“Previously, I had only visited satellite states,” King said,
referring to independent nations that used to be part of the former
Soviet Union. “In addition to Kyrgyzstan, I’ve been to Kazakhstan and
Moldova. My CLS gave me a new perspective on the language and culture of
this part of the world.”
From June through August of 2019, King studied at the National
Research Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod, which is about
260 miles east of Moscow. She signed a CLS pledge to only speak the
local language. She shared meals with her host family, navigated the
public transportation system, consumed news and participated in class
discussions — all in Russian.
And while King’s time in Kyrgyzstan gave her a strong understanding
of the Russian language to work from, full immersion was far from easy.
“One of the challenges I had in Russia, especially for the first
three or four weeks, was trying not to accidentally use any Kyrgyz
words,” King said. “In Kyrgyzstan, I picked up a lot of vernacular and
slang. Sometimes I would say something that my friends in Central Asia
would understand right away, but people in Russia would look at me very
Outside of the classroom, King made time to meet new people and
discover new landscapes. “The Russian landscape is gorgeous,” she said.
“I really enjoy Russian literature. Where I stayed in the Volga region,
there were many forests and fields. It was great to see the expanse of
the river and to understand how the environment inspired the work of
After graduating in spring 2020, King will leverage her Russian
fluency through a career with the federal government. The Boren Awards
require all recipients to complete at least one year of public service
after the completion of their program.
King offered advice for future awardees, and perhaps other students seeking experience studying abroad.
“Be eager to learn,” she said. “I have experienced that those who
have the greatest success often do not have the highest levels of
language proficiency, but do have an open mind. As a result, community
members were more receptive to them and they got the most out of the
relationships they built.”
Article by Nikki Laws; photos courtesy of Rebecca King
Published Nov. 13, 2019