Critical Language Scholarship Program | Tyler Le
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On the way to a weekend excursion in Kazbegi, my cohort and I stopped to take a picture and admire the view of Devil's Valley, at the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument

Tyler Le

Tyler Le is an alum­nus of the 2018 CLS Russ­ian pro­gram in Tbil­isi, Geor­gia. He’s cur­rent­ly a junior at Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Los Ange­les, major­ing in Bio­med­ical Engi­neer­ing. Tyler plans to pur­sue a med­ical degree at Uni­formed Ser­vices Uni­ver­si­ty of the Health Sci­ences, where he intends to spe­cial­ize in emer­gency med­i­cine. He enjoys hik­ing, trav­el­ing, cook­ing and culi­nary explo­rations, and try­ing unique and cul­tur­al­ly sig­nif­i­cant foods from every cor­ner of the world.

Shar­ing Amer­i­can Diversity

A sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Viet­namese-Amer­i­can, I grew up in West­min­ster, Cal­i­for­nia, a pre­dom­i­nant­ly Viet­namese com­mu­ni­ty in Orange Coun­ty. While on the CLS Pro­gram, I was often asked about my fam­i­ly, my back­ground, and where I’m from. As a Viet­namese-Amer­i­can, many Geor­gians had dif­fi­cul­ty under­stand­ing my reply of sim­ply Cal­i­for­nia, USA.” Their idle curios­i­ty would turn into fruit­ful dis­cus­sions of Amer­i­can mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, the mix of eth­nic groups, lan­guages and cul­tures that coex­ist in Amer­i­can soci­ety. And much to my sur­prise, Geor­gia is also an incred­i­bly diverse coun­try with var­i­ous eth­nic groups liv­ing with­in its bor­ders includ­ing a large pop­u­la­tion of Arme­ni­ans and Azerbaijanis.

The Road Ahead

After serv­ing in the mil­i­tary I plan to work for Doc­tors with­out Bor­ders in areas with large Russ­ian-speak­ing pop­u­la­tions includ­ing Cen­tral Asia and East­ern Europe. Work­ing in these areas, I will be both a prac­ti­cal and effec­tive doc­tor, able to com­mu­ni­cate with­out a medi­a­tor with my patients. The impor­tance of trust and con­fi­dence in the doctor’s actions is under­rat­ed as an effec­tive part of med­ical treat­ment. I want to build a work­ing rela­tion­ship with Russ­ian col­leagues and help each oth­er under­stand dif­fer­ent local reme­dies and region­al treat­ments for dif­fer­ent afflictions.

Because I had allowed myself to be open in Geor­gia to expe­ri­enc­ing new things, I’ve seen how rich the expe­ri­ence can be and I’m glad to be able to bring that mind­set back to the US and with me for the rest of my life.

Mean­ing­ful Every­day Moments

While cut­ting my hair, the bar­ber across the street from my host family’s home told me about his life, his time serv­ing in the Sovi­et army, his dacha, his fam­i­ly and his two chil­dren. One late Fri­day night after a long week, I set out to go to the sauna in the Old City and ran into the bar­ber as he was clos­ing up. When I told him where I was going, he replied with a sim­ple давай,” (“come on”) ges­tur­ing to his car. A strange man who cut my hair was offer­ing to dri­ve me to the sauna. And I went with him.

There wasn’t any epiphany-induc­ing moment that is often roman­ti­cized when it comes to study abroad, but this encounter and many oth­er expe­ri­ences have impact­ed my life in numer­ous ways and I’m glad to have had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to trav­el in Tbil­isi. It was the accu­mu­la­tion of small lessons and encoun­ters with peo­ple from a world away, putting myself in a new envi­ron­ment that allowed me to per­ceive the world through a dif­fer­ent set of lenses. 

Learn­ing Russ­ian in Georgia

Russ­ian has such incred­i­ble phras­es as Когда рак на горе свистнет” which trans­lates to When the craw­fish whis­tles on the moun­tains” or, in more under­stand­able words, the Russ­ian equiv­a­lent of when pigs fly.” As a for­mer Sovi­et repub­lic, Geor­gia has a com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ship with the Russ­ian lan­guage and has begun a shift towards Eng­lish as the de fac­to sec­ond lan­guage in the coun­try for busi­ness and edu­ca­tion. Though there is a notice­able dif­fer­ence in com­pe­ten­cy lev­els of Russ­ian between the younger and old­er gen­er­a­tions, there is still so much to learn from those who lived under the Sovi­et era, espe­cial­ly since Geor­gia was allowed to retain the Geor­gian lan­guage in offi­cial capac­i­ties. In this regard, Geor­gia occu­pies a unique space in the post-Sovi­et era among the for­mer republics. 

CLS Alum­ni Ambas­sadors are recent CLS par­tic­i­pants who take lead­er­ship roles as active and pos­i­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the CLS Pro­gram by engag­ing with CLS alum­ni and rep­re­sent­ing the pro­gram to var­i­ous audi­ences. If you would like to get in touch with a CLS Alum­ni Ambas­sador, please con­tact clsalumni@​americancouncils.​org

Alumni Profiles

Tyler Le
Tyler Le
Russian 2018
Tbilisi, Georgia

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Posted Date

May 06, 2019