Daniel Rothberg is an alumnus of the 2020 CLS Russian virtual institute hosted by National Research Lobachevsky University in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. He’s a 2020 graduate of Oberlin College with a bachelor’s degree in Russian and Eastern European studies, Russian language, and political science.
Getting to Know Daniel
I was born in New Jersey but spent my childhood in Tokyo. I love chess, hiking, and ultimate frisbee. My childhood abroad kindled my love of language at a young age and taught me the importance of cross-cultural communication.
I began learning Russian completely on whim, but quickly grew to love the language and politics of the region. As someone committed to a Russia-focused academic path and career, I know that my knowledge of the language will prove invaluable to academic and field research, archival work, and outreach at large. I would love to work in international political research in some capacity; I’m planning on going to graduate school for international relations, but I want some practical experience first.
Building Confidence in the Language
Toward the end of my program, I and the other students in my class shared research projects on topics of our choice in Russian. I presented on the scientific importance and political factors impacting Lake Baikal. Much of my project involved highly technical language and scientific jargon, and I was quite nervous. However, as soon as I started presenting, I felt better, and I ended up going over the presentation’s time limit by around ten minutes. It felt great to be able to speak relatively freely about a topic I was passionate about, especially one that was relatively niche!
I’ve learned that for a lot of people in my home community, Russia is viewed as a series of tropes. My studies, and CLS in particular, allowed me to share a perspective on Russian culture, politics, and people that helped to shatter stereotypes and deepen my family and friends’ understanding of that region. My language partner and I also often compared and contrasted American and Russian culture and politics, the latter of which was particularly interesting in terms of the COVID response.
Recommendations for Applicants
I would absolutely recommend the CLS Russian program to anyone. The program is certainly demanding, but it rewards hard work immensely. I can easily say that my Russian improved more over the course of my CLS Program than in any year of university-level language study.
While the remote format of CLS 2020 certainly introduced some social limitations, the program still fostered a strong sense of community among participants. I’m still good friends with a couple of the people from my program, and we call weekly to practice Russian and catch up. The social aspect of CLS is certainly still there and can really help with language acquisition and retention!
May 10, 2021