Hello everyone!! Once again I am quite late and I apologize!! My last semester at Olaf was ridiculously busy and stressful. I didn’t realize until I logged on today that I’d accidentally labeled March as April, which mislead me into thinking I’d done a post for April when I hadn’t!! Consequently, this post will serve as both April’s update as well as the FINAL post for my undergrad career!! I apologize for the tardiness and confusion. It seems the semester took a toll on my sanity. 😉
Well, I can’t really remember much of April, although I can guess that a lot of things were coming to a head at that point. I had rough drafts of both of my political science seminar final papers due during this month, which was extremely taxing and stressful. I was also constantly behind in my Dostoevsky ethics class. Thank god most of that class was just reading and discussing in class or I’d have been toast. Russian language was equally stressful, mainly because I felt like I wasn’t dedicating as much time as I felt was appropriate for the class. I really wanted to do well for my professor, but she constantly gave us so much more new vocabulary to learn that I never was able to study to the point that I felt was sufficient. I’m extremely relieved that the semester is over, mainly because I was hanging by my fingertips most of the time, but despite this it was an extremely rewarding experience and I am proud to say that I am finished!
Dostoevsky ethics was a thorn in my side basically the entire semester. I found the material engaging and complex, but barely read the material sometimes and felt like I just didn’t have time to thoroughly ponder the ideas presented. I made sure to pay attention in class though to offset the fact that I wasn’t able to read as deeply as I would have liked! Boy did this help for the final exam! More than ever I learned this semester how to do enough to get by and to let go of my anal tendencies and need to do every little thing. Contrary to my expectations, I actually received a really great grade in the class, probably because the final was a take home, open book final (which meant I could do my work on my own time). The prompts were very abstract which meant that my responses could be equally abstract and objectively couldn’t be considered “correct” or “incorrect.” What mattered instead was the intellect displayed in the responses. In other words, the final simply required sufficient knowledge of Dostoevksy’s main philosophical ideas and discussions in order to form, in colloquial terms, a well-crafted bull**** response. Not to promote not finishing work, but I actually only ever managed to read less than 200 pages of Brothers Karamazov (a 780 page book…). I am personally still astounded that all turned out ok, despite this. I was also involved in a group project that created a fabulous Prezi game centered on the murder committed by Raskolnikov, the protagonist of Crime and Punishment. This group project was a pain for most of the semester because the professor gave us lenient guidelines for the game, which subsequently required a significant amount of original conceptualizing on our part. So much time just discussing the form our project would take was spent before we did any physical work for developing a tangible product. The end result, however, turned out In sum, I AM SO HAPPY THIS CLASS IS OVER.
I suppose I’ll continue with recounting the last bit of my Russian Language class. My professor gave us new vocabulary literally until the end, including on our FINAL DAY. She is very… Good at what she does and manages to inspire in her students an urgency and desire to learn the words she gives out, but largely out of sheer terror at seeming stupid or lazy (or worse, both hahaha) in front of her genius. In other words, she gets stuff done. Despite her high expectations and far-left-lane-of-the-highway approach to teaching in class, I really appreciated her teaching style and overall wouldn’t have had it any other way. Plus, she actually ultimately rewards hard work, and my final grade was great! Our final took the form of a presentation on whatever topic we chose to do our mini research paper. There were only five people in the class so presentations didn’t take too long. I presented on the social and economic situation of Roma populations in Russia and Eastern Europe. If you didn’t know, Roma is the political correct and respectful for term for “gypsies.” This is actually part of my heritage, which is what inspired me to choose this topic. Although it was only a four page paper, it took forever to do because I had to write it in Russian!!! That was quite the task. Overall I really did enjoy this class, especially because everyone who went to Novgorod with me during fall semester was in it as well.
Although my political science seminars were ridiculously demanding and difficult to manage, I am ultimately most proud of my accomplishments in these two courses. Both demanded a large amount of reading along with large amounts of writing. Usually students take only one seminar per semester, but I had to take both of the required political science seminars required for the major this semester because I was in Russia for the fall semester. Combined, the two seminars are considered the “capstone” project for the PSCI major at Olaf. The end goal for each seminar taken is to have produced an original paper that addresses the topic of the course taken. So, I had to balance writing two seminar papers in one semester. Thank god the professor create a timeline of due dates for different parts of the papers or paralysis due to sheer overload would have resulted in deadly procrastination on my part. Although my PSCI seminars were challenging, I’d taken classes from both professors previously and knew I absolutely loved them and their teaching styles.
The first seminar, titled Inequality in America, was extremely enlightening for me Becuse it provided a very stark picture of politics and social issues in the United States. It is unfortunate just how systemicaly basic issues of human rights are suppressed and delayed. I won’t get into politics on here, but this course is one I think everyone should take in some form or other because it provides a very human account of how wronged some people are by factors out of their control. It is easy to use groups as scapegoats, and to relegate social problems to private spheres not of concern to the general public or government, when in fact those social issues are entirely public phenomena in their origins. Anyway, I learned a lot!! My seminar paper for this course ended up being super cool and fun even though gathering data for it was VERY VERY TEDIOUS. My paper is titled “Inequality in America: Do African-Americans Experimce Socioeconomic Change Due to the Flow of Foreign Born Residents?” I had to gather census data from 2000 and 2014 for the total population of foreign born and native born residents in the US by county (I only gathered data from three states!), as well as the median black household income for these two years. This was a difficult and tedious process because I had to do it by hand and the census from 2014 was different than the 2000 census, making it diffutly to compare data across years. It is quite amazing that there is such a lack in racially categorized immigration data! I ultimately found that at near significance (p = .101) immigration flow had a slight negative effect on the median household income of blacks from 2000 to 2014. Obviously there are many confounding variables that need to be accounted for, and these findings are limited and performed for undergraduate studies, but this paper was still a great exercise in conducting personal research.
My other seminar focused on humanitarian intervention and the issues that it faces within an international sphere that aims to balance state sovereignty yet promote democracy and alleviate suffering. Anthony Lott, the professor for this course, is my favorite professor at Olaf hands down. Although the beginning of the semester for this class was very stressful and challenging it got easier because we didn’t have class the last month of school (we were supposed to work on our papers). The seminar paper I produced for this course is something I am extremely proud of becuse I spent so much time and effort making sure I turned in a product that I was completely satisfied with. Lott did an excellent job guiding us through the process and giving us enough time to write, edit, rewrite, and perfect. This was the first time I’ve worked on something so thoroughly. We began writing segments of the paper in the first month, so the paper really did end up being a semester long project, unlike what occurs in most classes that claim to have such a project. My final paper was titled “Border Conflict: A Manifestation of Colonially Induced Identity Confusion.” As part of the humanitarian aspect of the course, the paper is centered on the failure of the UNMEE peacekeeping mission to Eritrea and Ethiopia in 1998. My paper aims to explain the failure of the UN to help resolve the border dispute as a consequence of the colonial power dynamic that exists between former colonizer so (the Western dominated UN) and formerly colonized (Eritrea and Ethipia). I explain that this power dynamic engenders an environment where the identity that is consciously or subconsciously sought after by Eritrea and Ethiopia is limited by the fact that the Western dominated international community has control over the an identity discourse that proves a limited framework within which state identity formation is able to occur. In light of this, I argue that hard borders (strict delineation of physical borders), and the legal framework that is employed when laws regarding “correct” conduct in regards to hard borders breached are Western values imposed on Eastern states (look up Edward Said’s concept “Orientalism” for a better understanding of the West/East dichotomy that the world exists as). Because these values are imposed and not originating from the Eastern/formerly colonized states, I suggest that persistent border conflict (using the case of Eritrea and Ethiopia) is actually a product engendered by a history of colonial power dynamics which oppress the ability of certainty states to self-determine and creat and original identity. Admittedly, I hated this paper at first but gradually grew in love with it!
Lastly, piano lessons went fine. I thought I was doing really well but the professor thought otherwise. The grade I received in my piano lessons, which mind you are completely unnecessary and extracurricular, prevented me from graduating with academic honors. I’m still super salty about the fact that my grade in piano lessons is the only thing that prevented me from graduating cum laude (honors). I missed it by 0.01….. ANYWAY, most importantly, I finished my undergraduate education.
Just as as a summary for reference and clarification, I graduated with three majors (so three B.A. Degrees): Russian Area Studies, Russian Language, and Political Science. I also took piano lessons all four years, played softball freshman year, participated in juggling club freshman year, studied abroad for J-Term in Europe January of 2015, and studied a semester in Russia fall 2015. I made a ton of friends, lived in four different dorms, received a lot of life experience (both wanted and unwanted), and during intervening summers traveled to Bulgaria and met my birth family, worked as a lifeguard all four summers, coordinated VBS at my church the past two summers, and interned at Concord twice. The past four years went by REALLY FAST but strangely simultaneously feel like they took forever. So much has happened and while I am still Rumyana I am a very different person from the Rumyan who graduated from high school for years ago. I’ll bet you’re wondering what’s next!
WELL. In case you haven’t heard, I am actually headed back to Russia at the end of July for 10 months!!!! I will be teaching English in Moscow for the company Language Link. The entire Month of August is training, I begin teaching in September and will finish in May. Thank goodness there are actually going to be two other people from Olaf doing the same thing, and both of them are good friends of mine!!!
And now I’d like to thank everyone at Concord for your time and support the last four years. I appreciate the internship opportunities, the connections I’ve made, and everyone who takes the time to to read my really long blog posts! The time and effort put towards me is invaluable and I appreciate every bit of it. I hope everyone is doing well and I hope we can stay in touch!