By Steven Kenworthy, MA student in Slavic and East European studies and public policy
My name is Steven Kenworthy and I’m a grad student striving to complete a dual master’s degree in two years. Being in a unique situation where I would need to achieve 4 years of Russian knowledge within this 24-month window, I knew that my summers would be spent in immersive language programs. As much as I would love to have spent both in Eastern Europe, I knew that it was an unlikely option with a wife and two pets back in Columbus.
On top of that, we were down to a single income, which doesn’t exactly promote overseas study. I wasn’t aware as to whether or not I would receive a fellowship or scholarship for the summer, so I opted for the affordable route. I would enroll at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.
Like any other course, I had heard mixed reviews from classmates on the “Indiana Experience”. Some said it was challenging, some easy, some said they loved it. I got a variety blend of the typical reactions. Me being an optimist, I assumed the best and took my positive hopes to Bloomington in late May.
Our nine-week course took off out of the gates, not speaking a dribble of English from day one. Mind you, this was Russian two. We were relatively new to the language and probably weren’t quite ready for this just yet. Okay, we were overwhelmed. Thankfully my class consisted of four other Buckeyes who beside me ground through the first couple of adjustment weeks.
I’d be lying if I said it was a smooth ride at the outset. It was uncomfortable. There were times when all five of us were completely lost. There were moments of defeat. There were days when we felt like we might never get caught up. But we did.
By week three or four, I felt more comfortable. I was beginning to understand everything the professors were saying and my Russian was coming along. It was finally slowing down for me. Not only were my language skills evolving, but rather quickly I might say. Of course, I’m still far from my goal of buttery-smooth fluency, but hey – you have to start somewhere.
To think that I struggled to say where I was from in the first days makes me laugh. To go from that hopeless state to being able to carry on basic conversations for upwards of 15 or 20 minutes is pretty remarkable. I’m nobody special either. My classmates achieved similar results and I think we were all pretty overwhelmed by the amount of content we’d absorbed in our brief time in Bloomington.
By the end of the semester I felt a sense of relief, accomplishment, surprise even. Through the discomfort of week one, to the finish line in week nine, I’d come quite far. Not only did I accumulate a year’s worth of Russian in just over two months, but I grew as a person as well. Sometimes we have to accept the lumps of discomfort to grow.
At Indiana, I not only got to learn a beautiful language, but I proved to myself that I can overcome my own doubt in the face of adversity.