Critical Language Scholarship Program | Halcyon Ruskin
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Halcyon Ruskin

Hal­cy­on Ruskin is an alum­na of the 2017 CLS Azer­bai­jani pro­gram in Baku, Azer­bai­jan. In addi­tion to Azer­bai­jani, Hal­cy­on also speaks French and Russ­ian. She recent­ly grad­u­at­ed from St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land with a bachelor’s degree in French and inter­na­tion­al pol­i­cy stud­ies. Hal­cy­on now works as a research asso­ciate at a com­pa­ny that pro­vides research ser­vices in 23 lan­guages. She is excit­ed to be the first Azer­bai­jani speak­er for her com­pa­ny and hopes to pur­sue a master’s degree in Eurasian region­al stud­ies in the future.

Pur­su­ing Pas­sion in the Region
After study­ing Russ­ian in Moldo­va, a for­mer Sovi­et state, I was intent on con­tin­u­ing my stud­ies in the Russ­ian periph­ery. I chose Azer­bai­jan because I want­ed to get to know the area through the local­ly pre­ferred lan­guage. As some­one who is inter­est­ed in pur­su­ing region­al stud­ies and poten­tial­ly a career in jour­nal­ism or research, I see com­mu­ni­ty trust as being essen­tial; using the local lan­guage is key to achiev­ing that trust and build­ing durable rela­tion­ships. In addi­tion, by not hav­ing to work through an inter­preter or trans­lat­ed texts my analy­sis can be more authen­tic and accurate.

Defy­ing Expec­ta­tions
At one point late in the pro­gram, my host moth­er and I had a chance to talk about what our expec­ta­tions of each oth­er had been before the start of the pro­gram. My host moth­er said that she imag­ined an Amer­i­can girl to be a bit on the wild side and thought — based on a sto­ry she had heard from a friend — that maybe I would want to go bar hop­ping at night. She said that I defied this expec­ta­tion; I spent most of my free time with the fam­i­ly, engag­ing in con­ver­sa­tion, mak­ing Amer­i­can dish­es for them to try, and play­ing with the chil­dren. In our con­ver­sa­tions, I empha­sized that the Unit­ed States is very diverse, that there is no sin­gle def­i­n­i­tion of a typ­i­cal Amer­i­can or a typ­i­cal Amer­i­can experience. 

Azer­bai­jan is an amaz­ing place to study for any­one inter­est­ed in cross­roads. The country’s his­to­ry of for­eign occu­pa­tion has cre­at­ed a thor­ough blend of East­ern and West­ern cul­tures. The lan­guage has a lyri­cal sound and lots of fun suf­fix­es. My friends and I were par­tic­u­lar­ly fond of the word Mərtəbə, mean­ing floor,” because we always lost track of which /​ə/​vow­el sound we were on. To make it bet­ter, anoth­er vow­el is added to indi­cate on the floor” as in Mərtəbədə. Even bet­ter still, anoth­er vow­el is added to say, It is on the floor” – O bu mərtəbədədir.”

After Effects
After return­ing home, I raved about Azerbaijan’s nat­ur­al and cul­tur­al beau­ty, espe­cial­ly Azer­bai­jani hos­pi­tal­i­ty. In my cap­stone research on the evo­lu­tion of Azerbaijan’s for­eign pol­i­cy, I empha­sized how despite being a small state, rel­a­tive­ly speak­ing, Azer­bai­jan has been able to achieve a lot of auton­o­my and has done a remark­able job of devel­op­ing their nation­al iden­ti­ty in a fair­ly short amount of time.

Alumni Profiles

Halcyon Ruskin
Halcyon Ruskin
Azerbaijani 2017
Baku, Azerbaijan

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Posted Date

July 23, 2018