Russian Regards

Isabelle Frankel, Writer

Ryan O’Neil, junior, had the unique opportunity when he participated in an immersion program in Russia.

The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) provided O’Neal with a merit based scholarship to go to Russia. The NSLI-Y is sponsored by the United States Department of State and their goal is to “prepare American citizens to be leaders in a global world.” They send students to countries with less commonly-taught languages including Russia, China, India, Jordan, Turkey, and other locations.

“I’ve always been interested in languages, so that was a good opportunity since I’ve wanted to learn Russian for a long time now. I applied about this time last year. You apply and you write two essays, then you go in for an interview and find out in February if you get accepted,” O’Neil said.

“I was there for six weeks with a host family the whole time. I lived as a local as if I was born and raised there.” O’Neal said.

O’Neal was completely immersed in Russian culture and went from knowing no Russian at all, to being fluent by the end of his visit.

He and 11 other American students lived near each other in Russia. Each day they had class for four hours. They also took trips to museums or historical churches every Saturday. He enjoyed “seeing what they consider history instead of seeing American history.”

When O’Neal wasn’t in classes he was free to do what he wanted.

“Typically we would walk around and go window shopping or we would go to restaurants and try new food. Just seeing the city because it was pretty big; I still haven’t seen all of it,” he said.

O’Neal is very interested in foreign languages.

“My second year of French I realized I liked languages. I wanted to expand, so I took Arabic and I like Arabic so I was like ‘Okay, I just like languages,’ so then I went to Russia,” he said.

He plans on being in the military in the future and is aware of how much knowing foreign languages is valued.

“Often times you get payed for each language you know. Say I run into an Afghan who doesn’t speak Arabic, he speaks Farsi (Persian language), well most Arabic elders also speak Russian,” he said.

“Eventually, hopefully, I can cover the globe. So next I’ll do, Chinese so that can cover Asia, then Spanish to cover South America.” O’Neal said.