Eve Litvak (St. Petersburg Fall 2014)
Alumna Eve Litvak discusses her experiences as a Russian heritage speaker abroad, how her scholarship helped her achieve her study abroad goals, and what it has inspired her to do next.
Hometown/State: Fairlawn, NJ
Current Occupation: Student forever abroad
Academic Institution: Brandeis University
Major: Russian Studies, European Culture Studies, International and Global Studies
Eve Litvak exploring Russia.
American Councils (AC): Why did you choose this country/region? Why is it important or meaningful to you?
Eve Litvak (EL): As the first first-generation American in my family, I had many unanswered questions about Russia and what it means to be Russian. There are all sorts of divisions in identity, especially at times of political crisis. My goal was to identify my identities, put them in context, and find their limitations. Essentially, I wanted to go to the country of my ancestry’s origins to see if, as a privileged American, and a Jew, I could live as a Russian. I wanted to see what it would feel like, how I would interact with people, what would change in me, and how my perceptions would be challenged and changed over the period I would be there.
I chose Saint Petersburg specifically because I had never been there and wanted to be going in with zero expectations. This decision has proven infinitely valuable as I had never felt so connected not only with my family, but comfortable in a place.
AC: Is this your first time abroad? If not, is this your first time to this location?
EL: No, I have been fortunate enough to travel abroad for chess competitions. This was my second time in Russia; the first was in 2008, when I participated in an international chess tournament. However, I had never been anywhere else in Russia until this program.
AC: What motivated you to take it to the next level and study overseas? Why did you think it was important?
EL: As a heritage speaker, I had a foundation in Russian, but it was extremely limited. I took a few courses in Russian at Brandeis, but found myself struggling a lot to learn in a classroom setting in which each heritage speaker was at a different level and also there with different motivations. I figured it would be a shame not to properly learn Russian considering the potential to achieve a professional fluency would require just a few pushes and the only way to do so would be to go to Russia for some period of time.
AC: What are your career goals? How do you expect the experience to shape your life and career?
EL: Right now, I am aiming to attend law school. Initially, I saw this experience as something that would make me a more competitive applicant because, realistically speaking, how many students go abroad to Russia? It’s a bit exotic and unknown to most of the world. As it turned out, this may have been one of the best life choices I’ve ever made. Studying and working in St. Petersburg for four months changed me in ways I am still encountering. The most important gain from this program has been confidence. I am far more assured in everything that I do: tackling unknown situations, speaking with strangers, public transport, learning other languages, speaking publicly, everything. As a future whatever, communication and self-assuredness will be necessary features.
AC: What has the program inspired you to do next?
EL: I am currently studying abroad in Italy and hope to do another program in Europe this summer, but now I am seeking out a way to return to Russia. Really, the program has just inspired me to be a better version of myself, which is the goal of study abroad.
AC: Is there anything else you would like to add? Any notes to the scholarship fund donors?
EL: Thank you for supporting such a beautiful and necessary educational initiative. With the state of the world and unreliable perspectives, the best thing anyone can do is travel and gain real experience to be applied to conversations, work, and all future initiatives.
To read more about Eve's experiences in Russia, check out her blog on our AC Russia Abroad website.
Eves’s Outbound Scholarship would not have been possible without generous donations from staff, program alumni, and private supporters. The Outbound Scholarships are part of the American Councils Study Abroad Scholarship Fund, established to provide students with additional financial support for studying in Russia, Eurasia, and the Balkans.
However, each year, American Councils can only cover approximately 35 percent of applicants’ financial needs, meaning talented students must decline acceptance because they cannot afford the program. Help us support and grow the American Councils Study Abroad Scholarship Fund, which provides life-changing learning experiences in Eurasia and the Balkans to U.S. undergraduate and graduate students like Eve!