Guest Blogger: Will Bezbatchenko “Fulbright in Action”

We recently caught up with one of our graduates, William Bezbatchenko, during his time in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan as part of his Fulbright Grant. His story is a great example of what a Slavic degree can do for you!

Hint: It’s far and beyond what you think 🙂 

Although I started studying Russian seven years ago, I never thought I would live and work in Central Asia. In fact, the path to my Fulbright was as strange as it was long but I am happier with the outcome than I ever thought I would be.

After transferring to The Ohio State University and after a year of studying economics major, I decided to change my major to international studies. The program at Ohio State requires students to graduate with at least a minor in a foreign language, and after completing two Russian courses, I needed more Russian study to use the language in a professional setting. To address this issue, I majored in Russian and in turn, continued my study of the region as a graduate student at OSU’s Slavic Center.

Between my first and second years as a graduate student, I worked as an intern at the US Embassy in Tashkent. This was the first time I used Russian in a professional setting: reading articles, and speaking to Embassy guests in Russian. The Embassy provided Russian lessons, giving me additional practice, and working in the political/economics section gave me my first experience working abroad. I highly encourage students who are interested in a career in the US State Department to apply for positions in the former Soviet Union. Too often students apply only to Russia where they receive hundreds of applications while embassies in other countries only receive a handful.

Armed with my knowledge of Central Asia and experience living in the region, I applied for an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) position in Kyrgyzstan. Although Russian fluency is not a requirement for a grant in Kyrgyzstan, my knowledge of Russian and Uzbek allowed me to stand out from the rest of the applicants. The other ETA Fulbrighters also know Russian, and one had lived in Central Asia before.

For the duration of my Fulbright grant, I have been living in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan and work at the International University of Central Asia. A young university, it is one of only a few institutions of higher education in Kyrgyzstan that is free of corruption. This transparency makes my job easy and stress free. My colleagues are very dedicated to their jobs and committed to bettering their students’ lives. The university and US Embassy have also been very supportive of my projects to collect more resources for students and instructors.

I hold many English talking, debate, and movie clubs throughout the week at the university and I also help the university with projects and curriculum development. While these activities are conducted in English, understanding Russian allows me to live in Kyrgyzstan and connect with people in the community. It also helps me identify and understand some of the mistakes my students make, as Russian can interfere with their expression of English.


Guest Blogger, an Internship at the DOJ

We are proud to present our first student guest blogger- Wesley Swanson



By Wesley Swansonwesley-swanson-photo-1


Hello! I’m a junior, from the Pittsburgh area, and major in Security/Intelligence and Russian. I also minor in French. I received the Miriam G. Schwartz award in spring 2016.

Academically, my interests center on security issues in Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, particularly as they relate to organized crime and terrorism. I’ve felt for years that the best way to understand the political and security situations in those countries is to become familiar with their cultures; as a result, I’ve studied Russian since high school, and have continued to do so here at Ohio State.

My interest in those subjects naturally pushed me towards government work; this past summer, I interned with the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs—the government body responsible for coordinating extraditions and mutual legal assistance between the U.S. and other countries during investigations. I worked with the office’s Europe and Eurasia team, giving me an exciting glimpse into how U.S. law enforcement handles transnational threats from my region of expertise.

I feel especially honored to receive the Miriam G. Schwartz award, having been heavily involved with the Slavic Department at OSU since even before my first day as an undergraduate. Since I knew I wanted to be part of the department when I first came to Ohio State in 2014, I immediately sought out a research opportunity when I arrived, hoping my high school Russian would be enough to let me help somewhere. I met Dr. Ludmila Isurin and became her research assistant on a fascinating project on collective memory of Soviet history; we developed a great partnership, and I continued to work with her for almost two years. In addition, I’ve taken numerous courses in Russian language and culture in the time that I’ve studied here, as well as interned two semesters with the Center for Slavic and Eastern European Studies and worked on a translation project with Dr. Alexander Burry.

I used the Schwartz award to help pay my tuition for this autumn semester, which let me spare the money to afford living expenses in Washington—notoriously expensive for interns—while I worked at the Department of Justice. As it turned out, there was a significant Slavic-related component to the job that lived up to the spirit of the award; I frequently had to use the Russian language skills I cultivated at Ohio State to translate correspondence from our international counterparts, as well as stay up to date with those nations’ press agencies.

I greatly appreciate the Slavic Department’s award, as well as the help it gave me to afford to work in Washington on Eurasian security issues this summer. I’m looking forward to continuing my studies with the department as a Russian major!



*Throughout the semester we will be hosting student guest bloggers here on our blog. They will be writing about their experiences as students of Slavic studies, so be sure to follow along! If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact our program coordinator Jessi Jones-

Hello world! (Привет мир)

Students in SLAVIC 2230 Vampires, Monstrosity, and Evil: From Slavic Myth to Twilight

(Students in SLAVIC 2230 Vampires, Monstrosity, and Evil: From Slavic Myth to Twilight)

Welcome to the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures Blog!

This blog is all about the students, the what’s, where’s, and why’s of their lives in the field of Slavic Studies. We will host study abroad recaps, alumni interviews, and faculty guest spots. Stay tuned for all the amazing ways you can engage with students– past, present and future!


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