Graduate Student Spends Summer in Moscow
October 26, 2016
While completing her ASU master’s degree in biology, graduate student Mary Jones also parlayed her interest in Russian into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of spending a summer in the Russian capital of Moscow.
A Wall native and 2014 ASU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biology, Jones is also a member of the ASU Russian Language program. Although her Russian classes don’t count toward her biology master’s degree, she can’t help being drawn to language.
“I started taking Russian when I started my master’s program,” Jones said. “I wanted to learn another language. I took Spanish in high school and decided I wanted to try a new language. A friend and I decided that we would try Russian because we thought it would be a fun and interesting language to learn.”
And learn it she would, as one of only 28 students selected for the 2016 Moscow-Texas Connections Program through the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program. Along with students from UT-Austin, Texas A&M and Rice University, Jones spent 10 weeks in Moscow this summer at the Higher School of Economics, learning the Russian language from Russian professors in the Department of Philology.
“All the instruction was in Russian,” she said. “The explanations, the definitions of the words—everything was Russian. The first few weeks were a little rough.”
To fund her trip, Jones received a scholarship coordinated by the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (CREES), a component of the College of Liberal Arts at UT-Austin. While in Moscow, she lived in the college dorms with Russian roommates and worked with Russian tutors during the week.
“I really enjoyed spending time with our Russian tutors,” Jones said. “They were in the same program, and either wanted to become teachers of Russian as a foreign language or linguists. They were there to help us, and it was really great because they enjoyed working on their English and we enjoyed working on our Russian, so we had a lot of fun. It was really cool to get to know them, learn more about their culture and share ideas.”
But it wasn’t all work and no play. While Monday through Thursday was dedicated to studies, the weekends were left wide open, allowing Jones to explore Moscow and surrounding cities.
I really enjoyed spending time with our Russian tutors. It was really cool to get to know them, learn more about their culture and share ideas.”
“We had a scheduled excursion almost every weekend,” Jones said, “and all those excursions were considered part of the trip so the expenses were covered. We had so many neat opportunities. We saw an opera at the world-famous Bolshoi Theater, and when we went to St. Petersburg, we went to the Alexandrinksy Theater and saw ‘Swan Lake.’”
“That was just incredible.”
The group also took tours within Moscow, including the Kremlin, Red Square and several cathedrals. Solo or with a few other students, Jones enjoyed visiting the Tretyakov Gallery and the natural history museums, which she found particularly interesting because of her biology background. She also sampled the Russian versions of food from home.
“We found a Texas bar-b-que place,” Jones said. “The brisket was pretty good. The tea though, they didn’t get that down. We also found a Mexican food restaurant called Pancho Villa. It was alright.”
“I feel so lucky—incredibly lucky,” she added. “I’m thankful for the funding provided through Fulbright-Hays, as well as the ASU Russian program, who also helped with part of my funding through local donations. I didn’t have to worry about any costs other than some souvenirs. I’m very thankful.”
Back at Angelo State, Jones is beginning her final thesis project, studying the diet of a minor arachnid group, with hopes of graduating in December or May. She plans to apply to various Ph.D. programs in preparation for a university teaching career in biology.