Speaking with a student ambassador is a great way to get a previous student’s perspective on the Language Schools experience.

If you would like to connect with a student ambassador to ask questions, please contact Oliver Carling, School of Russian Assistant Director, at schoolofrussian@middlebury.edu

Russian student Gabriela Anderson

Gabriela Anderson

Hometown: Andalusia, Spain & Dorset, England
Program: Master’s Year Abroad
Current: Editor and Researcher

What surprised you about your experience at the Middlebury Language Schools?

Not that it surprised me, rather, it pleasantly lived up to its stellar reputation. The rigor of the program and wealth of clubs and activities was intense, but highly stimulating.

Why did you choose to study at the Middlebury Language Schools?

I was looking for an intense but time-sensitive immersion in Russian; a language I had studied in an immersive setting before, having lived in Russia for two and a half years several years prior, but had not had the privilege of studying consistently while working as an English teacher. As far as I knew and can now vouch for, Middlebury Language Schools are renowned for their arduous but excellent language training, which is exactly what I needed. At first, I thought I would be seeking and receiving more of a refresher course in my Russian, but by the first week, I understood that I had overestimated my abilities in the language, and that the program would therefore prove far more demanding than anticipated. This was a humbling and highly useful realization, as it became clear I was very much in need of re-training myself in both the language and an academic setting simultaneously.

Please describe how your language skills improved due to your studies at Middlebury.

I am reading and writing for leisure and for semi-professional purposes on a daily basis, and am far more inclined and inspired than I ever was to almost solely listen to Russian music, watch Russian TV shows and movies with and without subtitles; diligently writing down new words. I have also found myself reading even mundane things such as signs, product instructions, ingredient labels and museum didactic panels, before seeking the English translation, with the aim of acquiring further new, practical words through context.

What advice would you give someone wanting to attend the School of Russian?

Make the absolute most of your study and free time! I felt and feel so privileged to have been somewhat walled off from the rest of the world for a few weeks in a language community that I am truly motivated by; for the opportunity to practice and better my language skills and take part in cultural activities and events that I would never have the time, means or accessibility to otherwise, all the while, surrounded by the sublime nature of Vermont. Think of it as a monolingual silent retreat!

Russian student David Molina

David Molina

Hometown: São Paulo, Brazil
Program: Master’s Summer Option
Current: University of Chicago, Social Thought and Comparative Literature (Ph.D.)

What surprised you about your experience at the Middlebury Language Schools?

What surprised me the most about the Middlebury Language School – beyond, of course, the extraordinary effectiveness of immersion in developing all major aspects of language learning (speaking, reading, writing, and culture) – is the availability and world-class quality of its instructors. For someone hoping to dedicate his life to teaching Russian language, literature and film, the language school is an extraordinary place: the immersion environment allowed me to take classes from and get to know experienced language instructors and literature experts from around the world, to ask them questions, and to establish professional relationships with people otherwise only accessible in print (or, if you are lucky, at a conference). The program also fosters this same kind of camaraderie among students regardless of the motivations that brought them there. At Middlebury, I had the opportunity to learn not only from other graduate students interested in many of the same things I am – colleagues I would, again, not have met otherwise – but also from people of other professions, political views, and ages. Having a common language goal brings people together.

Why did you choose to study at the Middlebury Language Schools?

I chose to study at the Middlebury Language School because it had been recommended as the very best program for Russian language acquisition by everyone around me: undergraduate instructors, graduate instructors, and fellow graduate students. I was also quite taken with the pedagogical promise of the Language Pledge because I learned English in a similar environment: at an English-speaking school in my native Brazil.

Please describe how your language skills improved due to your studies at Middlebury.

Every aspect of my language skills improved in my time at the language schools. I made great strides in both reading speed and comprehension; speaking is now fluent; and writing – especially academic writing – has developed significantly: the Russian MA program really encourages it. Beyond supporting and facilitating academic work, my experience at Middlebury has opened a new and interesting door: that of literary translation. As of right now, I’m working on the first ever translation of one of my favorite Russian novels into Portuguese.

What advice would you give someone wanting to attend the School of Russian?

Middlebury does a fantastic job of encouraging one to both try new things, and communicate existing interests in the target language. Among the clubs and cultural activities in each school there is something for everyone: cooking, music, cinema, sport, chess, journalism. The list is long! If there is something you really care about and it isn’t represented, people are surprisingly open to help you try it: after discovering that I’m an amateur competitive ballroom dancer, for example, my instructors encouraged me to start a weekly club where I’d teach it to other interested students in Russian. It was challenging but very gratifying. Acting was something I chose to try (for the first time) and I cannot describe how much I’ve learned from it. We put on Chekhov’s Seagull two summers ago. What a way to study the play!

Russian student Gabriel Guadalupe

Gabriel Guadalupe

Hometown: Bronx, New York
Program: Master’s Summer Option
Current: Teacher, Buxton School (Williamstown, MA)

What surprised you about your experience at the Middlebury Language Schools?

I would say two things really surprised me at Middlebury. The first is that after a while you forget that you’re speaking a different language and realize that you’re just living your life—it just happens to be in the target language. The second thing was the quality of the relationships that you develop. From your teachers to your classmates, the people you meet at Middlebury are spectacular. They challenge and support you through your journey of learning a new language. Sometimes those connections continue to grow, which just goes to show how impactful experiences at Middlebury can be.

Why did you choose to study at the Middlebury Language Schools?

After hearing great things about the Language Schools from graduates of the Spanish MA and seeing the results in my friends’ level of fluency in Spanish, I decided to do one summer at the Russian School as an undergraduate back in 2010. Six years later in 2016, I returned to the 8-week program. To be honest, I was really missing Russian and wanted to reconnect with it and the Russian School. It turned out to be the right decision because in summer 2017 I enrolled in the Russian Master’s Program.

Please describe how your language skills improved due to your studies at Middlebury.

My language skills have improved in different ways during my summers at Middlebury. Every summer feels different as you tackle different challenges during your language learning. Throughout my summers at Middlebury, there has been a sharp increase in my comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, and most importantly for me as I continued on, my confidence. As I advanced to graduate studies, my speech and writing have become more complex, allowing me to express myself more freely and with a higher level of nuance. I normally teach three sections of upper-level Spanish at my job at Buxton School in Williamstown, Massachusetts, but this year I’m able to offer Russian 1 to a small group of students. This is the first time I’m teaching Russian and I couldn’t be more excited to share my love for Russian with my students.

What advice would you give someone wanting to attend the School of Russian?

I would tell students that my experience at Middlebury taught me to be ok with taking risks and making mistakes. Summers at Middlebury are intense, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, take the risks, and learn from your mistakes, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll achieve in such a short amount of time.