as I believe they compliment each other greatly, and will enhance my understanding of Russia on an international scale.

David Bukowski ’22

Despite growing up in a family with significant Polish heritage, I was never too interested in Eastern Europe until I started playing soccer with a coach who was also a Russian language and literature professor. (He was famous for giving team talks in Russian when he was in a good mood.) Because of him I gradually became more interested in Eastern Europe, and I ended up taking four semesters of Russian at the local college during high school. I started my time at Lafayette with a Civil & Environmental Engineering major and a REES minor, but I upgraded to a double major because I was so interested in the REES courses Lafayette offered. (I really appreciate that Lafayette allows me to pursue two vastly different majors.) This semester I am studying a Polish culture curriculum at Krakow University of Economics. My picture is from a recent trip to nearby Wieliczka Salt Mine. What I really enjoy about the Lafayette REES program is studying so many different aspects of Eastern Europe, such as literature, history, modern politics, and political theory. Personally, I enjoy reading Bulgakov and Dostoevsky, though it’s much easier with help from Prof. Ceballos and Prof. Sanborn. After studying thinkers like Herzen and larger political movements like Jewish socialism in Prof. Sanborn’s Imperial Russia class, I have also become very interested in East European political thought, especially the work of Tolstoy and Kropotkin.

Julian Fandino ’22

Until coming to Lafayette, REES never crossed my mind as an area of interest. During my freshman year, I took an FYS called Russia Today. This course sparked an interest in a new place, and I wanted to learn about all that this place had to offer to the world. At the end of my freshman year, I had decided to follow this newfound path. I saw REES as the perfect pair for my economics major. This decision came as the world seemed to become more fractured and separated than before. I’ve been challenged to change the way I look at cinema and literature in such a way that I had never done before. REES has allowed me to understand the culture, history, and politics of this vast area of the world. I’m interested in analyzing Russian cinema to understand how this industry developed in economic terms, but I also hope to better understand its influence on the world cinema at large. This is just a small part of a vast field, as there still are topics I hope to cover.

Julia Jin-Wolfson ’22

I am a premed student majoring in REES and chemistry. The REES program appeals to a broad range of academic interests, from history to literature, politics, and even cinema. I am personally interested in exploring the intersection between Russian literature and feminism, as well as studying Russian language. I would not be studying REES if it wasn’t for my random placement into the first-year seminar class, “Russia Today.” Since then, I have come to believe, one can study almost any subject in the context of REES and find it rewarding. Outside of my REES major, I am involved in EXCEL research with Professor Ceballos, for her upcoming book in the field of Dostoevsky studies.