Melissa Warner '12

Madison, Wis.

Graduate Student, Department of Slavic Languages and Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“When I arrived at Hobart and William Smith in the fall of 2008, I was unsure about what to major in but I did know that I wanted to start learning a new language. When choosing my first-year seminar, a class called: "Tales of the Village Idiot: Russian and American Folklore" caught my eye. I saw that it was connected to a first-year Russian language course and decided to give it a try. Little did I know then, that decision would not only shape my college career at HWS but my life after graduation as well.

My first year of college was a whirlwind of learning about both Russia and Russian language. Somewhere between reading about Baba Yaga and learning the sounds of a new alphabet, I began to discover that Russian culture was multifaceted, far beyond the basic onion-domed churches and snowy plains that had dominated my impression of it before college. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know, and the more interested I became in studying Russia.

I declared a Russian language and culture major during my sophomore year and joined the Russian Honor Society Dobro Slovo. After that, I spent the fall semester of my junior year living and studying in Yaroslavl, Russia. I also completed a second major in Asian languages and cultures, with a focus on Chinese language. I was fortunate to have excellent advisers, Associate Professor of Russian Kristen Welsh and Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures Jinghao Zhou, who encouraged my interest in both my majors and helped me plan my course of study.

During my senior year, I completed an Honor's project under the guidance of Professor Welsh called "Date with a Bird: Translating Tatyana Tolstaya," in which I explored the field of literary translation by creating my own English translation of a Russian short story. That year I was also accepted to the HWS chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, graduated summa cum laude, and enrolled in a MA/Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Slavic Languages and Literature.

I am currently in my second year of graduate school at UW-Madison and will finish my MA this spring. I also began teaching Russian 101 to undergraduates this fall. Teaching Russian language for the first time has had me thinking often about my first fall at HWS and the choices that have carried me to this point in my life. When I look at my students every afternoon, I think of when I was sitting in their place as a nervous first-year student, hoping that college would be as life-changing an experience as everyone had told me that it would be. Needless to say, it was, not only because HWS has excellent academic programs that challenged me to explore my interests and discover my potential, but also because of the people I met there. What truly makes HWS a special place is the inclusive community you become a part of the moment you set foot on campus.

With that in mind, I would like to express my gratitude to all of the incredible professors I had the opportunity to take classes with at HWS. As a teacher, I strive to embody the same enthusiasm, professionalism, and contagious love for the subject matter in my own classroom that I experienced as an undergraduate student in their classrooms. I am especially grateful to the faculty of the Russian Area Studies department, including Kristen Welsh, David Galloway and Marina Aptekman for their constant, unwavering support of me both during my time at HWS and afterward.”


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