Student Spotlight: Kristin Torres

Which degree program were you in, and when did you graduate?

I graduated with my BA in Russian in 2013, and my MA in Russian in 2017.

What was your favorite course during the program?

I loved Russian Intellectual History with Professor Langen. 

What was a favorite paper/project that you worked on during the program?

In a weird way, my favorite thing to work on was my master's exam. The preparation involved intensely studying and memorizing the highlights of great authors and their most important works. It gave me an excuse (albeit a times daunting and time-consuming one) to deep dive into some of the best works of literature and some of the most interesting philosophical debates of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Did you travel abroad or go on any noteworthy trips in conjunction with the program?

After graduation with my BA and before starting the graduate program, I worked as a student-intern with SRAS in St. Petersburg for six months. After that, I interned for another 6 months in Moscow as an English tutor at New Economic School. During the graduate program, I was lucky enough to get a Title VIII scholarship to study Russian in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in summer 2016.

Do you have a particular story you’d like to share?

When I was in the MA program at MU, I had a tough decision when it came how to spend the summer between both academic years. I was fortunate to receive both a Critical Language Scholarship to study Russian in Vladimir, Russia and a State Department Title VIII fellowship to study Russian in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I lost a lot of sleep deciding which one to accept, but I decided to take the fellowship to Kyrgyzstan, even though it was a lesser-known award and had a less cohesive alumni circle. I had already been in Russia a cumulative year by this point, so I wanted to see something different. It is a decision I've never regretted. I had a wonderful Kyrgyz host family who I still keep in touch with today. We had enlightening discussions about race, religion, and history at our dinner table each night. I went to a giant birthday party for my host brother in south Kyrgyzstan, and got to meet the extended family. That particular celebration was entirely in Kyrgyz. It was fun but I didn't understand any of the speeches or songs. I just remember being on the dance floor and hearing out of the blue in Russian, "We want to welcome our guest Kristin from America. Kristin, this dance is for you!" Suddenly Kyrgyz grandpas and kids were dancing around in a big circle around me! It was such a fun memory that I'll always cherish. I recommend that students be open to studying Russian outside Russia. There is more out there than Moscow and St. Petersburg -- though those are excellent options, too!

What are you using your degree for now?

I am currently finishing up a second master's degree in Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies at Harvard. After learning so much about Russian literature and history at MU, I wanted to study contemporary politics in the post-Soviet space. After graduation in spring 2019, I will pursue work in media or publishing. My dream is to write journalistic articles and non-fiction books about life in Russia and Central Asia.