By Hannah Phillips
Out of the long list of countries to choose from, I chose Latvia and Russia through the Russian Spring-Track LBAT. My study abroad story is not like many others. I feel that this story of mine started long before attending classes in Old Riga. Long before stepping foot on my flight in Atlanta to begin my journey. It started even before I was accepted as a transfer student to Georgia Tech in the Fall of 2017. My story begins with my first interaction with Russian with a community college physics professor.
Through her Russian accent, the professor would let out the typical “Back in the Soviet Union…” or “In Soviet Union [Russia] …” jokes. This professor inspired my passion for physics and interest in the Russian language.
At Tech, I had enrolled in the introductory Russian classes to get a better grasp on the culture described by my previous professor. At the same time, it fulfilled some last remaining classes for the Humanities requirement. I did not expect to go beyond the first two introductory classes due to financial constraints. Despite the limitations, I fell in love with the language after my first few classes and I decided to minor in Russian Studies. For first few weeks of the Fall semester, I had this crazy idea: I wanted to travel to Russia and see this beautiful yet strange and distant place. This would be a once in a lifetime opportunity! So, I signed up for the Spring-Track Russian LBAT.
Once I decided that I was REALLY committed to this idea of studying abroad, I did not understand how I was going to pay for this excursion. I came from a low class family and had many major health issues due to having cancer when I was a baby. Not to mention, that I went through some personal family issues in the Spring semester that really put strain on me. Overall, I knew there would be no family contributions and I did not know if I would be able to afford a summer supply of medicine or receive Pell grants for the summer.
Not expecting any positive outcome, I submitted the forms for the Office of International Education Scholarships and School of Modern Languages’ Campoamor Scholarship. By the time the spring semester came to an end, I was made aware that I could use Pell and had been awarded OIE’s Georgia Tech Alumni Scholarship and Campoamor Scholarship! I couldn’t believe it! My trip was paid for!
As for medicine, I was able to get a travel authorization and was able to get my medicine. I was all set! My motto for the last end of the spring semester was: “They literally are paying me to go to Russia!” I finally bought my plane tickets and was finally officially going abroad.
I did not know what to expect for either country. I have only heard of Latvia a few years before. However, Russia was quite different. Since I was young, I only understood Russia to be either a modern Soviet Union or a country ran by the mafia. After Global Issues class and a few Russian classes, I have come to understand neither are the case. With the rising political tensions and news stories, there were still many worries. What if I was walking into the wild-wild west? What if I was un-welcomed because I was an American? Little did I know, I would find myself welcomed warmly with open arms to some of the most beautiful and culturally rich cities in Europe…