Meet and Greet: Derek Peterson

Over the  next few months we will be hosting guest bloggers from the Slavic Department.

Faculty, staff, and lecturers from DSEELC will write a short post and share a little bit of themselves with you, behind the scenes, outside the classroom, sneak peeks. 

They choose the topic and the format.

Follow along!

Academic Program Coordinator Derek Peterson


Derek with Brutus

How did you get interested in Russian and Slavic Studies?


I began my study of Russian when I was a sophomore at the University of Georgia. Starting college, I knew I would major in history, and honestly, didn’t give much thought to what language I would take to fulfill the university foreign language requirement. I had no previous experience with Russian, and when I saw it, I thought “don’t know anything about Russia aside from what I’d watched in bad 80s action movies, why not?” It didn’t take long for me to realize that I stumbled onto something that wouldn’t just satisfy a degree requirement. I found myself reading Russian history and literature in my extra time, and began to consider that I would focus on Russia when I went to graduate school.


Have you ever studied abroad?


Yes, I was fortunate enough to study abroad in St. Petersburg and Moscow as an undergrad, and in Dushanbe, Tajikistan as a graduate student. My trip to Russia was my first trip outside of the United States, and it was an excellent experience. The chance to see Red Square, Peterhof, and all of the other iconic locations that I’d read about in class. I routinely went for long walks around the city with my host dad, who was a great photographer. A personalized tour of the most scenic parts of the city is hard to beat. The fact that Russia advanced to the semi-final round of the European Soccer Championship while I was there also made for an interesting cultural experience.


My trip to Dushanbe was amazing as well. I went there to study Uzbek, which meant that most of the time I had to rely on my Russian to get around town since I didn’t know any Tajik. At first, getting around town often meant sprinkling Uzbek words into my Russian by mistake and receiving quizzical looks, but eventually I got used to it. While we did travel outside Dushanbe a little bit, my best memories involved going to the markets with tutor or host family and haggling for any and everything. While I can confidently say that I paid an appropriate price about 40% of the time, these were some of experiences that I remember clearly (not the easiest after multiple concussions) and fondly. Cooking sloppy joes on the 4th of July with my host family and then joining them out for a night at a new carnival was also a memory that won’t fade anytime soon. The only downside to the trip is that the different kind of melons in Central Asia are so good, they have ruined honeydew and cantaloupe for me back in the States (even four years later).


Can you give us a brief description of your current position?

I am responsible for the general functionality of the department. I support graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff through course scheduling, event management, record keeping. Basically dotting all the I’s and crossing all the t’s.


What are your favorite parts of your job?


I really love working on our events, especially our talent show, kapustnik. Watching our students have fun with the language skills and cultural knowledge they gain in class is a highlight of every semester. It may sound odd, but I also enjoy putting our class schedule together each term. Getting our all of our classes in a good position at such a large university is a challenge, but a fun one. It’s like one big game of Tetris.


What are your hobbies outside of work?


I train for powerlifting most days, and on my off days, I enjoy playing guitar and reading.


If you were stuck on a desert island with only three albums, what would they be?


Pink Floyd Animals

Iron Maiden Somewhere in Time

Stevie Ray Vaughan Texas Flood


Who is your favorite Russian author?


Dostoevsky. One of my favorite undergrad courses focused on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, and our major assigned readings were War and Peace and The Idiot. I finished The Idiot well ahead of time because I just kept reading it. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Crime and Punishment.


What advice would you give to an incoming Russian language student?


If you like Russian and really want to improve, take every opportunity you can to practice your language skills. You can listen to music or podcasts on your way to class, try to read news articles in Russian, and find people to practice with over Skype. There are so many little things you can do that will make a difference.


I would recommend that every student try to study abroad at some point during their time at OSU. While the price of some programs can be daunting, there are a lot of options for funding all over the university. Getting to immerse oneself in another culture is not only beneficial for a degree like Russian, but also for growing as a person and gaining insight into different perspectives.


And what career advice would you give to a student?


Whatever you are doing, make sure to discuss your future plans with your advisor and professors. Start the dialogue about your future plans and start thinking about things you enjoy doing and may want to pursue as a career path. It doesn’t mean you can’t change it later, but the sooner you start engaging with your faculty and staff, the sooner you can get on the right track and make connections. There are so many career resources at Ohio State for students to take advantage of, and the earlier you start this conversation, the sooner you can use these to get you on a good career path.



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