Baltazar Hernandez is an alumnus of the 2017 CLS Russian program in Vladimir, Russia. Baltazar grew up in Chandler, Arizona and completed a bachelor’s degree program in public policy and business at Arizona State University. In 2017, Baltazar interned at the Congressional Research Service in Washington, D.C. He now works as a center coordinator at School of Politics & Global Studies at his alma mater. In his free time, Baltazar enjoys enjoy reading about history, attending concerts, spending time with his family, and exploring new restaurants in Phoenix.
Building New Friendships
I am from a bilingual Mexican-American household in Chandler, Arizona, and am also the first male in my family to graduate from college. When I applied for the CLS Program, I had concerns because I felt like I did not stand a chance in a competitive pool of nation-wide applicants. However, after participating in the program, I realized the unique opportunities arose for me because of my dual Mexican and American identity. I communicated with people of a different culture, confronted stereotypes and other assumptions, and tolerated political differences. I broke bread and shared laughs with the many new friends I made through the CLS Program experience. You can create so many new friendships with fellow language learners as well as native speakers of Russian during the program.
Winding Road of Acculturation
While living with a Russian host family, I was often in situations where my actions did not meet my host mother’s expectation of being “refined” based on local ways and customs. I learned that acculturating is not a linear process and, despite corrective actions, I still faced many challenges to integrate into the local culture. Nevertheless, I had opportunities to hold in-depth conversation about politics with my host mom and even though we often had differing views and sometimes could not achieve mutual understanding, I learned that we could still live together under one roof as long as we respected each other’s norms.
Public Transport Chronicles
Navigating a new city can be challenging: I experienced an extensive series of public transport hiccups. I almost missed a train, did not have the exact fare, got off on the wrong stop, and on one morning experienced a 1+ hour delay on the way to school. The greatest lesson I learned from these instances was not to panic. I learned to stay vigilant regarding my surroundings, too. At the end of each episode of ‘lost and found in the city’, I grew more familiar with my environment and became more proficient in using public transport system, just like everyone else using it!
I would encourage students at any level to learn Russian. In the age of globalization, knowledge of Russian is a great advantage. Russian has helped me to create relationships with others who recognize the importance of cross-cultural understanding and exchange. Learning Russian, with all of the language’s grammatical complexities, was a fun and rewarding experience for me.