SILC student earns chance to bring love of Russian literature to Russia


April 13, 2017

Lexie Vanderveen, a junior at the School of International Letters and Cultures, will participate in the prestigious Critical Language Scholarship Program for Russian. After a day of orientation in Washington, D.C., Vanderveen will study in Vladimir, Russia, from June 18 to Aug. 19.

“I started taking Russian because my favorite authors are Russian,” Vanderveen said. “I just fell in love with it. ... Dostoyevsky was my first favorite author, and now I’ve started to read more Tolstoy and Chekhov and Pushkin.” Vladimir, Russia Vladimir, Russia. Download Full Image

These authors can be a challenge to read even when translated into English, but Vanderveen felt fulfilled experiencing the texts as they were written. She actually started as a literature major, before switching to Russian and English literature.

She has also studied Latin and Greek, working on translations of the Odyssey and Aeneid.

“You learn more about a language, but you also learn more about the culture, even just idioms and phrases — words that might not have as much importance in the English language,” Vanderveen said.

While studying in Vladimir over eight weeks, Vanderveen will take the equivalent of one academic year of Russian language studies, in addition to living with a host family and going to cultural excursions and lectures. This will be her first time out of the country.

The CLS website boasts Vladimir as “home to culturally important architecture, religious art and historic churches and kremlins. Excursions may include trips to see UNESCO World Heritage sites, museums and monasteries.”

The program also points out the professional benefits of studying Russian, including a “foray into careers as diverse as speech pathology, comparative literature and international trade.”

When Vanderveen came to ASU, she “didn’t know anything about the Russian language, didn’t know anyone else who knew about it.” SILC offered her a strong entry point. She has especially enjoyed the Russian electives, such as Russian media, and challenged herself through Russian for Heritage Speakers as a non-heritage speaker.

“We talked a lot more about the history, the literature, the culture,” Vanderveen said, “the culture of young people as opposed to old, the different emphasis on friendship in Russia, how it differs in America. A lot of comparisons.”

Vanderveen has also participated in a variety of SILC’s cultural events, volunteering at Night of the Open Door to represent the school’s Russian department. She appreciates that within the department, she can always get advice, recommendations and support for her ambitions.

Vanderveen is enrolled in a course through which she translates Chekhov short stories and interns at a literary magazine. This suits her.

“It would be just my dream to be able to have the proficiency to translate Russian poetry and literature into English, and get it published,” Vanderveen said. “I would love to become a translator for Russian literature and share that across different cultures.”

Gabriel Sandler